Contact Lenses-Related Eye Infections

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While contact lenses are safely worn by many, there is a risk of developing eye infections. Factors that contribute to an infection can include:

Use of extended-wear lenses
Reduced tear exchange under the lens
Environmental factors
Poor hygiene

How can I avoid getting an eye infection due to contact lenses?

The best way to avoid eye infections due to wearing contact lenses is to follow proper lens care guidelines as recommended by your optometrist. You can help reduce the risk of infection by carefully cleaning, rubbing and rinsing your contacts, minimizing contact with water while wearing them and replacing the lens case often.

Below are some of the most common eye infections associated with wearing contact lenses.

What is keratitis?

The most common infection related to contact lens use is keratitis, an infection of the cornea (the clear, round dome covering they eye's iris and pupil). Keratitis can be caused my many things, including herpes, bacteria, fungus and microbes. It is not transmitted from person to person, but fungal keratitis is more common in warmer climates.

What are the symptoms of keratitis?

Symptoms of keratitis may include:

Blurry vision
Unusual redness of the eye
Pain in the eye
Excessive tearing or discharge from your eye
Increased light sensitivity
Foreign body sensation

How is keratitis diagnosed and treated?

Keratitis can sometimes cause serious vision loss or even blindness, so it is important to see an optometrist if you are experiencing the above symptoms. Fungal keratitis is treated with topical and oral antifungal medications. Patients who do not respond to medical treatment may require eye surgery, possibly including a corneal transplant.

What are corneal ulcers?

A corneal ulcer is an erosion or exposed sore on the surface of the cornea. Corneal ulcers are most commonly caused by germs. Other causes of corneal ulcers include viruses, injury and inadequate eyelid closure. Corneal ulcers are common in people who wear contact lenses, especially if they wear them overnight.

What are the symptoms of corneal ulcers?

The symptoms of corneal ulcers include:

White spot on the cornea
Blurry vision
Light sensitivity

How are corneal ulcers diagnosed and treated?

Early diagnosis is important in treating corneal ulcers. Your optometrist will ask you questions to determine what caused the ulcer. Your eyes will then be examined with a slit-lamp. A special dye may be placed in your eye to aid in the diagnosis. If it is not clear what the exact cause is, your optometrist may test a sample of the ulcer in order to properly treat it. Treatment for corneal ulcers needs to be aggressive, as some ulcers can lead to vision loss and blindness. Treatment usually involves antibiotics as well as antiviral or antifungal medications. Steroid eye drops may also be given to reduce inflammation. In severe cases, a corneal transplant may be needed to restore vision. If treatment is not administered, there may be blindness or even total loss of the eye.

What is Contact Lens Induced Acute Red Eye (CLARE)?

CLARE is an inflammatory reaction of the cornea and conjunctiva (a thin and transparent membrane that covers the sclera, the white part of the eye). This infection is mostly caused by sleeping with contact lenses and is characterized by awaking with red eyes.

What is the treatment for CLARE?

In most cases, no treatment is required. It is recommended that patients discontinue lens wear, which usually remedies the condition. However, if redness or irritation persists after 24 hours, you should see your optometrist. If you experience pain, sensitivity to light or decrease in vision, you should see your optometrist immediately.

What is Contact Lens Papillary Conjunctivitis (CLPC)?

CLPC is an inflammatory reaction of the upper eye lid and is very common among those that wear contact lenses.

What are the symptoms of CLPC?

The symptoms of CLPC include small, red bumps on the inflamed tissue on the underside of the upper eyelids. There is usually itchiness, discharge, increased lens awareness and decreased lens tolerance.

What is the treatment for CLPC?

Your optometrist may prescribe pharmaceutical eye drops such as anti-histamines and recommend that you stop wearing contacts until the condition goes away.