5 tips for safe contact lens wear

Patient Information

Millions of people wear contact lenses to provide independence from glasses. The following tips should help you to wear them safely and reduce the risk of a sight-threatening corneal infection.

  1. Avoid wearing your contact lenses in the shower or when swimming

Tap water contains a bug called acanthamoeba. Contact lenses contaminated with this bug can cause a difficult to treat corneal infection. In particularly severe acanthamoeba infections corneal transplantation may be required.

  1. Avoid wearing contact lenses overnight

Although many contact lenses are marketed for extended wear, there are many studies that report higher rates of corneal infection in those individuals who wear contact lenses overnight. Even during the day, the longer you wear a contact lens the greater the risk of infection.

  1. Change lens cases at recommended time

Bacteria and fungi can accumulate in lens cases over time. Therefore change them at the recommended interval. Better still, try and opt for a daily disposable contact lens so there is no need to worry about contact lens case hygiene.

  1. Over the counter antibiotic drops like chloramphenicol have poor coverage for contact lens related corneal infections

The initial management of a contact lens related infection involves intensive antibiotic drops to the affected eye. Over the counter antibiotic drops like chloramphenicol have poor coverage for a species of bacteria called pseudomonas, the most common cause of contact lens related corneal infections. Specific antibiotics that target organisms like pseudomonas are available on prescription from your eye doctor.

  1. If you develop contact lens related problems seek an urgent ophthalmic opinion

If your eye feels irritated, appears red, produces discharge or the vision becomes blurred when wearing contact lenses you should seek an urgent opinion from an eye specialist. Contact lens related corneal infections can progress quickly from small lesions that respond to treatment without any long-term scarring to more severe corneal ulcers that can be vision threatening. If you suspect a contact lens related corneal infection take out the contact lens. Try and bring the contact lens as well as the case if applicable to your eye doctor. This will allow the offending bug causing the corneal infection to be identified and the most effective antibiotic therapy to be chosen.


Article written by Consultant ophthalmologist Mr Hemal Mehta.

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