Contact lenses are a wonderful way to correct your vision and can provide a convenient way to see the world without glasses. They improve your experience for a wide range of activities from SCUBA diving, to surfing, to mountain biking to playing with children who would otherwise pull off your glasses. That said, contact lenses are medical devices that interact with the surface of the eye and as such, proper maintenance and hygiene are important to keep the eye healthy. By now many of my patients have already read the report in the British Medical Journal of the woman who was examined with 27 contact lenses in her eye which is a nice anecdote of one way things can go wrong. While this would never happen to most contact lens wearers, there are a few things that a more traditional contact lens wearer should consider and the reason we evaluate your contact lenses each year you come in for your annual exam.
In order to safely wear contact lenses, it is important to make sure that the contact lens is not damaging the cornea, the front surface of the eye. The doctor will evaluate the fit of the lens, looking at the movement of the lens over the surface of the eye. They will then have you remove your contact lenses and evaluate the corneal surface for any damage, dryness, inflammation or infections. The curvature of the cornea will be evaluated to ensure a proper lens is selected, and the doctor will work with you to ensure an appropriate lens material is selected that will not create excessive dryness. Since the contact lenses bisect the corneal tear layer, they can cause dry eye in some patients, and sometimes a different lens material or fit must be selected. After ensuring the proper fit of the contact lenses, if any of the lens parameters have changed, our doctors will often have you trial the new lenses for 5-10 days to ensure the lens is comfortable and the vision is good. Since everybody has different tear anatomy different lens materials can interact differently with each patient.
While most people can successfully wear contact lenses for many years, some people develop signs of overuse after a few years of wear. Our doctors will check for new blood vessel growth around the cornea, usually a sign the cornea is not receiving enough oxygen. In these cases, either a more breathable lens will be needed, or it will be advised to reduce wearing time. In the rare case when contact lenses are overused to the point where they cause an infection, this needs to be addressed promptly using antibiotic eye drops. This treatment generally has a very good outcome if treated quickly.
We want to make sure that all of our patients has a successful experience with their contact lenses with great vision, comfort and convenience. We are passionate about fitting people in lenses as we have seen many lives improved with the aid of this type of vision correction, however each year we do need to check in to make sure that the lenses are working optimally.