When working effectively, contact lenses should be comfortable, moist and wearable for eighteen hours or more. If this is not the case, there are a number of factors that can cause discomfort or irritation. For healthy individuals with new lenses, there is a possibility that the lens itself is defective. Most manufacturers offer warranties or other guarantees against these kinds of problems, allowing dissatisfied users to seek a replacement or refund. In some cases, hard and RPG lenses can be fixed with a re-polishing. Sometimes, a new lens can be uncomfortable because it doesn’t fit properly. Lenses can be too tight, too loose or too thick. They can also have unintentionally sharp edges or the prescription itself can be wrong. Should these kinds of complications arise, be sure to see your eye doctor as soon as possible.
Potentially Serious Problems
The complaints eye doctors most commonly hear are minor and easy to fix, such as lens discomfort. However, there are complications related to wearing contact lenses that can lead to more serious health concerns. Symptoms that can indicate a more intense medical condition include pain, irritation, sensitivity to light, redness, discharge, swelling and blurred vision. While this doesn’t necessarily mean something serious is wrong, an eye doctor should be consulted immediately. There are a number of eye diseases that can arise if these symptoms aren’t attended to right away.
A corneal abrasion is a common problem that can occur when abrasive particles get trapped underneath a lens, causing scratches or nicks to the cornea, a problem much more frequent with RPG and hard lenses. Corneal abrasions can also occur from wearing lenses with rough or sharp objects. If the pain associated with a corneal abrasion perpetuates, medical treatment may be required. Severe corneal abrasions that are not treated may lead to a vision-threatening corneal ulcer.
Dry Eye Syndrome
Dry eye syndrome is another common malady in which contact wear causes an inability to produce tears of the appropriate quality and quantity to keep the eye properly lubricated. Dehydration can lead to discomfort when wearing lenses, a lack of oxygen transmission, and an increased risk of infection. Intermittent dry eye can be caused by a number of incidents, such as increased alcohol consumption, oral contraceptives and dry, windy weather. When the problem perpetuates, the time spent wearing contacts should be reduced and eye drops intended to treat dry eyes should be used. Be sure to consult your eye doctor should you experience any symptoms.
Conjunctivitis is an infection or inflammation of the membrane lining the inside of the eyelids and connected to the sclera. Often bacterial and sometimes viral, conjunctivitis is usually caused by lenses that are not kept clean and disinfected, or lenses that are inserted with dirty hands. Symptoms of conjunctivitis include redness, a burning sensation and discharge from the eye that causes the eyelids to stick together. Warm compresses can be an effective treatment but in some cases, medical attention may be required. Should discharge become a problem, cease wearing lenses immediately.
Keratitis is the inflammation and infection of the cornea that can have complications that threaten the loss of vision. Common side effects of keratitis include sensitivity of light and pain. It is common in soft lenses that are not properly cleaned and disinfected, or lenses that have been rinsed with contaminated water. Keratitis always requires medical attention and may need emergency care in severe situations.
A corneal edema is a swelling of the cornea caused by a lack of oxygen often resulting from improper use of extended wear lenses. Symptoms of a corneal edema include hazy visions, halos around lights and mild pain upon removal of lenses. Without proper attention, a corneal edema can cause infection or permanent scarring. In the case of a corneal edema, ceasing to wear lenses or switching to disposable daily wear lenses can alleviate symptoms.
Seeing halos around light sources is not entirely uncommon among those who wear contact lenses and should not be interpreted as an immediate threat. These ghost images occur when the pupil is dilated to a larger size than the optical area of a lens. Seeing rainbow lights, however, can be a sign of corneal swelling, indicating that lenses have been worn for too long and should be removed.
Blurred vision that arises in one or both eyes is a more serious condition. If blurred vision occurs in eyes that were previously clear, medical attention should be sought immediately. Any other symptom that persists in a more than temporary manner should also be evaluated by a professional.
Blepharitis is a backup of the oil glands on lid margins, often accompanied by the overgrowth of skin bacteria around the eyelashes. A lack of oil in tears produces poor quality tears, leading to dry eye, lens discomfort and a deposit buildup. A warm compress used daily and a side to side scrubbing of the eyelashes with a washcloth and warm water can alleviate symptoms. If the condition persists, be sure to consult your eye doctor.
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