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29 Oct 2008
New research suggests that contact lenses could be contaminated with harmful pathogens

HEALTH

New research suggests that contact lenses could be contaminated with harmful pathogens, and can even lead to blindness. iTALK tells you why you are better off wearing glasses, unless you are ready to follow this lens care guide
 
Actor Bipasha Basu used contact lenses for the first time when she represented the Taj Mahal at the Seven Wonders of The World event in Portugal, but had a tough time. She said they didn't suit her since her eyes were constantly watering.
For most of us who are short-sighted, contact lenses are viewed as an invention that gives us 360 degree clarity, and free us from fuddy duddy frames. But with new research suggesting that contact lenses might harbour pathogens, and if contaminated with Acanthamoeba, can increase the risk of infection that can cause blindness, you might want to think again. 

How does the infection occur?

Acanthamoeba are microscopic one-celled organisms that occur naturally in tap water, well water, and hot tubs. Most problems with contact lenses are caused on account of improper use and lack of hygiene and hydration in the eyes. Misuse can cause allergy, Conjunctivitis, Corneal Oedema or swelling, and even loss of vision in extreme cases.

How can I prevent infection?

Dr Sanjana, consultant opthamologist at Dr LH Hiranandani Hospital says,"Contact lenses should only be worn for specific periods, and according to specifications. Be careful not to over-use them. If basic cleanliness is not maintained, infections will occur, especially in the cornea. Remember to wash your hands before removing your lens to avoid bacterial contamination. Make sure you change your disinfecting solution regularly."

Usage rules
While some experts believe contact lenses should be worn for not more than seven hours a day, others say they can be left on for as long as 12 hours, depending on comfort level. But they should never be worn while swimming or having a shower. Never wash your face or eyes with your lenses on.

Case study

Hygiene and quality of product matters

Raju Singh Bollywood music director
Initially, I had trouble using contacts. I've been using them for eight years, but I use them occasionally; maybe once a fortnight, if I am attending a social function. They can be comfortable after you are accustomed to them, and they make you feel like you have perfect eyesight. It's convenient to use them provided you maintain hygiene levels, and use good quality products.

Steps to prevent infection 

>>Be liberal with disinfecting solution.
>>Take breaks from staring at the computer, TV screen, and blink often
>>Avoid wearing lenses for at least one day of the week.
>>Replace the contact lens storage case every 3 to 6 months.
>>Distilled water and tap water are non-sterile, and should not be used
>>Use lubricating eye drops.
>>Don't rub or touch the eyes while the lenses are on.
>>Lenses worn overnight increase risk of infection since they reduce the amount of oxygen that gets to the cornea. This damages the surface of the cornea.

Signs that say you need to see the doc 

>>The lens pokes or breaks
>>You experience blurred vision, unusual redness, itching, burning, mucus discharge or allergy
>>You experience discomfort
>>Your eyes water
>>You experience unusual sensitivity to light
>>Your eyes swell, or your feel pain

Complications that could occur 

>>Excessive dryness
>>Corneal abrasions (edges of lenses cut cornea)
>>Allergic reactions
>>Bacterial/fungal/ viral infection
>>Ulcers that need to be scraped away

Expert Speak

Do not use lenses while using computer


Dr Anand Shroff Opthamologist, Shroff Eye Hospital and Eye Clinic

Do not use contact lenses while working on the computer. While the normal rate of blinking is 17 times a minute, those with lenses on, blink only 5 times.

IDEALLY, the lens should rest on the tear film of the eye otherwise they tend to stick to the eye, and you could suffer from dry eyes and allergies.

At times, the disinfecting solution, that is valid for 3 months is used for over 6 months. That's when it could get infected. I'd suggest daily-wear disposable lenses over those that need to be changed once a year.

It's advisable to remove your lenses at lunch-time or tea-time, and rinse them in the solution to hydrate them.

Remember not to wear lenses while on a flight, since the atmosphere in a plane is dry, and the lenses could stick to the eyes.

Buy lenses only after a thorough eye check-up

Dr Vandana Jain Head of Department-Cornea, Aditya Jyot Hospital


All types of lenses may not suit you so, buy after a check up.

If you suffer from dry eyes, do not wear lenses.

When you get home, switch to glasses.

Go for an eye check up every 6 months, since the doctor might want to change the type of lens and brand.



Authored By: Soma Das