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Wearers Beware? Microbial Keratitis and Contact Lenses

Whether you sleep with your contacts in, fail to properly cleanse them or wear the same pair for months on end, contact lenses can easily become a breeding ground for bacteria. Under the right conditions, the build-up of bacteria in contact lenses can serious infections like microbial keratitis, which ultimately results in blindness or vision loss. At the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute, we focus on preventing conditions like these, and are constantly looking for low risk methods of vision correction. Laser eye surgery is often presented as an alternative to contact lenses—but it is not without its risks. Which method of vision correction is safest? Read on to learn more.

Microbial keratitis is a corneal infection with symptoms such as eye pain, eye redness, blurred vision, eye discharge and excessive tearing. It can lead to vision loss and blindness. One study found that wearing contact lenses overnight is the single most common risk factor for microbial keratitis in the developed world, but the infection is also caused by inadequate disinfecting of contact lenses and rinsing and storing lenses in water instead of solution.

Patients who undergo laser eye surgery can also develop microbial keratitis post-operation—and they face a number of other risks. Laser eye surgery can lead to under- or overcorrections, vision loss, astigmatism and flap problems, along with inflammation and other issues. The possibility of infection, paired with these potential complications, has led many people to believe that contact lenses are a better option for vision correction.

However, new research offers a different perspective: according to a recent study, laser eye surgery patients have a lower risk of microbial keratitis than contact lens wearers. While both surgery and lenses can cause keratitis, people who have had surgery tend to be at risk just after the operation, while contact lens wearers are at risk as long as they wear their lenses.

So which method of vision correction comes out on top? For the time being, the best method for you depends on personal factors. If you know that you have trouble keeping up your contact lens hygiene, perhaps you’ll want to consider laser eye surgery. If you worry the surgery might not be right for you, or if you have a condition that might increase your risk of side effects, stick to your contact lenses for the time being. You should always consult with your eye doctor to discuss which option is best for you.

Bacterial infections like microbial keratitis can cause corneal ulcers, which are a leading cause of vision loss. The Tej Kohli Cornea Institute makes it a priority to prevent infections; one way to do this is through education. Both contact lenses and laser eye surgery are common methods of vision correction. Their prevalence makes it even more important for people to understand the risks associated with each. Whether you choose to wear contacts or get laser eye surgery, maintain good hygiene and see a doctor regularly to ensure that your vision is in top shape. Your sight depends on it!