Contact lens intolerance (CLI) is a common complication in which wearing contact lenses begins to irritate the eye for no apparent reason. Even if you’ve never heard of it, if you’re a longtime contact lens wearer, you’ve probably experienced it.
Because your eyes are very delicate, it’s important to know what CLI is, what causes it, how to treat it and how to keep it from happening again. To clear up the confusion about contact lens intolerance, here are 6 things you need to know if you wear contacts.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are currently upwards of 41 million people in the United States who wear contact lenses for vision correction – and most of them have, or will have, contact lens intolerance at some point in their lives.
Symptoms of CLI include redness, dry eyes, excessive watering, a gritty “foreign body sensation” in the eye, and blurry vision. Some people may experience other symptoms, or your symptoms could be something other than contact lens intolerance, so always see your eye doctor for a diagnosis.
Contact lens intolerance usually happens with long-term use, for multiple reasons. Some people develop a sensitivity to a component of the lenses or to the solution used to clean contact lenses. Others may wear contacts for longer than recommended, causing minor sensitivity to spiral into severe discomfort with excessive wear.
The cornea (the transparent layer of the eye that allows light to focus on the retina) is the only part of the human body that absorbs oxygen from the air, rather than indirectly by way of the lungs. When contacts block the free exchange of oxygen, lens intolerance can happen.
Modern contact lenses are designed and engineered to allow oxygen to pass through to the cornea to keep eyes healthy and well-functioning. However, contacts can get coated with dirt, bacteria, fungus and other contaminants that keep oxygen from getting through. These contaminants and lack of airflow can cause eyes to become irritated every time those lenses are inserted.
The greatest risk factor for contact lens intolerance is poor contact lens hygiene. In a 2016 survey, the CDC discovered that only about 50 percent of contact wearers complied with their eye doctor’s instructions for lens care – and nearly all reported engaging in at least one bad contact habit.
Wearing contacts for longer than recommended (wearing daily contacts for multiple days, for example) remains one of the most common mistakes with contact lens wear. Similarly, users tend to hang on to lens cases for too long. Other top examples of poor lens hygiene include:
The redness, dryness, grittiness, burning and blurriness of contact lens intolerance are common symptoms of a number of eye conditions, so never assume your eye irritation is caused by CLI. Different causes require different treatment approaches, so see an eye doctor immediately for proper diagnosis and treatment.
You could follow your doctor’s instructions to a T and still develop contact lens intolerance. The only surefire way to prevent CLI is to not wear contacts. You could switch back to eyeglasses – or you could seek LASIK vision correction, which has helped millions get free from glasses and contacts entirely.
Missouri Eye Institute has helped thousands of patients attain freedom from glasses and contact lenses. Contact us at (800) 383-3831 to schedule a thorough eye exam or visit MissouriEye.com to learn more about our services.
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The entire staff at MEI was very kind and professional. I highly recommend them for your eye care. Very friendly!