Contact lens use is extremely common. Unfortunately, contact lens related infections are an extremely common problem to encounter in an ophthalmology office. The cornea is the front, clear surface of the eye that allows light to pass through the lens and reach the retina, where visual information is encoded and transmitted to the brain via the optic nerve. In normal situations the cornea receives oxygen from the air while someone is awake. At night during sleep, oxygen diffuses into the cornea from the tiny blood vessels that line the interior surface of the eyelid. This process can be disrupted with inappropriate contact lens wear. Wearing your contact lenses too long, or even worse, wearing them while sleeping, dramatically increases the risks of developing corneal infections. These abnormal environments reduce the amount of oxygen available to the cornea and impairs the natural ability of your body to prevent eye disease. I advise my patients to heed the following advice to prevent complications from contact-lens related infections:
1. Replace your contacts regularly according to the manufacturers recommendation. These vary by lens make and model, so make sure to check the box.
2. If your eyes become even mildly irritated, take a break from your contact lenses and wear your glasses. This leads into #3:
3. ALWAYS have a backup pair of glasses in case your contacts are irritating your eyes or have not been cleaned properly.
4. NEVER sleep in your contacts.
5. If you are a contact lens wearer and your eye becomes irritated, red, or blurry, stop lens wear immediately and seek care from an eye professional.
Prevention is the best way to combat complications from corneal infections. In the event that you do develop a corneal infection, prompt evaluation and care by an eye professional can significantly reduce the chances of scarring and visual compromise.