Contact lenses are medical devices that are worn to correct vision amongst other reasons.
A 2004 statistics shows that an estimated 125 million people use contact lenses worldwide.
As a medically acceptable device, contact lenses in the United Sates are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Aside from medical reasons, people could most commonly go for contact lenses for cosmetic/fashion-based reasons. For a medical purpose, contact lenses are generally preferred because they give better peripheral vision.
Sports persons choose them over spectacles because they do not collect moisture.
This is where the use of novelty contact lenses come in. These kinds are often used for a performance(to create a certain prescribed look) or just for the fun of it.
Medical experts have warned that while the use of lenses for optic reasons are understandable, they could still be harmful to eyesight in general. Thus it is recommended that the lenses be given under proper supervision by a certified professional.
Stressing the need of using the lenses with caution, Mr Badrul Hussain, a consultant ophthalmic surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital, confirms treating patients who developed eye conditions after wearing contact lenses.
“Some of the cases we see, like patients sharing lenses with friends, wearing the same pair year after year well past the expiry date, and storing them in tap water, have devastating effects.”
“Not knowing the basics of using contact lenses safely can put you at higher risk of developing painful eye injuries and, in the worst cases, risk of permanent sight loss.”
Novelty contact lenses which are virtually sold with no safety instructions are warned to be more dangerous to the eyes. They can cause itches, infections and impaired vision. In severe cases they can cause loss of sight.
People who wear contacts are at much higher risk of suffering Blepharitis which causes irritation and reddening of the whites of the eye.
Blepharitis has no cure but the symptoms can be controlled by cleaning the eye regularly with cooled boiled water. Then the eye is closed and massaged to prevent deposits of sticky discharge and flakes of skin building up behind the lid.
Members of the Association of Optometrists further confirmed that some people had developed eye problems after wearing novelty lenses.
Wearing a contact lens for too long starves the eyes of oxygen. The danger in this is that the harm is not always detected till it gets to the serious stage where eyesight is greatly threatened. It can only be detected with the use of a microscope.
Contact lenses cuts the eyes off from oxygen supply. The cornea is designed in such a way that it must receive oxygen directly from the air. Contact lenses limits the requisite. It gets worse when they are over worn.
The cornea is the clear outer layer at the front of the eyeball which gets its oxygen supply from the air rather than from the blood.
Optometrists strongly advise that they be worn for not more than 8 hours a day. They are also kicking against the habit of sleeping in them. Contact lenses become harmful when abused in these ways.
There are, however, newer types of contact lenses that are soft- silicone hydrogels- and designed to allow oxygen and reduces the chances of corneal neovascularisation.
Corneal neovascularisation is what happens when the eye is deprived of oxygen. Due to the lack of oxygen, there is an in-growth of new blood vessels from the pericorneal plexus into avascularcorneal tissue.
Common symptoms of wearing contacts for too long include eye pain, blurred vision photophobia (light sensitivity), red eye, excessive tearing, overgrowth of surrounding blood vessels, eye ulcer and irritated eyes.
For the novelty contact lenses, this is what you should know:
- Ensure that you take the lenses for an inspection by an optometrist
- The lenses should be cleaned with the recommended contact-lens solution
- Don’t wear them all through the night.
- Swapping or sharing them is a bad idea.
- They should not come into contact with water.
According to Inner Harbour Optometry this is how to care for your contact lenses:
- Contacts should be properly used in accordance to the prescription.
- Good hygiene is key when handling contact lenses.
- They should be disinfected as recommended.
- Regular eye exams with an optometrist is in order and in fact very vital.