There is no denying the fact contact lenses are a popular option for vision correction. But nearly every day in my work as an ophthalmologist, I see contact lens wearers in my Charleston, SC, office complaining about the daily hassle of cleaning and disinfecting them. Over time, these patients become more and more dissatisfied with contact lenses, the vision they provide and the risk of irritation and infection from use and abuse. Contact lenses make a person’s need for vision correction nearly invisible to the world and may create a false sense of security. Here are a few compromises you may be making by choosing contacts:
- Daily contact lenses users have a 1 in 100 risk of developing bacterial keratitis, an infection that can lead to a loss of vision. If you are one of those who abuse their contacts with improper care and wear, you are at even greater risk for infection.
- Choosing extended wear contacts doesn’t necessarily reduce your risks. The reality is exposing contacts to smoke, chlorinated or contaminated water and previous irritation and infection all pose threats to the health of your eyes. Sleeping in them only exacerbates these risks.
- You may have chosen contacts as a vision correction solution for your active, athletic lifestyle, but contact lenses don’t protect your eyes. Glare from snow, water or ice can temporarily blind you while surfing, skating or skiing at high speeds – putting you at risk for an injury. If sand or dirt gets under your lens, you have a serious problem that could scratch your cornea or damage your eye.
- Many people specifically choose contacts to wear at the beach or at the lake, but the FDA expressly warns contact lens users to avoid using contacts while swimming, surfing or other water-related sports. Contacts absorb water, causing them to stick to the surface of the eye – kind of like a vacuum. You need to wait 30 minutes or more to remove water-saturated contacts in order to avoid serious damage to the surface of your eye. In the meantime, because there is always the potential for water – any water – to be contaminated with bacteria or other pollutants, those contaminants have been lingering in your eye – thanks to your contacts. The risk of eye damage and infection is the chief reason why wearing contacts in the water is not a good choice.
So, for the same reasons people choose contacts for vision correction, many turn to LASIK to achieve the vision they want but with a far lower risk of infection. And for those contact lens wearers who think LASIK might be a better solution, there is good news. A very important study was recently published that compared reports of satisfaction and other factors between contact lens users (1,232) and LASIK patients (3,502) and the results show LASIK delivers better vision than contacts in the long run. While 81% of daily wear contact lens wearers achieved 20/16 with best correction; an incredible 96% of LASIK patients achieved 20/16 without correction at 1 month after the procedure. For those who want to be less dependent on their glasses or contacts, LASIK is a good alternative to research and see if it might be right for you and your vision.