Friday, December 24, 2021

Are Extended Wear Contact Lenses Safe?

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Eye surgeon never explains to patients that extended wear contact lenses have a higher risk of infection as compared to all other types of contact lenses. The CDC has estimated about 45 million people in the United States wear contact lenses for vision correction.

We may not know that one of the most common risks with contact lens wearing is infectious keratitis or a corneal ulcer.

extended-wear-lenses-have-risk-of-infection

Types of Contact Lenses

There are many different types of contact lenses such as:
  • Daily Disposable Soft Contact Lenses
  • Extended Wear Contact Lenses
  • Rigid Gas Permeable Contact Lenses
The risk of infection among different types of contact lenses is not the same. Extended wear contact lenses are the ones that the FDA has approved for overnight wear, and some of them are approved by the FDA for overnight or continuous wear up to 30 days.

A little-known fact is that extended wear contact lenses are recognized by the FDA as a Class III medical device. Class III medical devices are those which the FDA has determined to have a significant risk of illness or injury.

Some examples of other class III medical devices are implantable pacemakers and breast implants. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the risk of getting an infection is 10 to 15 times greater with extended wear contact lenses when compared to daily wear contact lenses.

What is the Reason for Infection with Extended Wear Contact Lenses?

The main reason for the increased risk with extended wear contact lenses is that people sleep with their contact lenses in. The backside of the contact lens is in direct contact with the outermost layer of the cornea which is the clear windshield of the eye.

The longer the contact lens stays on the surface of the eye, the more opportunity for bacteria to cause infection. Contact lenses also interfere with tear fluid exchange that happens naturally on the surface of the eye.

The tear fluid not only washes away bacteria and other pathogens but also contains several antimicrobial peptides. Therefore, overnight wear of contact lenses provides more time for bacteria and other pathogens to cause infection and also lowers the natural ability of the eye to fight against infection. My number one recommendation for wearing contact lenses is to never sleep with your contact lenses in.

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