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Disposable Contact Lenses: Are they really safer?


By Paul Wheeler

October 23, 1995

Researchers this week are reporting that disposable contact lenses are causing thousands of serious eye infections each year despite manufacturers' claims that they are safer than reusable lenses.

Overnight use of contact lenses has been known to be associated with an increased risk of infections, the worst of which can lead to blindness. Disposable lenses were introduced with the idea that they would reduce the opportunities for bacterial contamination, because they wouldn't be handled as much and wouldn't be stored in solutions that could harbor germs.

The new report says "that idea was simple, easy, and wrong."

It explains that the problem isn*t the disposible contacts themselves, but rather the tendency to wear them to bed. Those who wear their lenses overnight are 10 to 15 times as likely to get an eye infection as those who bother to take them out at night.

The most recent research into contacts has shown that the increased risk of infection occurs because extended-wear soft contact lenses, disposable or not, don"t allow enough oxygen to reach the surface of the cornea. That damages the surface of the cornea, giving bacteria a chance to invade.

If you simply must wear your contacts at night, you should keep your eyes peeled for new experimental soft contact lenses that allow more oxygen to get through to the cornea. These may be available sometime next year. Till then, please remember that the risk of an eye infection does not exceed the risk of walking into telephone poles and embarrasing yourself in social situations if you choose not to wear your contacts at all.

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