Are Contacts Bad for Your Eyes?
The answer to the question, "Are contacts bad for your eyes?" is, "Mostly it depends on you."
Contact lenses have been popular for decades, and the risk of contact lens-related eye damage is very low if you follow your eye doctor's advice and recommendations.
Still, all contact lenses reduce the amount of oxygen reaching the cornea of the eye and thereby increase the risk of eye problems to some degree.
Potentially serious contact lens complications include corneal abrasions, eye infection (including Acanthamoeba keratitis and fungal eye infections), dry eyes and corneal ulcers. Some of these complications can cause permanent vision loss.
How to Prevent Contacts from Being Bad for Your Eyes
Your best defense against eye damage from contact lens wear is to follow the advice of your optometrist or ophthalmologist about how long to wear your contacts and how frequently you should replace them.
Your eye doctor will also tell you how long you can wear your lenses safely and whether your eyes can tolerate using extended wear contacts on a continuous basis or if you should wear contact lenses only for limited periods during the day.
Also, be sure to care for your lenses as directed, and use only the contact lens solutions your eye doctor recommends.
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If there is a chance you might not keep up the daily lens care, ask about daily disposable contacts. You can simply discard these lenses after each use, eliminating the need for daily lens cleaning and disinfection. One-day disposable contacts also save you money on contact lens solutions.
To avoid serious contact lens-related eye problems, ask yourself this three-part question at the start of each day of contact lens wear: Do my eyes look good, see good and feel good?
- If your eyes are red or bloodshot, you may be developing dry eyes or an eye infection from your contacts.
- If your vision is not as clear as it once was, your lenses may be dirty, or your eyes may be swollen from lack of oxygen.
- And if your eyes are uncomfortable, you may have a corneal abrasion, the beginnings of a corneal ulcer, dry eyes or an eye infection.
If your daily self-assessment suggests you have a contact lens-related eye problem, remove your lenses immediately and call your eye doctor for an urgent appointment. If you do have an eye problem caused by your contacts, the sooner it is evaluated and treated by an eye care professional, the better.
Even if you have no symptoms of eye problems from your contacts, be sure to see your eye doctor for routine annual eye exams. He or she can detect potential eye problems before you notice them and help you continue wearing contact lenses safely and comfortably for years to come. What truly is bad for your eyes is to neglect them.
About the Author: Gary Heiting, OD, is senior editor of AllAboutVision.com. Dr. Heiting has more than 25 years of experience as an eye care provider, health educator and consultant to the eyewear industry. His special interests include contact lenses, nutrition and preventive vision care. Connect with Dr. Heiting via Google+.
[Page updated February 2014]