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Protein buildup often occurs when contact lenses are worn beyond the recommended durations or not cared for properly. Additionally, some people are just more prone to producing protein buildup on their contact lenses than others. Either cause of excessive protein deposits should be taken seriously because they can have damaging effects on the eye. The mildest effects include dry eyes and minor discomfort but protein buildup can also lead to allergic reactions, infections and diminished vision in more severe cases.
There are a variety of problems that can result from wearing contact lenses. Dry eyes, discomfort and infection are just a few examples of these problems. There are a number of steps which can be taken to avoid the potential for problems resulting from wearing contact lenses. These steps are:
• Visit an eye care practitioner for a thorough exam
• Have a fitting from a qualified practitioner
• Attend all required follow up visits
• Follow the recommended regimen for cleaning and storage prescribed by the eye care professional
• Replace disposable lenses as prescribed
• Wash and dry hands thoroughly before handling lenses
Dry eyes are a problem for many who wear contact lenses. While certain medications and diseases may cause a lack of tears and result in dry eyes, the problem can be exacerbated by wearing contact lenses. Soft contact lenses are especially problematic for those who already have dry eyes because the lenses absorb water from the surface of the eye making the problem worse. Those who suffer from dry eyes may experience the following symptoms:
• Tearing of the eye
• Burning of the eye
• Feeling as though a foreign object is in the eye
Contact lens wearers who experience these symptoms should consult their eye doctor to see if a different type of contact lens might alleviate the symptoms.
Pain that does not subside within 1-2 hours after contact lenses are removed can be a sign of a potential infection. It is important to contact an eye care provider immediately if an infection is suspected, because eye infections require prompt treatment. Other symptoms such as redness, pain and blurred vision which do not improve after removing contact lenses may indicate an infection. The infection may be caused by a variety of factors so it is important to bring contact lenses, cases and solutions to the eye doctor's office so he can help to determine the source of the infection.
Unlike hard contact lenses which can break if they are pressed on too hard, soft contact lenses are more likely to tear during handling. Tearing a soft contact lens is usually not a tremendous problem if you have a spare pair to replace the torn lens but it can become costly if the lenses are frequently torn during handling. Although tears are likely to happen, they can be greatly reduced in frequency by simply handling the contacts with care during cleaning, insertion and removal. Cleaning and drying your hands thoroughly before handling and rubbing the contacts gently during cleaning will help to avoid tears in the contact.
There are several ways to tell if your contacts are inside-out. First, many of the most popular lenses have so-called inversion markings - you can tell the lens is inside out if the writing does not appear correctly. Second, the lens will tend to cup inwards when you are holding it correctly. Finally, if you put the lens on your eye inside out, the lens will tend to slide around on your eye.
There are a number of factors which may contribute to dry eyes, such as wearing contact lenses, being in a smoky environment, or certain diseases. But fortunately, there are also a number of options which may bring relief to those who suffer from dry eyes.
If your contact lenses are causing your dry eyes consult your eye doctor to determine whether or not a different type of lens would bring you relief. Your eye doctor may also recommend the use of rewetting drops, which can return the moisture to your eye.
Other options for relieving dry eyes include:
• Avoiding smoky environments or quitting smoking if you smoke
• Taking a multivitamin rich in A, D and C
• Applying an ocular lubricant at night
It is possible for individuals to be allergic to the materials used in creating contact lenses, but this is very rare. Most of the polymers used in modern contact lenses are inert in nature, meaning they are unlikely to produce an allergic reaction. The solutions used to clean contact lenses are more likely to cause an allergic reaction. In either case, an eye care provider should be contacted to determine if there is an actual allergy and determine the necessary steps to avoid future allergic reactions. In most cases switching the type of lens or cleaning solution will alleviate the allergy.
Giant papillary conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the inner surface of the eyelids and it can be caused by wearing contact lenses. The inflammation is an immune response, which often results when the body perceives the contact lens to be a foreign body that must be destroyed. In many cases, switching to a contact lens made of a different material can alleviate the inflammation. Other treatments include discontinued or limited use of contact lenses as well as the use of steroids to mitigate the inflammation. Talk to your doctor if you're feeling discomfort or noticing signs of an infection.
Contact lenses may suddenly begin to feel uncomfortable for a variety of reasons. Discomfort, which subsides when the contact lenses are removed from the eye, may indicate protein buildup, debris on the lens or a tear in the lens. Try replacing the contact lenses first, and if does not alleviate the problem, an eye exam may be warranted to determine the source of the discomfort. A change in prescription including the power or shape may make contact lenses feel uncomfortable.
Many people who wear contact lenses complain of dry eyes by the end of the day. If you have tried re-wetting drops and they didn't help, you might need to ask your doctor about changing lenses. There are three contact lenses on the market that are known to be particularly good for this problem - the Acuvue Advanced, the Proclear Biocompatibles, and the O2-Optix Contact Lenses. Ask your doctor to let you try one of these - you might be very happy with the results.
Many who wear extended wear contact lenses are concerned with the issue of protein buildup. Fortunately for those who wear these contacts, there are methods for managing the buildup of protein that often results from wearing contact lenses for extended periods of time. Extended wear contact lenses are lenses which are able to be worn for a period of seven days and six nights. Although these requirements are considered permissible, wearing the contact lenses for shorter periods of time will help to prevent excessive protein build up. Limiting the use of extended wear contact lenses to three nights and alternating between extended wear contacts and daily contacts can keep protein buildup to a minimum. Talk to your eye care provider about extended wear lenses for proper ordering and maintenance.
The best way to prevent protein buildup on contact lenses is to carefully follow the guidelines presented by a qualified eye care professional. It may be tempting to deviate from the cleaning plan prescribed by a professional to save money but it is important to remember the health of your eyes is more important than financial savings. An eye doctor will recommend a lens types and cleaning regimen based on a number of factors including your eye health and personal needs. For these reasons, care should be taken to carefully follow these recommendations.
Although contact lenses themselves may not be the immediate cause of infection, infections can result from wearing contact lenses. Reactions to cleaning or storage solutions, dry eyes, torn lenses and debris on the lenses can all make the eye more susceptible to infection. In many of these cases, taking care of the contact lenses properly can greatly reduce the risk of infection. Other methods of minimizing the potential for infections include regular eye examinations and following the eye doctors lens care recommendations carefully.
Tear duct plugs may help to reduce dry eyes in some patients. Dry eyes can make wearing contact lens very uncomfortable. One possible solution for alleviating the problem of dry eyes is temporary or permanent tear duct plugs. Plugging the tear ducts can prevent dryness by allowing the eye to retain more moisture. Temporary plugs, made of collagen, are usually used first to see if the patient experiences a benefit. If the patient reports increased moisture in the eye with no side effects the collagen plugs may be replaced by silicone plugs. The silicone tear duct plugs last longer than the collagen ones but they can be removed if necessary even though they are described as permanent plugs. Tear duct plugs are only prescribed and inserted from your eye care professional.
Those who have seasonal allergies can still wear contact lenses. The key to wearing contact lenses with allergies is devising a strategy for dealing with the impact allergies may have on wearing contact lenses. Seasonal allergies can certainly make wearing contact lenses uncomfortable but some strategies for minimizing the discomfort include frequently using rewetting drops, using over the counter or prescription drugs to reduce allergy symptoms and discontinuing the use of contact lenses during periods of extreme discomfort.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|