Your Yearly Responsibility as a Contact Lens Wearer
by Jessica Thompson
If you wear contacts nearly every day, then you probably already know that every year you must make a trip to the eye doctor to get your prescription renewed. What many of our patients don’t realize that it’s not just your eye doctor, but also the FDA that requires this. Many of our patients have been wearing contacts for decades, and some of them have rarely experienced complications with their contact lens use. These patients are quite fortunate and are most likely wearing their contacts responsibly. But why, if you live symptom free, should you come in every single year for an eye health and contact lens evaluation? Why can’t you just re-order your prescription if you don’t think your vision has changed?
Your eye doctor can uncover countless conditions, with your eyes and systemically, for which you may have no symptoms. Contact lenses can actually act as a bandage on the eye, masking symptoms. Some contact users will even develop a lack of sensitivity of the cornea. This lack of sensitivity may prevent you from realizing that your corneas are suffering from an infection.
Your cornea is an amazing transparent tissue structure, devoid of blood vessels and not to be taken for granted. The cornea maintains a perfect equilibrium of water, oxygen and nutrients. This amazing structure is where your contact lenses rest every day. When you wear your contacts, according to your doctor’s advice, you can expect to maintain a “clear” cornea. When the cornea is in danger, your immune system will try to protect it and may cause corneal “clouding” in an effort to “pump” the cornea back to natural equilibrium. You are born with a specific number of NON-REGENERATIVE corneal endothelial cells. If they are damaged, they will not regenerate and you may not wear contact lenses again. And if you LOVE your contacts, this could be a very sad fate!
If you aren’t seeing your eye doctor every year to renew your contact lens prescription, chances are that you are over wearing your contacts. Over-wear of lenses, improper cleaning of lenses, extended-wear use of lenses, and overly tight lenses may increase the risk of painful and vision threatening conditions like Corneal Ulcers, Keratitis, Corneal Swelling and Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis. A corneal ulcer starts when bacteria (or rarely a fungus or parasite) infects an area of the corneal surface. The surface may break down, forming a small corneal abrasion, due to routine lens use. Even a successfully treated corneal ulcer may still leave a scar which could affect the vision permanently.
It is our goal as your eye care professionals to protect your most precious sense of sight, for your lifetime. As a contact lens wearer, it is certainly in your best interest to be seen every year to allow your eye doctor to ensure that you are wearing your contact lenses healthily and responsibly, while maintaining your very best sight!