Symptoms and Signs of Contact Lenses

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 8/31/2021

Doctor's Notes on Contact Lenses

Contact lenses are small pieces of plastic that allow a person to see without glasses. They can correct conditions such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. Contact lenses may also be used to treat certain eye diseases such as keratoconus or may be used for cosmetic purposes to change the apparent color of the eyes.

Symptoms of contact lens problems include

  • eye irritation,
  • redness,
  • light sensitivity,
  • pain,
  • blurred vision,
  • a feeling there is something in the eye,
  • the lens slipping off the surface of the eye,
  • corneal abrasions (scratches) that are very painful,
  • mild infections (such as pinkeye or bleeding on the surface of the white part of the eye), and
  • serious infections (such as corneal infections).

Severe, blinding infections may occur if contact lenses are worn while swimming.

What Is the Treatment for Contact Lenses Problems?

By following instructions for use of your contact lenses, you can avoid potential problems. Things you can do to avoid problems with your contact lenses include:

  • Not sleeping with contact lenses in 
  • Not showering with or getting soap in your eyes with lenses in  
  • Avoiding swimming while wearing contacts
  • Avoiding over-the-counter eye drops unless recommended by your doctor
  • Using daily disposable contacts to decrease the chance of infection and inflammation of the eye

Remove contact lenses immediately if you have any eye pain or irritation, eye redness, a new sensitivity to light, or increased tearing or discharge from your eye as it may be a sign of a contact lens problem. If these symptoms occur talk to your doctor or seek medical care. You may require treatment with antibiotic drops or anti-inflammatory eye medications.

Contact lens use can increase the possibility of a corneal ulcer. Corneal ulcers are painful sores in the outer layer of the cornea caused by infections. They cause severe damage to the surface of the eye and must be treated aggressively by an ophthalmologist (eye specialist).

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.