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Contact lenses and eye infections

Contact lenses are worn by a significant percentage of the population. When used the correct way, they have a very low risk of infection and other complications. However, when they are used incorrectly, contacts can result in vision threatening complications including infection, and disorders of the surface of the eye. What is ideal use of contact lenses? The ideal user of a contact lens will never use their lenses longer than the manufacturer recommended time; they will never sleep in their lenses; they will always wash their hands with soap and water before handling their lenses; they will always clean their lenses with fresh solution and change their contact lens cases frequently; they will also rub their lenses with some solution when they remove them, and they will always remove their lenses immediately when their eyes start to bother them. With perfect use of contact lenses, there is still an increased risk of infection. After all, a piece of plastic is being placed on the surface of the eye. However, if the perfect use practices are violated, this risk can go up dramatically. There are a number of different infections that can occur. The major risks with contacts are bacterial, fungal, and protozoan infections. The most common type of infection with contact lenses is staph marginal keratitis. This is less an infection, and more a build up of bacteria that can cause an ulcer in the eye. Staph Aureus and Staph Epidermidis can contribute to this type of problem. Your eye doctor or ophthalmologist will usually treat your eye with a combination antibiotic-steroid medication such as tobradex to treat this condition. One of the most common bacterial infections associated with a contact lens is from a bacteria called pseudomonas. This can cause a severe infection with scarring and vision loss if not treated rapidly. The contact lens itself can cover up many of the symptoms of infection, so if the eye is irritated, it is important to remove the lens. Often, the discomfort will be worse when the lens is removed, but it is important not to put in another lens. The two most serious forms of contact lens related infections are fungal keratitis and acanthamoeba keratitis. A fungus could be a yeast or a mold, and the infection may be every difficult to eradicate. These type of infections are most common in people that violate the norms of contact lens wear or have an underlying eye problem. Acanthamoeba can be associated with using tap water to clean contact lenses or swimming with lenses on. It can be one of hardest infections to clear, and many, if not most, patients with this infection will lose vision. The most important thing for a contact lens related infection is that is prevention, and to have it treated early. If you remove your contacts, and your eye is still bothering you, it may be a good idea to have your eyes evaluated. Please call 512-686-1224 to have an evaluation in Georgetown, Texas with Dr. Aaker a Cornea specialist. We see patients from all over the Austin and Central Texas area.

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