Are Contact Lens Wearers More Prone to Eye Infections?

New research from the NYU Langone Medical Center has showed that changes in bacteria populations may be the reason contact lens wearers are more prone to certain types of eye infections. For people who wore contacts, the bacteria on the surface of the eye was more similar to the bacteria in the eyelids. For people who didn’t wear contact lenses, the bacterial composition of the eye and eyelids was more differentiated.

According to the study, contact lens wearers had higher levels of Lactobacillus, Acinetobacter, Methylobacterium and Pseudomonas. Such bacteria may come to the eyes from the skin, due to more frequent contact with fingers. Researchers stated that this might explain why people who wear contacts are more likely to get certain types of conditions like corneal ulcers, bacterial keratitis and eye inflammation. If keratitis is not treated quickly, it can causes scarring, which impairs vision. Symptoms of keratitis are easy to notice because they cause pain and clouding of vision.

It’s not that contact lens wearers are more prone to infection, just that they’re more prone to different types of bacteria.   Researchers found 5,245 distinct bacterial strains in the eye conjunctiva of lens wearers and 5,592 strains in the eyes of non-lens wearers. They found 3,849 distinct bacteria in the eyelids of non-lens wearers as opposed to 2,133 strains in the eyelids of lens wearers. Surprisingly, contact lens wearers have less staph bacteria in their eyes than people who don’t wear contact lenses.

Fortunately, most people who wear contact lenses never experience complications. When infections occur, it’s often because of improper lens care. A 201 study showed that while 86 percent of contact lens wearers thought they did a good job of caring for their lenses, only 32 percent were in “good compliance.”

To avoid infections of the cornea like keratitis, proper care should include the following:

  • Remove contact lenses before bed, showering or swimming (since people wearing lenses overnight are 20 times more likely to get keratitis),
  • Wash hands with soap and water before touching contacts,
  • Rub and rinse contacts in disinfecting solution after taking them out,
  • Rub and rinse the contact lens case with contact lens solution and dry them by keeping them upside down with the caps off, and
  • Replace lens cases at least every three months.

If you have concerns about proper contact lens care, or believe you may have keratitis, please call our eye care specialists at 877-871-1684.