Causes for Contact Lens Irritation and Infection
Irritation and infection from contact lenses is directly linked to poor hygiene, contact lens over wear, or poor contact lens fit.
If a contact lens is not cleaned properly, the patient is at great risk for a multitude of infections.
Acanthamoeba keratitis is a rare, very painful, and potentially blinding infection of the cornea. The organism that causes the infection has been found in most environments including domestic tap water, chlorinated swimming pools, hot tubs and bottled water. It is also present in the nasal passages of healthy people.
Wash your hands with soap and water before you put in or take out contact lenses. Do not use tap water to rinse or to store lenses.
Do not wear contacts while showering, in hot tubs, or swimming without goggles. Soft lenses absorb chemicals and microbes from the water. Gas permeable lenses may float out of the eyes.
Contacts should not be worn while sleeping. Sleeping with lenses in the eyes, deprives the cornea of oxygen; this increases the risk of infection. For extended-wear lenses, follow your eye doctor’s recommendations for the length of time you can safely leave the lenses in your eyes. Over use of contact lenses may create abnormal blood vessels growing into the normally clear cornea.
Always put your contacts in your eyes before you put on makeup. Use water-soluble makeup. Do not use lash-building mascara, because particles may get into your eyes. If you put eyeliner between your lashes and your eyes, you may discolor soft lenses permanently.
Do not put contact lenses in your mouth to moisten or clean them, it may increase the risk of eye infection. A major cause of serious infections is using saliva to clean the lens. This happens when a contact lens wearer must remove a lens or if a lens falls out of the eye and no solution is available. The best prevention is to have a small bottle of rewetting solution with you at all times. Never put contact lenses in your mouth to lubricate them.
Some people use homemade or non-contact-lens saline solutions in an effort to save money. These solutions may cause severe irritation or blinding infections (some saline solutions are not sterile) and should never be used. Always use the correct contact-lens solution recommended by the fitter. If you want to change solutions, you should first check with your doctor because some solutions may be incompatible with certain lenses. Switching solutions without the advice of your contact lens practitioner is not recommended.
If lenses are worn longer than recommended or in people whose eyes are particularly sensitive, lenses may develop deposits on the surface and cause irritation.