Approximately 20% of eye infections related to contact lens use involves serious damage to the eyes. Contact lens use and eye infections are fairly common and are often due to poor hygiene habits. This means that many eye infections are preventable when the proper steps are taken and instructions from eye care specialists are closely followed. So, what can be done to prevent eye infections? What can you do to ensure your eyes remain healthy and contact lens use remains comfortable?
Proper Care and Use
Contact lenses are an effective and safe form of vision correction when they are properly cared for using the best contact lens solution and worn as recommended. However, improper care and wear of lenses can lead to eye infections that can potentially be serious and can result in long-term damage.
In extreme cases, when infections are left untreated patients can suffer vision loss and scarred corneas. To date, approximately 41 million people in America wear contact lenses and benefit from the comfort and improved vision they provide. The number of people who get a serious eye infection from contact lens use is relatively small compared to the number of people who wear contacts, however, the potential of an infection is real, which is why it’s so crucial that contact lens wearers closely follow the care instructions that are provided by their physicians.
Leading Causes of Infection
Sleeping in contact lenses is by far the most common mistake new contact lens wearers make and it’s also the main cause of eye infections. Contact lenses are not designed to be worn overnight. Many new contact lens users can forget to take them out or do not realize the consequences of leaving them in during the night. Another common cause of eye infection in contact lens wearers is not replacing lenses once they reach their expiration date. Even if your contact lenses still feel comfortable after their two to four- week recommended wear period, you must replace them.
Lenses also must be discarded when they expire, regardless of how good they still feel. Continuing to wear the lenses after they’ve expired only puts your eyes at a greater risk.
Another dangerous mistake that many new contact lens wearers make that can result in an eye infection is topping off the contact solution. Even if you have the best contact solution, failing to dump out old solution and simply adding a new solution can be a breeding ground for bacteria.
Leaving even only a small amount of old solution in your contact lens case, then adding more solution can create a variety of problems. Additionally, mixed solution works to dilute the solution’s ability to kill germs. You must empty out any old solution and allow the contact lens case to dry completely before you add more. The case should also be replaced every two to three months.
When an infection occurs in contact lens eye-related infections 90% of these infections are bacterial. Many infections diagnosed involve a common and very difficult to treat bacteria known as staphylococcus aureus.
However, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, is the most serious. This is a very fast-growing bacteria that can result in a hole left in the cornea if it is not treated promptly. This will result in vision loss and permanent scarring.
Aside from bacterial infections, fungal infections such as fusaruam and aspergillus are also possible and can be potential threats to your vision.
Signs of Infection
Red eyes from contact lenses can be one of the first signs of infection you experience. It’s also one of the most common. Other signs of an eye infection include contact lens discomfort, thick discharge, watery discharge, excessive tearing, pain, red eyes, dryness, light sensitivity, or an aching dull pain. These symptoms may slowly appear over time and progressively get worse. Some people have reported that these symptoms appear relatively overnight. If you’re experiencing any of these signs or symptoms of an eye infection, it’s important that you make an appointment with your optometrist as soon as possible in order to prevent a more serious infection that can result in permanent vision damage.
Rinsing out your lenses in plain tap water can also put you at risk of an eye infection because water can contain pollutants and pathogens.
Swimming can also present certain problems. Lakes and pools can harbor microbes and bacteria that can produce a serious infection. Certain infections can lead to visual impairment and permanent vision loss.
One of the biggest issues that comes with over-wearing contact lenses is the fact that the lenses are no longer receiving the oxygen they need to keep your eyes healthy. This leads to abrasions, inflammation, and infection to the eye since the oxidative stress can make the eyes more vulnerable to pathogens and a variety of bacterial strains.
Pay special attention if you wear soft contact lenses. This type of lens can create the perfect condition for pathogens to grow. Disposable soft lenses can help to reduce any risk of complications, however proper hygiene and healthy habits are very important.
The first step to preventing an infection as ensuring that you store and clean your lenses properly. As I mentioned earlier, it’s important to avoid topping off lens solution and instead of cleaning out the case correctly before adding more.
You can also try storing your lenses in a solution that is hydrogen peroxide-based, which can be an efficient way to reduce bacteria. Speak with your physician before you make the switch to this type of solution since it’s not compatible with all types of lenses. Keeping your lenses clean will be extremely important when it comes to preventing eye infections.
Types of Infections
There are four main types of eye infections that are caused by contact lens use:
Some types of eye infections are easier to treat than others, however, most of them have simple treatment options that will lead to a full recovery.
There are many different strains of bacteria that can lead to rapid corneal infections which can result in expensive surgery or permanent vision damage. Of course, when treated early many infections will rarely lead to serious damage. Fortunately, most of these bacterial infections can easily be treated with topical or oral antibiotics. The key here is early treatment.
Conjunctivitis is the most common type of viral infection. It’s more commonly known as pink eye. But viral infections do not respond to antibiotics as bacterial infections do. In most cases, a viral infection may need to run its course with no medical intervention. However, if you’re unsure that you have a bacterial or viral infection it’s important that you seek treatment immediately. In many cases, it’s difficult for people to determine the difference between the two. Fortunately, your eye doctor will be able to take a quick look and tell you whether or not you’re dealing with bacteria or a virus.
Have you ever heard someone mention that you should never wash your contacts in water? Maybe you’ve also heard that you can’t swim with contact lenses in? These rules are in place because of the risk of tiny parasites that can lead to a parasitic eye infection. If for some reason you’re not able to remove your contacts when swimming, then make sure you disinfect them immediately after use in order to minimize your risk of coming into contact with parasites. Parasites can be found in tap water, swimming pools, hot tubs, and freshwater sources. These types of infections are often very difficult to treat and in rare cases can result in corneal transplants.
A fungal eye infection is rare but can be serious. The most common cause of this type of infection is an eye injury that involves a tree branch, thorn, or plant.
You should also ensure that you avoid contact with people who have contagious eye infections such as conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis is highly contagious and can easily be transmitted.
This type of infection is characterized by inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is a thin layer of tissue that covers the front portion of the eye. Symptoms of this type of infection can include yellow discharge, itching, and red eyes. The cause of this infection can be either viral or bacterial. However, there is also a form of allergic conjunctivitis as well.
This type of fungal infection is linked to the Fusarium fungi which is found in organic substances. Symptoms of type of infection include blurred vision, discharge, redness, and pain.
This type of infection can be potentially serious and can lead to permanent vision damage if left untreated. This infection is usually caused by a parasite that enters the eye. As a contact lens wearer, you will be more prone to this type of infection if you do not follow proper hygiene and if you wear your lenses while swimming.
Many types of infections will only affect the interior tissue of the eye. However, there are other types of infections that can actually penetrate the eye causing serious damage. Endophthalmitis is a serious infection that will require antibiotic treatment. The first signs of infection can include worsening or loss of vision, swelling, redness, and pain. In the later stages, this infection can cause sensitivity to light, severe pain, and blurred vision.
This type of infection is not as common in developed countries, however, it is one of the leading causes of permanent blindness in undeveloped areas. This infection can cause scarring of the inner eyelids. This scarring can cause the eyelids to turn in on themselves. The contact between the sensitive tissue of the cornea and the eyelashes can cause permanent damage.
Eye Infection Complications
Infections that penetrate the exterior of the eye will lead to serious complications including blindness, curation of vision, cellulitis, ulcerated corneas, blocked tear ducts, and styes.
Serious complications are not very common; however, any suspected infection should be treated promptly by your eye care specialists.
In many cases, early treatment will be effective in reducing your chances of infection complications that can result in permanent damage.
If you suspect that you have an eye infection, make an appointment with your eye care specialist immediately. Prompt treatment and diagnosis of infections can result in clearing up the infection rapidly, especially if the infection is caused by bacteria. Viral infections can’t be treated, so you may be prescribed medication that can help to relieve any discomfort as the infection resolves on its own. A more serious infection can be addressed with the use of antiviral drops. To provide pain relief and reduce inflammation steroid drops may be prescribed.
Many treatments come in the form of drops, which is then applied directly to the eye. In more serious cases, both oral medication and eye drops may be prescribed. during treatment. It will be important to follow the dosage instructions carefully, even in the event you see any improvement for the first few days.
You must remove your contact lenses during treatment, since continuing to wear them can further increase discomfort and exacerbate the infection. Once you’ve finished with the medication, you’ll see your physician for a follow-up appointment. If your doctor gives you the all-clear, you should be able to resume wearing your contact lenses.
Contact lens eye infections are totally preventable. Following proper hygiene, tossing out your contact lenses once they’ve expired, and avoiding swimming with your lenses in, can help to reduce your chances of an eye infection. Fortunately, many eye infections are very easy to treat or may clear up on their own, if you have a viral infection. However, if you’ve never had an eye infection before, then it’s important that you meet with your eye care specialist, who can determine whether you have a viral or bacterial infection. With treatment, your infection should clear up within a matter of days. The key is to seek treatment early, in order to avoid serious complications that can result in permanent scarring and vision loss.