Millions of people all over the world wear contact lenses, and if the lenses are perfectly fit they can be almost unnoticeable for hours. However, as the day goes on, eyes can become dry and irritable and maybe in need of a little extra help. Wearing lenses can cause changes in the cornea which can in turn create problems and exacerbate pre-existing conditions. Problems are related to the type of lenses used, the frequency with which the lenses are changed, the cleaning systems used for the lenses, and wearer-related factors. The range of problems which may occur includes minor and major problems, from inadequate rinsing to loss of vision. However, most problems associated with contact lenses are not serious and will resolve if the lens is removed for a period of time.
1. Problems with the lens itself
Damage or spoilage of soft contact lenses is extremely common. Tears, cracks, and chips are some of the most common forms of damage. These damages can cause local irritation of the cornea. The lens is then exposed to pathogen colonization, causing conjunctivitis and keratitis. If the lenses are squeezed during cleaning process or if the conditions in which lenses are kept are too warm the warping of the lenses can occur. Warping of the lens may result in induced warping of the cornea and difficulty in correcting a refractive error, which can take months to resolve.
Poor lens care can cause accumulation of lipid and protein deposits on the lens. Bacteria, protozoa, and fungi can form a film over the lens and the fungal filaments may invade the lens itself. These can cause irritation of the cornea. Beauty products such as hairspray, make-up, creams, etc. can be the cause of deposits or damages to the lens surface. Make sure to use the lenses correctly so as to prevent these types of problems.
Reduced blink rate is a common problem with most lens wearers and it results in drying of the lenses. This dryness of the eyes can be temporarily relived by eye drops. Make sure to use drops that are suitable for your lenses. It’s important to consult your optician, because not all drops are compatible with all lenses. If dryness of your eyes is an ongoing problem, your optician will probably recommend switching to lenses designed for dry eyes. Also, don't use products advertised to “get the red out”. These types of products are made to constrict the tiny blood vessels that overlie the white of the eye (sclera). Shrinking the size of these blood vessels eliminates the appearance of red eyes but doesn't treat the underlying dryness problem.
2. Discomfort at the end of the day
Many lens wearers experience discomfort at the end of the day. For some lens wearers end of day discomfort caused by lenses can be best resolved by reducing lens wear for a few hours a day, for example wearing your glasses in the evenings after work rather than leaving your lenses in until you go to bed. Another way of resolving this problem is to switch to specially designed lenses that allow higher amount of oxygen to permeate the eye. Many of these specially designed lenses are also able to stay more hydrated throughout the day.
3. Burning eyes when putting in lenses
As contact lenses absorb fluids, they also absorb oil, dirt, creams or any substances they come in contact with. This is what causes the burning sensation when the contact lenses touch your eyes. To prevent any kind of contamination always wash your hands before touching eyes and lenses. Make sure to use soaps that are free of perfumes and moisturizing agents. Daily disposable lenses are another available option. These lenses are disposed after each use and thus the contamination is less possible. Several brands of daily disposable lenses are available from the major contact lens manufacturers.
If you are experiencing discomfort every time you insert your lenses, do not wear them, always have a pair of spear glasses to wear. Of course, you should consult your eye care professional so that he may recommend a different type of lens or a different wearing schedule.
4. Awareness of contact lenses on the eye
Poor lens fit, both loose and tight, can cause a lot of damage. Loose lenses can cause lens decentration which can increase awareness of the lenses on the eye and varying vision with each blink. Also, you will be aware of the lens on your eye if the diameter or base curve has not been measured accurately. Just as the eyes are different, so are lenses, and they have to be made for your specific requirements. On the other hand, tight lenses feel comfortable only initially and then become uncomfortable over a period of hours. Continued use of tight lenses, can cause a certain syndrome. Similarly, lenses that aren’t curved enough can become dislodged when you blink.
Over time lenses can develop residue which you cannot remove. This happens even if you take good care of your lenses and can make you more aware of the lenses.
To prevent this sort of problems, you should wear your glasses instead of lenses until you’ve talked to your optician.
5. Corneal problems
Superficial punctate keratitis (SPK) is the most common problem associated with contact lenses. This problem may occur due to dry eyes. The eyes may become aggravated by different factors such as smoke, dust, air-conditioned rooms, and medication.
Cracked lenses, or trauma when inserting or removing the lens, can cause mechanical injuries. Theses type of injuries can also occur due to the friction of accumulated debris on the lens.
Tight lens syndrome occurs when the lens appears to be stuck on the cornea and it doesn’t move on blinking. This happens if lenses are worn overnight.
This problem can be relieved by improving the fit of the lens together with use of lubricants.
6. Conjunctival Problems
Allergic conjunctivitis occurs due to the certain preservative used in contact lens care solutions. This problem presents itself with redness, burning, and an itching sensation which can worsen when inserting contacts. It can be reduced over time.
You can deal with this problem by avoiding such solutions and visiting your eye care specialist for alternative lens care solutions.
Giant papillary conjunctivitis arises as a direct consequence of the lens itself and presents as intolerance to the lens associated with irritation and redness of the eye.
Treatment consists of removing the lens until the condition has resolved, and improving care/fit of the lenses if necessary.
Toxic conjunctivitis occurs as a result of the cleaning solutions used for the lens due to absorption into the lens of the preservatives. This can also happen if the lens gets coated with other substances, such as hand crème, perfume, etc., that happen to be on wearers hands when inserting the contact lenses.
Once more, treatment is by removal of the lens until the condition has resolved. If severe, ocular lubricants may be required along with a short course of topical steroids.
7. Taking medication
Dry eyes can be caused by the use of medications such as those for allergies or blood pressure. If you are using such medication for a short period of time, then consider either switching to glasses or using eye drops to rehydrate your eyes.
On the other hand, if dry eyes are caused by using long term medication, you should consult your doctor or eye care specialist. They may have specific lenses which they think will help, or even suggest taking supplements such as flaxseed oil.
8. Allergy sufferers
People who suffer allergies more often than not have eye problems. While allergies may affect your eyes, your lenses could also be involved as dirt or particles can stick to your lenses causing them to become a constant source of irritation.
Clean your lenses regularly to avoid this. Discuss with your eye care specialist whether you need to switch lens care products or even change to daily disposable lenses. You may even be prescribed eye drops to alleviate the symptoms, which can include eye twitching.
9. Alcohol, coffee and/or smoke
If your diet contains caffeine or alcohol you should consider drinking a lot of water. Due to the lack of water, your eyes will become dry and irritable. Dry eyes can in turn cause other problems. Smoking can also increase the risk of dry eyes and other serious conditions such as muscular degeneration.
You can limit your intake of caffeine and alcohol or you can choose to take supplements such as flaxseed oil, which can improve your tear quality. Speak to your doctor or optician first for their recommendations.
10. Dry and/or dusty environments
Dry and dusty conditions are another reason for dry eyes and irritation. All kinds of irritants get attached to your lenses.
Eye drops designed for use with lenses can help to keep them hydrated throughout the day.