Contact Lens Related Eye Infections Types, Prevention and Treatment

While contact lenses are safely used by millions of people every day, they do carry a risk of eye infection. Although contact lenses are generally safe and comfortable, if you don’t use them properly you may be putting yourself at risk for a number of eye complications, including vision loss.

What Factors Contribute to Contact Lens Related Eye Infections?

Factors that contribute to Contact Lens Related Eye Infections include:

  • Use of extended-wear lenses
  • Sleeping in contact lenses
  • Reduced tear exchange under the lens
  • Environmental factors
  • Poor hygiene, including poor maintenance of contact lens cases
  • Reusing
  • Topping off contact lens solution

What are the types of Contact Lens Related Eye Infections?

They are:

  1. Keratitis
  2. Corneal ulcers
  3. Contact Lens Induced Acute Red Eye (CLARE)
  4. Contact Lens Papillary Conjunctivitis (CLPC)

Keratitis – The most common infection related to contact lens use is keratitis. It is an inflammation of the cornea caused my many things, including herpes, bacteria, fungus and microbes.

  • Types of Keratitis that affect contact lens wearers:
    • Amoebic keratitis: A rare but potentially blinding infection caused by a common organism found in tap water, swimming pools, hot tubs, etc.
    • Bacterial keratitis: An infection caused by bacteria found in soil, water, sewage and plants.
    • Fungal keratitis: A serious and painful corneal disease caused by a fungal organism.
  • Symptoms of Keratitis – They 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
  • Treatment – Keratitis can sometimes cause serious vision loss or even blindness, so it is important to see an optometrist if one is 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.

Corneal Ulcers – A corneal ulcer is 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.

  • Symptoms of Corneal Ulcers- Include
    • Redness & Pain
    • Tearing & Discharge
    • White spot on the cornea
    • Blurry vision
    • Burning
    • Itching
    • Light sensitivity
  • Treatment – Treatment usually involves antibiotics as well as antiviral or antifungal medications. Steroid eye drops may also be given to reduce inflammation.

Contact Lens Induced Acute Red Eye (CLARE) – CLARE is an inflammatory reaction of the cornea and conjunctiva, a thin & 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.

  • Treatment- 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, one should see optometrist. If experience pain, sensitivity to light or decrease in vision, one should see optometrist immediately.

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.

  • 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.
  • Treatment – Optometrist may prescribe pharmaceutical eye drops and recommend that one should stop wearing contacts until the condition goes away.

What is the Prevention for Contact Lens Related Eye Infections?

Prevention may include:

  • Have regular eye exams. Eye doctor will tell if one is a good candidate for contact lens wear and will properly fit for lenses.
  • Wash hands before handling contact lenses. Bacteria from day-to-day travels can easily get on lenses if hands are not clean.
  • Carefully and regularly clean contact lenses with a lens care solution recommended by eye doctor. And never re-use old solution.
  • Store lenses in their proper case, and keep it clean. Replace case every three months or as recommended by eye doctor.
  • Talk to eye doctor to determine how often should be replacing lenses. If one has daily disposables, for example, be sure to throw them away daily. Saving money in the short term may lead to vision loss in the long term.
  • Follow the wearing schedule recommended by eye doctor.
  • Do not sleep with lenses in. It can cause eye irritation, scratches on corneas or infections from unclean or unsterile lenses. Extended wear lenses still carry the risk of complications, and it is probably better to remove them nightly.
  • Avoid bathing, showering or swimming with contacts in. Bacteria in the water can stick to lenses and cause serious infections. If it is absolutely necessary to wear lenses while swimming, wear goggles and disinfect lenses afterwards.
  • See eye doctor immediately if wear contacts and notice eye pain, eye redness, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, excessive tearing or the sensation of having something in your eye.

“You’re not expected to clean your teeth with your finger; so why are you expected to clean your contact lenses that way”