Contact lenses are a preferred way to achieve eyesight for many people. According to a recent survey, nearly 11 million pieces of contact lenses, worth almost $35 million, were sold in Singapore in the first half of this year.
However, there are dangers associated with wearing contact lenses - the wrong fit or even bacteria buildup can wreck havoc on your eyes.
AsiaOne Health finds out from the experts - Dr Lee Sao Bing, Medical Director and Dr Jovina See, Senior Consultant at Shinagawa Lasik Centre, and Mr Raymund Song, Senior Professional Service Manager at Bausch+Lomb - on what are some of the things one should look out for when wearing contact lenses.
Is comfort everything?
Comfort is an important factor when wearing contact lenses. Dr Lee and Dr See told AsiaOne Health that the eyes should be comfortable no matter whether the eyelids are closed or open. "Discomfort may be a result of bad fit," they said, noting that one should always have the fitting of the contact lens checked by a good optometrist whenever one is trying out a new lens.
However, comfort is not the only indication of whether a contact lens is right for you, said Mr Song. "We cannot base on comfort alone to determine if a pair of lens is suitable for us. It is only after being assessed by an optometrist on the lens fitting that a pair of suitable lenses can be recommended," he said.
All three experts say that redness of the eye and poor vision are indicators that the contact lens may not be suitable for the user.
"Eye redness may indicate dryness, or insufficient oxygen reaching the cornea (corneal hypoxia), or allergy to the contact lens material or lens solution," said Dr See and Dr Lee, who highlighted that soft contact lens tend to cause more problems than hard lenses as they have a bigger diameter, thus reducing the amount of oxygen that reaches the cornea. On and off blurring of vision may also indicate dryness or corneal hypoxia.
Both doctors recommend consulting the optometrist should one feel pain or a decrease in vision over time.
Decreased conrneal sensation
Decreased corneal sensation
However, contact lens wearers should not wait until their lenses feel uncomfortable, or until their eyes feel irritated before checking with their optometrists.
"Most contact lens users have decreased corneal sensation, especially those who have been wearing them for a long time," said Dr See and Dr Lee. "Hence, most contact lens wearers do not feel irritation or discomfort until it is too late when bacteria or protein buildup on the contact lenses has reached a severe degree and have already caused corneal infection," they added.
"It usually takes a period of time for eye infection to happen and most of the time, we will not be able to detect with our naked eyes if there is contamination of the lenses," cautioned Mr Song. "Microorganisms might already be building up on the lens and when the person using it does not adhere to a proper cleaning/disinfection recommended by the optometrist or dispose the lens by the recommended time, this allows microorganism to grow to a significant number which results in infection."
"Many people tend to overwear their lenses and some will continue to wear the lenses even when there is already discomfort and redness," noted Dr Lee and Dr See. "Many different bacteria, viruses, protozoa and fungi can cause corneal infections in contact lens users [and] it is a good habit for contact lens wearers to have regular checks with their opticians to make sure that their lenses are in good condition," said the two doctors.
Genuine and Fakes
The experts also noted that it can be difficult to spot at a glance if contact lenses are genuine. "It is difficult to differentiate fake ones from the actual ones, especially when the fakes are made to look similar to the real ones," said Mr Song. "The only way to prevent or minimise such an occurrence is for consumers to obtain their contact lenses from a reputable and authorised dealer."
Dr Lee and Dr See pointed out that consumers should look out for tell-tale signs to differentiate between the real and counterfeits. These include differences in packaging, as well as the prices of the lenses – if the price is too far off from what the standard market price, it could mean that the lenses are fake.
All these experts stressed that if one experiences any discomfort from wearing contact lenses, one should consult an optometrist immediately for an ocular health check.
Contact lenses dos and don'ts
- Follow the instructions on how to clean your lenses properly. Never skip a step.
- Discard disposable lenses once the recommended time period of use is over. Do not use lenses longer than you are supposed to.
- Never go swimming while wearing contact lenses – you might pick up an infection that is difficult to clear.
- Make sure that you have an optometrist fit you with a pair of suitable lenses. They should be comfortable and not cause any redness or irritation to your eyes.
- If you experience blurring of vision or discomfort in your eyes over time, consult an optometrist.
- Go to the optician for regular checks to make sure that the lenses are in good condition.
- Always obtain your contact lenses from reputable and authorised dealers.
- Check the packaging for tell-tale signs of counterfeiting – different designs, colours, spelling of words, etc