Currently, there are more than 125 millions people worldwide who are using contact lens regularly. What they may not know is that wearing contact lenses put you at risk of several serious conditions from self limiting to sight threatening diseases such eye infections and corneal ulcers. Our eye normally fights infections through a variety of defense mechanisms. Our tears are anti-bacterial in nature and blinking helps to wash off bacterial organisms or any foreign bodies from the surface of the eye.

However, when you wear contact lenses, the effectiveness of both functions are inhibited. Thus, bacteria, fungus and parasite can bind to the surface of the contact lens that sits against the eye. If those organisms infect the corneal surface they can destroy the delicate corneal cells, which can lead to scarring and vision loss.

To make matter worse there is a huge influx of cosmetic lens (decorative lens) wearers today. These lens are gaining great popularity among movie and music fanatics, inspired by stars like Lady Gaga and films like Twilight. Cosmetic lenses are sold everywhere, legally and illegally. These lenses carry the same or even higher set of dangers than a typical contact lenses as people tend to handle them less appropriately. Poor methods of usage include sharing the lenses, wearing ones that are either too big or hard and some even dyed their own cosmetic lenses!

he risks associated with contact lens wear are the same for all types of contact lenses (eg, rigid, soft, extended wear, daily wear) that are worn. Wearing contact lenses increases the risk for several serious conditions, including eye infections and corneal ulcers. These conditions can develop quickly; in rare cases, they can even result in blindness. The degree of risk is different for daily wear vs extended/overnight wear, as well as for different types of lens materials.

Risk is defined by the most serious adverse event that can occur, which in the case of contact lenses is microbial keratitis. A prospective study was conducted to determine the incidence of contact lens-related microbial keratitis in Australia. The study evaluated the incidence of microbial keratitis, as well as the rates of microbial keratitis among various modes of contact lens wear (daily wear, daily disposable, and extended wear) and types of contact lens materials (conventional hydrogel, silicone hydrogel, and gas permeable). The investigators reported on 151 cases of contact lens-related microbial keratitis; of the ophthalmic practitioners who participated in this study, 81% responded. The rates obtained were based on a denominator of 10,000 contact lens wearers.

Vision loss from microbial keratitis may be permanent. It all depends on when the diagnosis is made. If it is caught early and diagnosed properly followed by treatment, there may be no ulceration or scarring. (The scarring that develops from the corneal ulcer can cause permanent vision loss.) If the ulcer is centrally located in the cornea, permanent vision loss may occur, depending on how deep and invasive the ulcer is.


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