I used to wear contact lenses but when I had my kids, it became too tedious to care for the lenses. I used to eyeglasses instead. They may not make me look great or fashionable but I find eyeglasses more practical. Little did I know that the decision to switch from contacts to eyeglasses may have some additional benefits.
The incidence of corneal ulcers may be more than previously thought – up to twice the previous estimates, according to a recent study. Cornea is the transparent white layer covering the front of the eye. Ulcers of the cornea can develop by viral or bacterial infections. It can start as a minor injury such as a small scratch on the cornea that can develop into open infected painful sores. In severe cases, the ulcers can lead to permanent eye damage and vision loss. The researchers attribute the increase in corneal ulcers to increased use of contact lenses.
According to researcher Dr. David Gritz of Montefiore Medical Center in New York:
“As new contact lens innovations become available, and people hear that they can wear these contact lenses for weeks or a month without taking them off, they do just that. They don’t realize the dramatic increase in risk it causes them. Our eyes do need breaks from contact lens wear.”
The research study looked at 1,093,210 patients treated in the Northern California Kaiser Permanente Health Care Program. Data on corneal ulcers, contact lens use, eye trauma or disease, and HIV status were collected. About 0.03% of these patients developed ulcers of the cornea during a 1-year period and more than half of these were contact lens users. The likelihood for corneal ulcers among those who use contact lenses is 9 times higher than those of non-users. Those who are HIV-positive have also a similar elevated risk. Young women seem to be especially susceptible to corneal ulcer – with double the risk compared to their male counterparts of similar age. The reason might be due to common use of cosmetic contact lenses by these women.
The fact that contact lenses are available over-the-counter or on the internet exacerbates the problem according to the researchers.
“People need to get properly fitted for contact lenses, and seek follow-up care by an eye care professional. Contact lenses can even act as a bandage over eye irritation, covering up symptoms. So people need to listen to what their eyes are telling them, and always have a good pair of glasses available as an alternative.”