Getting your first set of contact lenses would feel like an amazing upgrade to eyeglasses. You can see the world more clearly just by popping them in and you would look good too! They can fit in easily onto the eye and allow you to perform numerous tasks that might be uncomfortable in glasses such as traveling, exercising, etc.
However, if you do not use contact lenses properly, you will be exposed to some side effects which could even affect your vision in the long run.
8 Risks and Side Effects of Using Contact Lenses
1. Blockage of Oxygen Supply to the Eyes
Since contact lenses lie directly on the eye and cover the entire cornea, the amount of oxygen reaching your eyes will decrease. Good oxygen supply is absolutely critical to keep the eyes healthy.
Choose soft or silicone hydrogel lenses as they transmit more oxygen than the conventional soft contact lens materials. They will even be better for your eyes in the long run. Avoid wearing contact lenses for long hours at a stretch.
2. Dry Eyes
Contact lens reduces the quantity of tears getting on the cornea as they absorb most of our tears to keep itself soft. This lack of tears causes dry eye syndrome leading to itchiness, burning sensation and redness of the eyes. If the eyes get too dry, it will lead to the scarring of the cornea which can be extremely painful.
If you suffer from chronic eye dryness, use eyedrops to lubricate the eyes to provide some relief to them.
3. Irritation when Combined with Medication, especially Birth Control Pill
Concurrent use of contraceptive pills and contact lens together will result in chronic dry eyes and irritation. You will experience changes in the tear film, which primarily consists of three main layers which come together to protect, bathe and nourish the eye surface.
The combination of birth control pills and contact lenses will upset this balance in the tear film and cause excessive tearing, burning eyes and a gritty foreign body sensation in the eye. The restricted flow of oxygen to the eye will aggravate the condition.
Avoid using lenses as long as you are on the pill.
4. Diminished Corneal Reflex
Using contact lenses may cause diminished corneal reflex in the eye. Corneal reflex is a protective mechanism of the eye where the brain signals the eyelids to drop down to protect our eyes whenever the slightest amount of pressure is applied to the cornea. Corneal reflex makes sure that we close our eyes if something may cause a direct trauma to them, like a flying object coming towards our eyes or if someone tries to poke us.
When you use contact lenses constantly, you teach your body to ignore the natural corneal reflex. This may dull the eye’s response to corneal reflex, which could lead to the eye being damaged if you can’t shut your eyes fast enough in case of danger.
Keep the usage of the lenses to a minimum. Use glasses when you are at home to ensure that corneal reflex isn’t diminished too much by constant use.
5. Corneal Abrasion
There is a possibility of the contact lenses scratching your cornea, causing corneal abrasion if they are not fitted properly or when your eyes are too dry.
Never sleep with contact lenses in as the risk of abrasion will increase. The lenses will trap particles like dirt and sand and rub against your cornea. These abrasions will create an opening for bacteria and virus to seep through and give birth to eye infections, which can result in loss of vision too.
You may even scratch your cornea when you insert or extract contact lenses carelessly. Ensure that you fit the lenses carefully and you never sleep in them.
6. Red Eye or Conjunctivitis
There will be a high risk of conjunctivitis and stye if you wear contact lenses for long hours at a stretch, especially through the night. They provide a moist environment which acts as a potential breeding ground for microorganisms like viruses and bacteria. Additionally, since less oxygen reaches the cornea when you wear lenses, the body doesn’t fight off an infection that is caused by bacteria or viruses as effectively as it should.
Giant papillary conjunctivitis (GPC) is the most common type of conjunctivitis that contact lens wearers get due to repeated irritation from the contact lenses.
Always, always, always remove your contact lens before sleeping.
Ptosis is a condition where the eyelids start drooling and the affected individuals are unable to open their eyes fully.
If you use contact lenses, they may move into the eyelid tissues causing scarring and contraction, which further leads to a lid retraction. This especially holds true for hard contact lens wearers as the eyelid is repeatedly stretched during lens removal.
Switching to soft contact lenses would be a good idea.
8. Corneal Ulcer
This occurs when an open sore caused by fungus, bacteria, parasite infection or viruses is formed in the eye’s cornea. A corneal ulcer can cause permanent blindness if it is not treated quickly. If it does lead to blindness, a corneal transplant will probably be the only way to restore vision.
Preventing Side Effects Caused by Contact Lens
Do not over-wear your contact lenses and discard/replace them as directed by the doctor. Remember that lens deposits will continue to build up on your contact lenses over a period of time. The longer you go without replacing the lenses, the more will be the lens deposits — this will reduce the oxygen supply to the corneas, eventually damaging the eyes.
Do not miss your routine contact lens eye exams. Being regular with the check-ups will help your eye doctor detect problems caused by the contact lens in the early stages and prevent them from getting serious by giving you timely treatment.
If your current contact lenses are uncomfortable, try changing them or get an updated prescription. This will help in relieving contact lens irritation. Moreover, you can consider LASIK as a permanent solution to contact lens discomfort.