While contact lenses are safely used by millions of people every day, they do carry a risk of eye 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 (such as acanthamoeba—a very difficult infection to treat). Keratitis is the most serious complication of contact lens wear. In severe cases, it can lead to corneal scarring that impairs vision, and may lead to the need for a cornea transplant.
Symptoms of contact lens-related infections may include blurry vision, unusual redness of the eye, pain in the eye, tearing or discharge from the eye, increased light sensitivity or the sensation of something in your eye. It is important to remember that some contact lens-related eye infections can cause serious vision loss or even blindness, so it is important to see your Eye M.D. as soon as possible for treatment.
Factors that contribute to a contact lens-related infection include:
- Use of extended-wear lenses
- Sleeping in your contact lenses
- Reduced tear exchange under the lens
- Environmental factors
- Poor hygiene, including poor maintenance of contact lens cases or reusing or topping off contact lens solution
Safe handling, storage and cleaning of your lenses are key steps to reduce your risk of a keratitis infection.