The Most Common Eye Infections Among Contact Lens Wearers

The Most Common Eye Infections Among Contact Lens Wearers

Contact lenses are nearly ubiquitous among individuals who don’t want to deal with eyeglasses every day. Despite their commonality, these visual aids are known catalysts for many ocular infections. These eye issues can range from mild to severe but are almost always extremely uncomfortable and inconvenient. If you wear contact lenses, you’re at a greater risk of developing the following infections.

1. Keratitis

Keratitis is one of the most common infections linked to wearing contact lenses. It often appears as one of three varieties: bacterial keratitis, fungal keratitis and herpes keratitis.

Bacterial keratitis affects the cornea and is most often seen in people who’ve sustained ocular injuries and/or wear contact lenses. It’s usually painful and can include symptoms like compromised vision, eye discharge, or increased light sensitivity. Bacterial keratitis tends to progress extremely fast and may result in total blindness, if not addressed in a timely fashion.

Fungal keratitis is similar to bacterial keratitis, but its root causes are slightly different. While the bacterial variety of the infection can be brought on by any eye damage, or even a weak immune system, fungal keratitis is spurred by fusarium, a fungus that’s often present in water, soil, and plants. It can develop in contact lenses that aren’t properly cleaned and maintained.

Finally, herpes keratitis occurs as a result of the herpes simplex virus, a common infection that’s carried by 90% of the population. While it often appears as cold sores, the herpes simplex virus may manifest itself optically, spurring an outbreak of keratitis. This infection typically only affects the outside of the eye and cornea, though in rare cases it may appear on layers deep within the eye, in which case it’ll likely be classified it as a severe infection. While anyone carrying the herpes simplex virus is at risk of developing this form of keratitis, the chances of it developing are exacerbated through the use of contact lenses.

2. Acanthamoeba Keratitis

Acanthamoeba keratitis is often confused with bacterial and fungal keratitis, but it’s distinct. This is a parasitic infection caused by microscopic, free-living ameba called acanthamoeba. These are common in nature, and can be found in the air, soil, and bodies of water, including lakes and oceans. Acanthamoeba keratitis is a serious infection; if left untreated, it can cause permanent visual impairment and blindness.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the symptoms of acanthamoeba keratitis may include:

  • Eye pain
  • Eye redness
  • Blurry vision
  • Light sensitivity
  • Excessive tearing
  • Feeling like something is stuck in the eye

This infection can affect anyone who comes into contact with acanthamoeba (such as through contaminated water). Although it’s rare, acanthamoeba keratitis is more common in contact wearers. Improper disinfection, handling, and storage of contact lenses raises the risk as well as swimming, showering, or using a hot tub while wearing lenses. Acanthamoeba keratitis is also more likely in people with a history of trauma to the cornea.

3. Corneal ulcers

Corneal ulcers appear as seemingly open sores on the corneas. Eye Health Web explains that these have the potential to become infected, and can affect the cornea from its epithelial layer to its stromal layer. Mainly caused by germs, corneal ulcers usually appear after this part of the eye has sustained a small injury or abrasion and has been left vulnerable to bacteria. They often appear in contact lens wearers who have used dirty lenses and introduced germs into their eyes.

Corneal ulcer symptoms may be different for every person affected, but they typically include:

  • Eye pain
  • Discharge
  • Eye redness
  • Blurry vision
  • Light sensitivity
  • Clouding, watering of the eye
  • Sensation of a foreign object in the eye

Because corneal ulcers can lead to blindness, you should always reach out to your physician if you experience these or similar symptoms.

4. Contact lens-induced acute red eye

This infection, known as CLARE, impacts the conjunctiva and the cornea. It most often appears upon waking up, and its symptoms can include itchiness, discharge, lens intolerance, and red bumps appearing on the tissue inside the upper eyelid.

CLARE is usually mild and doesn’t require any extensive treatment, though it can be painful, uncomfortable, and extremely inconvenient.

People experiencing CLARE should stop wearing lenses for the duration of the infection, as this can help the eyes heal. If the pain and redness are still present after 24 hours of removing your contact lenses, you may want to seek medical help, as it can signify a more severe infection.

Overall, these infections can be prevented by practicing proper contact lens care. Many people cut corners with cleaning lenses and wear them far longer than they should – both factors that increase the risk of developing infections. If you’re not careful with your contacts, consider opting for laser vision correction, which will eliminate your need for these risky optical aids.

If you’re tired of the hassle of contact lenses and glasses, then LASIK may be right for you. LASIK is widely considered to be one of the safest medical procedures available and can offer you more convenience in your everyday life. Book your free consultation today.