Contact lenses are a reasonable alternative to glasses to attain good vision. However, contact lenses are not without risk. The most common complications occur due to poor hygiene or compliance. We recommend having a set of glasses in case you must discontinue use of your contact lenses due to problems. Annual exams by your eye doctor are highly recommended to avoid serious complications and ensure your ongoing eye health.
The following conditions are possible complications of contact lenses. You, the patient, must be aware of the potential hazards and accept these relative risks in addition to the benefits of contact lenses.
1. Contact lens over-wear: This occurs when a contact lens is worn longer than the cornea can tolerate. Not enough oxygen gets to the cornea resulting in temporary discomfort and blurred vision. The treatment is to discontinue wearing the contact lenses for a few days.
2. Corneal abrasion: This is a "scratch" on the surface of the cornea resulting from a poorly fitting contact lens or possibly from foreign material under a contact lens. Over-wear can also cause an abrasion. Treatment includes antibiotics and a bandage contact lens. Infection may result from this condition.
3. Allergic reaction: In this condition, the eye becomes red and irritated in response to the cleaning and/or storage solutions or seasonal allergies. It is more often seen with soft contact lenses and usually is a reaction to the preservatives in these solutions. Treatment includes changing to different solutions and storage methods
4. Tight Lens Syndrome: This is more often seen with soft and extended wear lenses. The lens, which had previously fit well, "tightens up" and does not allow tears and oxygen to reach the cornea. This can lead to a corneal abrasion. Treatment is to refit the lens.
5. Corneal warpage: This is usually due to contact lens over-wear or poor fitting lenses or inadequate follow-up. This is more often seen with hard and gas permeable contact lenses, but can occur in soft contact lenses too due to over-wear. In this condition, the shape of the cornea becomes altered in response to the contact lenses. If severe warpage occurs, the lenses may no longer fit well and discomfort results. Treatment includes discontinuation of lens wear until the warpage resolves, which may take weeks to months. During this healing time, vision may fluctuate, requiring a change in the glasses prescription one or more times. Occasionally, the warpage may not resolve and the astigmatism created may persist.
6. Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis (GPC): In this condition there is redness and discomfort when wearing the contact lenses. It is more often seen with soft contact lenses and most likely results from over-wear or an allergic reaction to deposits which have formed on the lenses, or to the lens material itself. Treatment includes temporary discontinuation of lens wear, switching to a new or different design lens and may occasionally result in inability to continue lens wear at all.
7. Corneal ulcer: This is the most severe complication of contact lenses. It is more often seen with continuous wear soft contact lenses. In this condition, trauma to the cornea from the contact lens results in a bacterial infection. This may require hospitalization for the frequent antibiotic eye-drops required to control this infection. Corneal scarring may result in spite of effective treatment, and may result in loss of vision. Corneal transplantation may be required in some cases for restoration of vision.