What are Contact Lens-Related Infections?
While contact lenses are safely used by millions of people every day, they do carry a risk of eye infection. Factors contributing to infection can include:
- Use of extended-wear lenses
- Reduced tear exchange under the lens
- Environmental factors
- Poor hygiene
- The single best way to avoid eye infections is to follow proper lens care guidelines as prescribed by your eye care professional. In particular, including a “rub and rinse” step in the lens cleaning process, minimizing contact with water while wearing contact lenses and replacing the lens case frequently can help reduce the risk of infection.
The most common infection related to contact lens use is keratitis, an infection of the cornea (the clear, round dome covering the eye’s iris and pupil). Keratitis can have multiple causes, including herpes, bacteria, fungus and microbes. It is not transmitted from person to person, but fungal keratitis is more common in warm climates.
Recent outbreaks of keratitis in contact lens users have included fusarium keratitis, a fungal form of the infection, and acanthamoeba keratitis. Risk factors for fungal keratitis include trauma (usually when plant material gets into the eye), chronic or ongoing disease of the surface of the eye, a compromised immune system and, rarely, contact lens use.
Symptoms of keratitis may include:
- Blurry vision
- Unusual redness of the eye
- Pain in the eye
- Excessive tearing or discharge from your eye
- Increased light sensitivity
- Foreign body sensation
Diagnosis and Treatment
Keratitis can sometimes cause serious vision loss or even blindness, so it is important to see an ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.) as soon as possible if you are experiencing the above symptoms.
Diagnosis can be based on:
- Assessment of a sample taken from a scraping of the eye
Fungal keratitis is treated with topical and oral antifungal medications. Patients who do not respond to medical treatment may require eye surgery, possibly including a corneal transplant.
Acanthamoeba keratitis can be more difficult to treat, as the infection can spread to other parts of the body. Early diagnosis is essential. If it is determined that you have acanthamoeba keratitis, your ophthalmologist will discuss treatment options with you.
If you wear contact lenses, safe handling, storage and cleaning of your lenses are key steps to reduce your risk of a keratitis infection.
Courtesy of www.geteyesmart.org