Common Contact Lens-Related Injuries

Even though contact lenses give you a convenient way to correct your vision, they carry different risks than other corrective options. Because they sit directly against your eye's surface, they have the potential to cause injury if you don't know how to use them properly.



Learn more about a few common contact lens–related injuries below.


Ways Your Contacts Can Injure You
Your contact lenses can damage your optical health in a few different ways.

1. Dry Eye
This condition often occurs in contact wearers because contacts block the normal amount of oxygen from entering your eye. Your eye needs this supplemental oxygen from the outside air because its tissues don't contain as many blood vessels – if it did, the vessels would obstruct our vision, and we wouldn't have the ability to see as clearly as we do.

So when you block this supplemental oxygen, the cells in your eyes don't get the nutrients they need, so they become dry. You'll know you have dry eyes if you notice the following:


  • A dry, burning, scratchy, or stinging sensation in your eyes
  • A sensation that you have something in your eyes
  • Eye fatigue and sensitivity
  • Redness in the eyes
  • Stringy mucus around the eyes
  • Excessive tear production
  • Blurred vision after keeping your eyes focused


You'll also experience difficulty wearing contact lenses. They'll feel uncomfortable, and you'll have some trouble making them stick to your eyes.

2. Scratches and Tears
Scratches, tears, abrasions, and punctures represent the most common injuries contact wearers face. These injuries normally occur because the contact lens develops a sharp edge from overuse or poor manufacturing, but they can also occur because you handle your contacts too roughly. You'll know you've sustained these injuries when you experience:


  • Redness
  • Sensitivity, pressure, and/or pain
  • A sensation that you have something stuck under your eyelid
  • Mucus discharge
  • Bleeding in severe cases


You can distinguish this injury from dry eye because the sensations won't dissipate with eye drops or contact solution. Scratches and tears also produce more severe sensations than dryness.

3. Toxic Conjunctivitis

This occurs when you have a severe reaction to substances absorbed into your contact lenses. These substances can include anything from excess contact solution to makeup, perfume, or lotion. These substances may irritate your eye or cause abrasions. You'll have to stop wearing your contacts until symptoms subside. Symptoms include:


  • Redness
  • Abrasions (leading to sensitivity, pain, and a sensation that you have something stuck under your eyelid)
  • Infiltrations (a small accumulation of cells/fluids in your peripheral vision)
  • Inflammation


Conjunctivitis also comes in other forms with different causes. You may develop it as an allergy to your contact lens or contact solution. Consult with your optometrist to find the precise cause of your conjunctivitis.


4. Superficial Punctate Keratitis

This condition often occurs as a complication of dry eye, tight or damaged lenses, keratitis, or corneal hypoxia. Symptoms include:


  • Small, whitish-grey lesions in the bottom of your cornea
  • Pain
  • Mucus discharge
  • Spasmodic winking


You'll notice the last three symptoms first, so visit your optometrist if you experience any of them.

5. Corneal Hypoxia

This condition occurs after you injure your eye when you wear your contacts too long. It changes the structure of your cornea, leading to vision changes. You'll also experience:


  • Pain
  • Ulcers (like infiltrates, but larger)
  • Vision impairment
  • Intracorneal bleeding


You may have to stop wearing your contacts for a while if you develop this condition.


6. Microbial Keratitis

You can also develop this condition if you wear your contacts for too long. This severe condition means that you have an organism living in your eye, like bacteria or amoebas. Amoebas can eat your optic nerve, resulting in permanent vision loss. Symptoms include:

  • Redness
  • Excessive tear production
  • Pain, irritation, and sensitivity
  • Ulcers (when caused by amoebas)


Since this condition can result in blindness, don't put off visiting your optometrist.


Ways to Prevent these Conditions

To prevent any of the above conditions from happening to you, you have to use your contacts properly. Take the following steps:


  • Purchase gas permeable contact lenses. These let more oxygen into your eye.
  • Check your contacts carefully when taking them out and putting them in. If one has a tear, switch it out for a new one.
  • Clean your contacts thoroughly before putting them in. Simply letting them sit in contact solution overnight won't clean them. In the morning, use fresh contact solution to gently scrub them clean.
  • Never store your contacts in water. Amoebas and bacteria swim around in water.
  • Don't wear your contacts for longer than prescribed. The longer you wear them, the more protein and bacteria deposits they accumulate. They absorb more foreign substances like makeup as well. Wear them for a day, a week, or a month as prescribed.
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