The Cost of Contact Lenses – Are There Any Risks?

The mass commercial success of the humble contact lens took off in the 1960s and 70s following around a century of increasingly viable iterations. They were celebrated for their effectiveness, discretion, and ability to all but replace traditional glasses – qualities that still contribute to their popularity today. But are there any risks to wearing contact lenses?

The most popular type of contact lenses today are soft lenses made from hydrogel plastic. They are gas permeable, meaning they allow oxygen to be delivered around the cornea – an essential mechanism for maintaining healthy eyes – and flexible to increase comfort. Another option is the rigid gas permeable contacts that usually provide sharper vision.

Some other advantages of contact lenses include:

  • Unlike glasses, they can’t be snapped or broken
  • They don’t fog up
  • You can wear them while exercising (most of the time)
  • They are affordable
  • You can buy them as and when you need
  • They don’t require a large upfront investment

So where are the downsides? Everything sounds pretty rosey up until now, but if you’re a contact lens wearer, you’ll know that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.

Some disadvantages of contact lenses include:

  • They can’t be worn for certain sports and activities like swimming
  • They require a certain level of care and maintenance
  • Like glasses, they are easily lost
  • They shouldn’t be worn overnight
  • They are fiddly to put in
  • They may not be more cost-effective than Laser Eye Surgery

Some of these points may sound trivial to those who are new to wearing contact lenses and experiencing their benefits — particularly ex-glasses users. And it wouldn’t be too bad if that all their drawbacks. But the thing is, the list doesn’t end there. Unfortunately, many people don’t realise the more serious risks associated with wearing contact lenses.

Contact Lenses and Complications

When things are going smoothly with your contacts, cleaning, storage, and placement will likely become second nature. But with so many guidelines for wearing and looking after your lenses, it’s not too difficult for things to go wrong.

For example, failure to clean and store your contact lenses properly, wearing them for too long, or not replacing them when necessary can all result in complications. In more serious cases, these complications can even contribute to the long-term degradation of your vision. Let’s take a look at some of the complications that can occur when wearing contact lenses.

Keratitis: An infection of the cornea

While many contact lens wearers can go through their whole lives without experiencing any major problems, they are all exposed to an increased risk of developing an eye infection. The most common eye infection linked with contact lenses is keratitis – an infection of the cornea.

Keratitis can be caused by a number of things and can therefore affect the eyes in various ways. Herpes, fungus, bacteria, and acanthamoeba (microscopic amoeba found in soil, freshwater, and other habitats) can all lead to keratitis.

As contact lenses can trap all of these in the eyes, contact lens wearers are at an increased risk of developing one of the several types of corneal infection. The most common forms of keratitis are:

Bacterial Keratitis

Bacterial keratitis is an eye infection caused by bacteria that may be found in water, soil, plants, and sewage. It is most commonly caused by two types of bacteria: Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus.

Fungal keratitis

Fungal eye infections are often more serious and more painful than other types of keratitis. They are caused when fungal organisms come into contact with the eye. Types of fungus that are most commonly linked to fungal keratitis include Fusarium species, Aspergillus species, and Candida species.

Amoebic keratitis

A less common form of keratitis is caused by microscopic organisms that can be found in tap water, swimming pools, hot tubs and other sources of water. Acanthamoeba organisms do not generally cause harm to humans, but some species can cause a serious eye disease if they infect the cornea — something that is most common in contact wearers.

Corneal Ulcers

While not as common as other complications, infections as well as physical and chemical trauma, corneal dryness and contact lens overwear and misuse, can all lead to the development of corneal ulcers – an open sore on the outer layer or ‘epithelium’ of the cornea. Corneal ulcers are a serious problem which can result in loss of vision or blindness.

All of these types of keratitis and complications can cause a number of symptoms, including:
  • Blurry vision
  • Unusual redness of the eye
  • Pain in the eye
  • Tearing or discharge from the eye
  • Increased light sensitivity
  • The sensation of something in your eye.

Corneal infection is the most common and most serious complication associated with contact lenses. In more serious cases, it could not only leave you with impaired vision but also with the need for a corneal transplant.

If you are worried you may have an infection or simply want to be prepared in the event that you do, you can refer to this list of symptoms as recommended by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). If you find yourself suffering from any of the symptoms listed above, or any other changes to your eyes or vision, you should contact your eye doctor as soon as possible.

If you’re ready to ditch the contact lenses for good, it might be time to consider Laser Eye Surgery. For more information, get in touch with one of our friendly clinic coordinators or Book a Consultation today.

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