CONTACT LENSES AND BACTERIA
A recent study explores the different bacteria in the eyes of contact lens wearers, investigating how this may be increasing the risk of eye infections.
Although in early stages, the research could lead to helping prevent infections for contact lens wearers.
Those who wear contact lenses are usually fully aware of the steps they need to take to avoid getting an eye infection, as well as the potential dangers from improper lens care, i.e. Acanthamoeba keratitis. Most lens wearers know that problems can arise if they leave their lenses in too long (more than the prescribed time), sleep in them, or don’t clean them properly or regularly enough with the correct solution. These are all well-known ‘don’ts’ of contact lenses, however, there’s another problem that many people aren’t aware of – their fingers!
A new study conducted by microbiologists at NYU Langone Medical Centre has suggested that people wearing contact lenses are more prone to eye infections due to ‘changes in bacteria population’. In other words, different bacteria could either be getting transferred from people’s fingers to their eyes when they are putting in or taking out their contact lenses, or the pressure of the contact lens on the eye during these actions is affecting bacteria levels.
One microbiologist (and the senior study investigator), Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello stated the following:
“What we hope our future experiments will show is whether these changes in the eye microbiome of lens wearers are due to fingers touching the eye, or from the lens’s direct pressure affecting and altering the immune system in the eye and what bacteria are suppressed or are allowed to thrive”
The researchers in the study found that of 20 people, 9 who wore contact lenses daily had three times the levels of bacteria than the 11 people who did not wear contact lenses, and the contact lens wearers bacteria was wider in variety/type. Whilst the study is considered ‘preliminary’ at present, and yet to be published in any peer reviewed journal, Dominguez-Bello has hopes that it will lead to a better understanding of why contact lens wearers are more prone to eye infections than non-contact lens wearers, and that understanding could lead to better ways of preventing eye infections in the future.
In the mean-time, Essilor advises that contact lens wearers play it safe and wash their hands (specifically their fingers) before putting in or taking out their contact lenses. See our Eye Care section for more information on protecting your eyes.