Just your everyday beauty blogging optometrist here- thought I would finally put on my health care professional hat on this blog after avoiding it for the last 2 years.
To be completely honest here, I had avoided blogging about anything related to my career because:
a) I wanted My Funny Valentine to be an escape from my day job and kept totally separate.
b) I didn’t want google to connect My Funny Valentine to Jenny (B.Optom UNSW) – although I suppose I’ve really put the nail in the coffin there haven’t I?
c) Giving health advice on the internet is fraught with danger.
I must credit Yishan from www.beautyswatch.com for suggesting this idea, over 12 months ago while we were catching up over coffee. She’s a fountain of wisdom for me, and is always looking out for the best interest of the readers.
The reason I decided to speak out about contact lens related issues now is because lately I’ve had one too many patients come to see me with complications from the inappropriate use of coloured contact lenses and circle lenses- all of them ordered their lenses online and none of them had their lenses fitted by a professional. These girls had no idea what risks they were taking, because no one had ever told them.
The popularity of coloured and ‘circle’ contact lenses has increased exponentially in the last few years, and there is now a mind boggling number of unlicenced online retailers allowing easy access to cosmetic contact lenses without requiring any sort of professional care.
This has been a huge concern among eye care professionals (as well as the TGA and FDA) since we’re seeing an alarming increase in rates of sight threatening complications directly associated with the inappropriate use of these lenses. The danger comes from the fact that these lenses are being used without all the proper fitting, instruction, and regular monitoring from an eye doctor or optometrist- patients are wearing lenses that are potentially wrong for their eye shape, and have not had any education on lens care and hygiene.
This is a recipe for disaster, and the final dish can sometimes look something like this…
This is a case of Pseudomonas Keratitis, a severe infection of the cornea (the clear dome on top of the coloured part of your eye), secondary to inappropriate, unmonitored contact lens wear. Less severe complications include corneal scarring, new blood vessels growing into the cornea (see image below), smaller corneal ulcers, and inflammatory ocular responses from sleeping in lenses.
Glad you asked.
For patients to be fitted into any contact lenses, including non prescription cosmetic lenses, an eye doctor or optometrist needs to do a full eye health and refractive check to determine whether lenses are suitable and what type is required. A proper fitting process, teach, and after care appointments are needed to make sure the contact lenses and solutions are compatible with the eye and performing well. Rather than going into too much detail here, I’ve just linked a PDF copy of the Contact Lens Consultation form that our practice uses for those that are interested in finding out what is involved —> Contact lens consultation info
A review of the literature shows that most, if not all cases of severe eye complications from cosmetic lenses presenting to emergency departments around the world are cases where the patient has not had been to an eye care professional.
As an optometrist, I would never recommend wearing coloured contact lenses more than once a week, and never more than 8 hrs at a time, even when they have been properly fitted. The reason for this is that these lenses are significantly less oxygen permeable (breathable) compared with some of the clear contact lenses available on the market, and if the lenses are worn too much patients will inevitably end up with chronic damage to the cornea due to lack of oxygen.
So the answer is, you can safely wear coloured lenses if you only wear them occasionally and under the guidance of an eye care professional.
First image courtesy of [image creator name] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net