Author: Eric D. Donnenfeld, MD
Ah, the exhilaration of that first pair of contact lenses! It marks the end of your struggle with glasses and pretending to see when you can’t. Unfortunately, that sense of freedom can be fleeting once you realize that contacts have limitations as well. Let’s face it, most people who wear contact lenses have a love-hate relationship with them. For many, the disappointment sets in when signs of contact lens intolerance start to appear. It begins with slight irritation or dry eye, but over time, it can become a sight-threatening issue.
What is contact lens intolerance?
Contact lens intolerance occurs when a person’s eyes become irritated when they use contact lenses. The irritation often is bothersome enough that they want to take them out and stop wearing them. Symptoms can be temporary and range from mild gritty or stinging sensations to more serious issues such as chronic dry eye, abrasions, infections, and even corneal ulcers. These complications are sight-threatening for up to 1 in 500 contact lens users per year – according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, citing a study published in 2008.
What causes contact lens intolerance?
There are several possible factors. First, it could be that the fit of the lens isn’t right. Sometimes, age or hormone changes can be contributing factors. Additionally, overwearing lenses and the resulting deposits that develop on the surface of the lens is an issue. Not cleaning lenses properly or a sensitivity to lens cleaning solutions may also be factors in developing contact lens intolerance. Whatever the cause, people with contact lens intolerance are better off looking for alternative solutions, such as switching to glasses or having LASIK eye surgery to correct their vision permanently.
Even people who don’t suffer from contact lens intolerance eventually find that the appeal of contacts begins to fade. All types of contact lenses reduce the amount of oxygen reaching the cornea – the front of the eye where the contact resides. Even with proper care and meticulous hygiene, this can lead to an increased risk of eye problems.
A recent study of long-term (<5 years) contact lens users showed that, over a 3-year period, their level of satisfaction with using contact lenses decreased significantly from 63 percent down to 54 percent. The study also showed that people who used contacts but then chose to have LASIK eye surgery had a much higher level of satisfaction with their vision that only improved over time. Importantly, LASIK has a much lower risk of sight threatening infection – 1 in 10,000 according to clinical research.
If you wear contacts and experience symptoms such as red, irritated eyes, ongoing dry eye symptoms, pain, or swelling, it’s vital you don’t ignore any of these symptoms. To protect the health of your eyes and vision, please schedule a consultation with a cornea specialist (there are 10 fellowship trained cornea specialists at OCLI Vision) as you may be contact lens intolerant. If that’s the case, it may be time for you to consider other forms of vision correction, such as LASIK.
To schedule an appointment, please call 833-509-6254 or fill out the appointment form below.