Contact lenses really are one of the miracles of modern living. Millions of people benefit every day from the freedom and flexibility they bring. But not everyone has a success story. But 50% of contact lens wearers give up in the first year.
This post looks at the reasons why.
Don’t disposable contact lenses fit everyone?
Let’s look at that statistic again: half of all the people who start wearing contact lenses have to stop within the first year. That’s a pretty high failure rate. In fact it reaches 70% if we look at who’s still wearing contact lenses after ten years. Contact lens-related discomfort accounts for over half of the failures. This may be due to number of reasons, but the following seem to be the biggest culprits:
The commoditisation of contact lenses by the giant pharmaceutical companies has resulted in a one-size-fits-all approach. Over the past two decades, a whole generation of optometrists has been conditioned into believing that there is very little to contact lens fitting. The fact is that disposable lenses that come in one or two sizes are not comfortable for everyone. Getting a good fit on the eyeball is only part of the process; the lens needs to feel comfortable against the eyelids too. Materials need to be comfortable for the air-conditioned office environments we find ourselves in. Often a custom-made contact lens will fit better, and provide enduring comfort in the lens.
Toxicity to contact lens solutions…
Contact lens wearers will be familiar with the solutions that enter their eyes; cleaning and storage solutions, artificial tears etc can all flush out your own tears and may introduce preservatives to your delicate eyes.
Not everyone can wear their contacts all day every day. Some people are better with preservative-free solutions. Most people just should not EVER sleep in their contact lenses. These are just some of the things your contact lens practitioner takes into consideration when managing your wear-schedule. Regular check-ups are key to successful contact lens wear; if you see your optometrist every three to six months for a check up, they can nip most little problems in the bud, before they become big problems. For example, when they look at the inside of your eyelids, they can see if there is a toxicity reaction building up. This is called giant papillary conjunctivitis (GPC) and results in raised bumps (like cobble-stones) on the underside of your eyelids. It often happens as a reaction to solutions or some lens materials.
Your practitioner will also look for signs of over-wear in your cornea. A healthy cornea is clear, like a piece of glass. It gets its oxygen from your tears. If contact lenses are worn for too many hours in the day, they starve the cornea of oxygen and the cornea has no option but to grow new blood vessels in a process called neovascularisation. These vessels quickly empty of blood once the contact lens wear is reduced but the empty vessels (known as ghost vessels) remain.
How do I maximise my chances of succeeding in contact lenses?
- If you’ve had any trouble with comfortable contact lens wear in the past, choose a practitioner who is an expert in contact lenses. They will be able to offer you more than just the stock standard disposable options.
- Listen to your practitioner! If they say 10 hours maximum wearing time per day, or do NOT sleep in the lenses, stick to the instructions. You will reap the rewards when you continue to successfully wear your lenses year after year.
- Have regular check ups – at least every 6 months.
- Minimise contact with preserved solutions or eye drops. These can ultimately ruin your enjoyment of contact lenses.