Contact lenses are a wonderful invention of modern modern medicine, but it appears that wearing them is not without consequence on eye health. According to a recent pilot study, the population of bacteria on the surface of the eyes of people who wear contact lenses is much more prolific than that of those who do not wear them.
This pilot study has been conducted by the researchers from the NYU Langone Medical Center, who have tested out a theory on a few subjects. They collected samples from the surface of the eye and from the the surface of the skin from the internal portion of the eyelids. They took these samples from 9 subjects who wore contact lenses and from 11 subjects who did not wear contact lenses, as a whiteness group.
Then, they conducted a microbiological examination on these samples and found that there was a great difference in the population of bacteria that is present in people who wear contacts and that of those who do not, in term of the quantity of bacterial population present.
They have identified bacterial species from the Lactobacillus, Methylobacterium, Acinetobacter, and Pseudomonas genera. Out of these, the species that are commonly associated with eye infections are those from the Pseudomonas and Acinetobacter genera.
The researchers are working towards finding the source of this bacterial contamination in contact lenses patients and the exact circumstances that lead to the increase in the local bacterial population of these patients.
The NYU Langone Medical Center scientist have made it clear that this is only a pilot study, that offers preliminary results, that can eventually constitute the basis of a full-scale study. What it basically does it test out a hypothesis on actual subjects, to see whether or not there are significant results to be further researched.
They plan to present their results at the American Society for Microbiology in New Orleans congress and from there on, hopefully they will be able to acquire funding for the full-scale study. For the moment, they regard their results as conveying an association between two facts, rather than providing causation.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common causes of eye infections among contact users is touching the surface of the eye with dirty fingers. Therefore they strongly suggest that a few simple rules be applied by these people.
Firstly, people are advised to was their hands thoroughly and to dry them using a clean towel or paper, so that the contacts be handled only with clean dry hands. The presence of water can greatly increase the possibility of bringing bacteria in the eye, and therefore the hands must be dry when the contact lenses are applied.
Secondly, people are not advised to take showers while wearing their contact lenses, for the same reasons. Furthermore, swimming either in a specialized pool or the ocean, the sea or a lake, while wearing contacts is strictly forbidden, because a the water from these places can contaminate the lenses extremely easily and generate complicated infections.
Thirdly, people are advised to take their lenses out when they go to sleep, unless otherwise advised by medical specialists, as prolonged contact between the lens and the cornea can lead to physical local damage in the form of ulcerations, that can be easily contaminated afterwords, if they are not immediately treated.
The NYU Langone Medical Center offers valuable information on the prevalence of eye infections among patients who use contact lenses. They conclude that putting a contact lens, which is ultimately a foreign object, on the surface of the eye is not entirely without consequence. Therefore, it is expected that more extensive research will be conducted on the matter, so that contact lens technique can be improved.
Image Source: eye.uams.edu