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Woman Blinded By Contact Lenses

Contact lenses may be designed to improve your vision, but they are not without dangers. The BBC reported on a troubling incident where an eye infection from contact lenses cost Irenie Ekkeshis sight in one eye.

Forty-one million Americans wear contact lenses, two-thirds of whom are women. Although popular, wearing contacts increases your risk of eye infections, damage to the cornea and alters the microbial biome that exists naturally in your eye. In each case, the results can be either dangerous or disastrous to your sight.

Irenie Ekkeshis’s contact lenses transmitted the dangerous micro-organism Acanthamoeba Keratitis (AK) to her eye. Infections by this cornea-invading amoeba are rare, but contact lenses are the most common vector. In the case of Ms. Ekkeshis’s, it was a failure to dry her hands properly that allowed AK to take hold, but in most cases pool water or showering in unfiltered tap water are responsible.

It took a painful cornea scrape to diagnose that a micro-organism was the cause of her eye problems. After months of treatment, excruciating pain and a corneal transplant, she lost vision in her infected eye.

Your body’s microflora consists of nearly 100 trillion bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microorganisms. Much of the research to date has focused on the role of microbes in your gut and skin health, but this is only the beginning. Your eyes have a microbiome, too, one that has been largely neglected by researchers to the extent that its functions remain unknown.

A study comparing the quantity and types of bacteria on the surface of the eyes in contact lens wearers and non-wearers, found that those wearing contacts had higher microbial diversity. The contact wearers’ eye microbiome resembled more closely the microbiome of the skin than that of the eye, with three times more of the following:

  • Methylobacterium, found in soil, sewage and leaves
  • Lactobacillus, found in the digestive and urinary tract
  • Acinetobacter, found in soil and water (and thought to be responsible for the majority of infections)
  • Pseudomonas, found widely in the environment, may lead to ear infections and other serious issues, including corneal infection

An increased rate of infection is the most well-known risk of wearing contact lenses. Each year, contact lens wearers visit doctors’ offices and emergency rooms close to 1 million times due to eye infections, often caused by improper use of contact lenses (such as leaving them in overnight or not cleaning them properly). Corneal abrasions, corneal ulcers and even infections severe enough to cause blindness can occur.

There are several options for mitigating the danger of eye infections. It’s recommended that you cleanse and disinfect your lenses properly and use fresh lens solution each time. Irenie Ekkeshis learned firsthand about the dangers of using non-sterile water. It’s also recommended that you remove contact lenses prior to swimming and sleeping for the night.

If you’re trying to decide between contacts or glasses, the latter will be far less disruptive to your eye health, particularly where your microbiome is concerned. However, even glasses worsen your vision. This progressive worsening of your vision can lead to a defeatist mentality if you don't realize that what you're doing is creating the problem. The Bates Method is one alternative that foregoes the dangers of contact lenses and promotes healthy vision

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