Millions of people have made wearing contact lenses just another part of their daily routines. Unfortunately, very few contact lens users know the potential risks of wearing these lenses without taking serious hygienic precautions.
Ophthalmologists are now warning contact lens users of the increased risk for fungal eye infections. Researchers have just discovered that a staggering 1 out of every 500 contact lens users gets an eye infection that could potentially lead to blindness.
The most common fungal infection contracted through contact lens use is called fungal keratitis. This cornea infection causes a great deal of eye pain, increased light sensitivity, and blurred vision. The only strategies for defeating this fungal infection include oral medication, eye drops, and surgery. If left untreated, fungal keratitis could lead to blindness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has no precise estimate on how many people have fungal keratitis, but they believe it is more common in warmer climates.
Many doctors used to believe that fungal keratitis was a result of contact lens solutions. Nowadays, many people in the medical establishment believe it is actually the contact lenses themselves that attract these infections.
A few other common fungal eye infections include endogenous fungal endophthalmitis and exogenous fungal endophthalmitis. Although all of these fungal infections are higher for contact lens wearers, ophthalmologists have a few simple solutions to prevent people from ever having to worry about them.
First, and perhaps most importantly, ophthalmologists say to never use extended soft contacts. These contacts are perfect breeding grounds for fungal infections. Instead, eye doctors around the world recommend using disposable daily soft contacts or hard contacts.
Doctors recommend taking contacts out every night and, if you are wearing extended contacts, to always practice good hygiene. The eyes need a breather from contacts every day, so it's important to let them rest while you sleep. Of course, always wash your hands thoroughly before putting in or taking out a contact lens.
For those working out in nature or with animals, be careful about wearing contacts for extended periods of time. Many fungal infections can easily make their way onto contacts in areas with a great deal of plants and animals. It's better off not to wear contacts at all in these areas, especially on farms.
If you have the resources, some doctors suggest looking into laser eye surgery like LASIK. Laser eye surgery is getting safer as the technology advances each year, and many former contact lens wearers say they experience greater freedom after going in for a LASIK treatment.
For those out there who continue to use contact lenses, be aware of the warning signs of a fungal infection. These symptoms include intense eye pain, blurred vision, eye redness, increased tear production, and sensitivity to light. It is critical to contact a trained eye care professional as soon as you experience any of these symptoms.