Keep the Cornea and Contact Lens Friends!

The picture shown is an emergency patient recently treated. The patient called with eye pain and discomfort, suffering from a corneal ulcer (note white spot that looks like it has a ‘v’ in it).  With great amount of effort through treatment and follow-up evaluations, the cornea eventually healed. There was a slight side effect that remained preventing him from returning to contact lens use.

The point of this writing is to inform everyone that the entire issue could have been avoided.  Hence the title “Keep the Cornea and Contact Lens Friends!”.

Basically, a corneal ulcer is an open sore on the outermost layer of the eye, the cornea. The corneal area of irritation can be infectious or inflammatory. So symptoms include, but are not limited to eye pain, foreign body sensation in the eye, tearing, light sensitivity, red eye, blurred vision, and sometimes a white spot seen on the cornea as above.

Trauma, occupational hazards, geographical location, hygiene, and general eye health conditions are just a few causes of corneal ulcers. The biggest risk factor in the United States, however, is contact lens use. Contact lens use can increase your chance for infection on the cornea which can lead to a corneal ulcer. Poor contact lens compliance (wear, handling, etc.)  further the chance for infection and corneal ulcers.  In particular, soft contact lens users that wear their lenses longer than recommended are increasing their potential of getting a corneal infection. In addition, exposing your contact lenses to water, not properly disinfecting your lenses, and poor hygiene can lead to severe ophthalmic health issues.

Keeping the cornea and contact lens ‘friends’ and not causing problems to the wearer is not difficult. Following are some suggestions to avoid issues for contact lens wearers:

  • Caring for the contact properly greatly reduces the chance of corneal infection. Do not wear your contacts longer than your eye care professional has told you.
  • Disinfect your contact lenses daily, avoid any reuse of lens solution or some type of self-generated/homemade solution
  • Wash and clean your hands thoroughly before handling lenses
  • Avoid exposing the contact lens to water, and remember to very often clean or replace the contact lens case.

In our practice, we have seen an increase of contact lens irritation/infection due to extended-wear use of the lens and wearing lenses beyond their designated “lifetime”.   In the case of the patient pictured, thorough education on proper usage, cleaning and replacing the lens was given.  Specifically, these lenses were to be removed nightly, disinfected and disposed of every two weeks.  However, this patient only was replacing the lenses every two to three months and was also periodically sleeping in the lenses.

Contact lens use can be fun and offer great vision.  It is important to discuss with your provider the best modality of contact lens use (i.e. daily disposable verses an every two week replacement lens) and the proper cleaning system if not disposing of them daily.

The contact and the cornea can have a great relationship without causing discomfort to the contact lens wear.  However, if any unusual symptom arises, always call and get evaluated to ensure you do not have a developing infection or eye problem.  Remember, do not sleep in your contacts, store and disinfect the contacts carefully, and talk to your provider about various disinfecting solutions should you experience irritation from contact lens use.   Contact lenses were designed to keep patients seeing well and happy. Don’t allow for less than that and truly never let yourself get to a stage where your cornea gets ulcerated!