Are contact lenses safe?
Contact lenses are safe to wear and can effectively correct refractive errors. However, as contact lenses are medical devices that sit directly on the eye’s cornea, they must be used and handled carefully to maintain good eye health. Improper use can damage the eyes and cause complications, like an eye infection.
Here we’ll talk about common problems that can arise from contact lens use and how to avoid them.
Contact lenses vs glasses
Contact lenses and glasses are both effective ways of correcting vision problems. There are similarities and differences between the two.
While both options effectively correct vision, the most obvious difference is that glasses are visible on the face, while contact lenses are not. Other considerations include cost and practicality, for example, the handling and maintenance of either glasses or contact lenses. You cannot wear contact lenses if you have an eye infection or an illness like coronavirus that irritates the eyes, and in these cases, you need to wear glasses until you have recovered.
Pros and cons of contact lenses
Are contact lenses suitable for everyone?
Contact lenses are suitable for many people, but you must choose ones to fit your situation. There are two main contact lens types: rigid gas permeable lenses and soft contact lenses (Source: FDA). These types allow oxygen to pass through the lens to the cornea, which is essential for eye health.
Common types of contact lenses include:
Although there are several different types of contact lenses on the market, they may not be suitable for people who have:
From what age can you wear contact lenses?
Although there are no strict rules on the minimum age for contact lens wear, optometrists suggest waiting until children are at least eight years old before trying (Source: Patient). As a parent, you need to be happy that your child understands hygiene, knows how to care for their contact lenses, and recognises the importance of good eye health. Taking these measures can help protect their young eyes and prevent complications.
How to wear contact lenses safely
Contact lenses offer a safe way of correcting refractive errors, like myopia (nearsightedness) or hyperopia (farsightedness). However, you must care for and wear your contact lenses as instructed to avoid contracting a serious eye infection like microbial keratitis (Source: Progress in Retinal and Eye Research).
- Make sure you follow the advice given to you by your optician
- Clean contact lenses thoroughly
- Wear contact lenses for the recommended time
- Attend regular eye exams and contact lens checkups
- Clean your contact lens case nightly with solution (not tap water)
- Avoid sleeping with your contact lenses in unless you have been advised that it is safe
- Remove your contact lenses before swimming, bathing or showering
Contact lenses stuck in your eye
Getting a contact lens stuck in your eye is a relatively common problem, particularly for people new to wearing contact lenses. Although it feels very uncomfortable, the lens will remain on the surface of your eye, sometimes under the upper eyelid and cannot slide behind the eyeball. Some of the common causes of a stuck contact lens include:
- Trauma - due to a blow to the eye or impact from playing sports
- Dry eyes - often due to sleeping in contact lenses
- Rubbing the eyes
If your contact lens gets stuck, don’t panic. Try the following steps:
- Wash your hands carefully
- Apply a few drops of saline or contact lens solution to the eye
- Keeping the eye closed, gently massage the eyelid to try to locate the lens and move it to the front of your eye
- Stay calm and repeat if necessary
Common contact lens eye problems
Some of the most common contact lens eye problems include eye infection, dry, red or itchy eyes, light sensitivity and getting a lens stuck in your eye. If you experience symptoms or have concerns about your contact lenses, always seek advice from your eye doctor.
Frequently asked questions
Contact lenses offer a safe and effective way of correcting refractive errors in vision. Always follow best use guidelines and take your optometrist’s advice on disinfecting your contact lenses to maintain good eye health. If you experience any problems with your contact lenses, see your eye doctor or optician.
Medically reviewed by: The Royal College of Ophthalmologists on 28/07/2022
Edited by: Nick Astbury FRCS FRCOphth FRCP
Clinical Associate Professor
The Royal College of Ophthalmologists champions excellence in the practice of ophthalmology and is the only professional membership body for medically qualified ophthalmologists. The RCOphth is unable to offer direct advice to patients. If you’re concerned about the health of your eyes, you should seek medical advice from your GP, optometrist or ophthalmologist.