Font Size

Contact Lenses (cont.)

More Contact Lenses Overview

Contact lenses may be used for treatment of diseased eyes. Soft contact lenses may be used as bandage lenses to protect the cornea in some disease situations. Large scleral lenses that cover the entire eye may be used to correct some unusually shaped eyes or to treat some unusual eye conditions.

Problems resulting from contact lens wear range from the inability to remove the lenses (usually after first being fit) to blindness from infections. Proper fitting, instruction, and care and maintenance can prevent most problems.

  • When being fit with contact lenses, the fitter should provide the patient with information as to what to do in case of a problem (call the office, go to the emergency room, etc.).
  • After being fit, inability to remove lenses occasionally occurs. Do not panic. Call your fitter for instructions as to how to proceed.

The most common reasons for contact-lens wearers to seek care is irritation of the eyes, redness, or blurred vision. These may be caused by the lenses wearing out or warping, a change in the eyes requiring new lenses, poor fitting of the lenses, poor care of the lenses, sensitivity to solutions, or something (a foreign body) getting under the lens on the surface of the eye. These relatively minor inconveniences must be evaluated because they may signal the onset of corneal ulcers and deeper infection.

  • With the glut of contact-lens solutions available, it is important to use only the solution recommended by the fitter. Some solutions may be incompatible with certain lenses or may contain components, such as Thimerosal (20% of people are allergic to this substance) that are not compatible with the eyes of certain people.
  • One major concern, from the wearer's viewpoint, is the danger when a contact lens slips off the eye. The lens sits on the surface of the eye but cannot travel "back to the brain" because the clear covering of the eye goes under the eyelid and keeps the lens from going further back. If the lens cannot be repositioned on the cornea, it is under the eyelid and can be easily slid or moved to its correct position on the cornea (sometimes requiring the help of the fitter). It will do no harm if it is under the eyelid for a number of hours.
  • Redness of the eyes associated with pain, blurred vision, and light sensitivity is more serious and may signal a potentially blinding condition, such as a corneal ulcer due to an infection.
  • Abrasions (scratches) on the surface of the cornea (corneal abrasions) usually result from insufficient oxygen reaching the surface of the eye, although they may also result from dirt or other foreign bodies getting under the lens. It may be due to either over-wear of the contact lenses or lenses that are not tolerated by the eye. These disturbances of the cornea not only may be very painful but also may predispose the eye to a serious, blinding infection.
  • Occasionally, someone inadvertently soaks his or her lenses in cleaning solution or soap solution, resulting in redness of the eye with a great deal of pain. This is extremely uncomfortable but usually causes no permanent damage. Drops and irrigation of the eye may be necessary to relieve the pain.
  • Makeup may get under a lens and cause irritation or a greasy film on the lens, making it difficult to see clearly. Sometimes polishing in the office will be necessary to remove this film. If not, it may be necessary to replace the lens.

It is important to keep in mind that any of these eye complaints may occur and have nothing to do with the contact lenses and may be signs of other unrelated eye conditions such as infections, cataracts, or glaucoma. It may be necessary to see your eye-care professional for the correct diagnosis and treatment.

Any change in the condition of the eyes of contact-lens wearers must be evaluated for the cause and possible treatment. Whether or not these eye complaints are due to the contact lenses, they still must be diagnosed and treated. When in doubt, call your fitter for information as to how to proceed; remember that opticians do not treat eye diseases.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/1/2016

Must Read Articles Related to Contact Lenses

Anatomy and Physiology of the Eye
Anatomy of the Eye Even though the eye is small, only about 1 inch in diameter, it serves a very important function -- the sense of sight. Vision is by far the most used of the fi...learn more >>
Ophthalmologist vs. Optometrist
Eye Care Providers There are a number of different types of eye care providers. Depending on the learn more >>
Vision Correction Surgery
Vision Correction Surgery Vision correction surgery changes the cornea to focus light on the back of the eye without the need for corrective lenses. There are several types of vision cor...learn more >>

Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Contact Lenses:

Contact Lenses - Side Effects

Have you had complications from wearing contact lenses? If so, what were they?

Contact Lenses - Seeking Medical Care

Please describe the nature of your contact lens problem. What prompted you to seek medical care?

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Specialty Contact Lenses »

Soft contact lenses (CLs) were once difficult to fit for astigmatic eyes because every toric CL was unique and fit differently with every lens.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

Medical Dictionary