Contact Lens Overwear
In recent years, contact lens overwear has become a hot topic of discussion within the world of ocular health. While contact lenses have been around since 1800’s, only recently did the dangers of overwearing them become a public health issue (1). Most recently the Centers for Disease and Control released a public safety campaign about the importance of never overwearing your contact lenses (2). “Contact lenses are like your UNDERWEAR. Don’t over-wear. Avoid that sketchy pair. Carry a spare.(2)” Although comparing contact lenses to underwear is a bold statement, it definitely leaves a resonating message. Putting on a pair of clean underwear is second nature, and so should be placing in a clean pair of contact lenses. But with all this information on how to practice healthy contact lens wear, it is only natural to ask yourself, “what happens when I don’t wear my contact lenses correctly”?
With contact lens wear so popular, here at Good Eye Optometry we believe in being able to educate all our contact lens wearing patients on potential health risks associated with over wear. One of the most common conditions we see is Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis (GPC), also known as contact lens-induced papillary conjunctivitis. This condition occurs when your eyes produce an inflammatory response in the form of small bumps on the inside of your eyelids after prolonged contact lens wear(3). The bumps that are formed will not only cause the physical sensation of sandiness and grittiness, but also cause redness, ocular soreness, and blurred vision(4). Ultimately if the inflammatory response produces symptoms that make contact lens wear unbearable, patients become contact lens intolerant in which case we would have to take steps towards treating the GPC. Depending on the severity of the GPC, treatment varies from artificial tears and contact lens discontinuation or a change in wear modality to steroid drops.
Another common effect of contact lens overwear is corneal hypoxia which is the suffocation of your corneas. This happens because the contact lens essentially works as a barrier between your eyes and oxygen. With today’s leading technology in contact lenses, if worn properly, contact lenses can transmit a healthy amount of oxygen, but over time with over wear, the material becomes compromised and so does oxygen permeability. When suffocated, the eyes can undergo corneal edema (swelling), and neovascularization (new blood vessel formation). Both conditions affect vision. Corneal edema not only can become vision impairing as the cornea clouds, but also painful. Similarly, corneal neovascularization produces blood vessels in your cornea, which should be naturally clear (5). Both conditions, if left untreated, can produce varying degrees of permanent vision loss.
While it is important to appropriately treat these conditions, as optometrists, Dr. Gozini and Dr. Pham prefer to prevent these issues from happening at all. To avoid symptoms of over wear, the answer is often simply, DO NOT OVERWEAR. However, for a select few, a monthly or biweekly lens modality even when worn correctly, is enough to cause contact lens over wear symptoms. Daily contact lenses are not only the future trend for contact lens correction, they are also the healthiest. Dr. Gozini and Dr. Pham take the time to evaluate the comprehensive needs of each of their patients to not only provide individual treatment plans, but also personal tips for prevention of overwear.