It may surprise you to know that LASIK eye surgery may be safer than contact lenses for some patients. As a long time corneal specialist, Dr. Mandel has seen his share of complications referred to his practice. So, in addition to his LASIK laser vision correction patients, Dr. Mandel has seen many patients over the years who suffer from side effects and complications of contact lens wear. Many patients don’t realize the responsibility that comes with wearing contact lenses. Sometimes it’s simply a lack of education that causes these complications. Being properly informed can greatly minimize the risks of wearing a potential petrie dish of bacteria on your cornea!
For active patients, particularly those who are athletic, glasses aren’t always practical. Our patients at Mandel Vision frequently complain that their glasses fall off and fog up during sports. For this and many other reasons, not the least of which is vanity, contact lenses are the most popular choice for patients who are nearsighted, farsighted, presbyopic or who have astigmatism.
Unfortunately, some patients abuse their contact lens wearing schedules, and find themselves no longer able to wear contact lenses safely. Dr. Mandel always advises patients that their safest choice is to wear glasses. For patients who do not consider that an attractive option, LASIK is often a safer choice than wearing contact lenses, and is certainly safer than sleeping in contacts overnight on a regular basis.
A contact lens is a foreign object that you place onto your cornea. When worn responsibly, contact lenses are typically a safe alternative to wearing glasses. However, when they’re not worn responsibly, contact lenses can be very dangerous – even vision threatening. The cornea is the clear front surface of the eye, so it’s often called the ‘window of the eye’. Much like a window, the clearer and smoother the cornea, the better you see through it. A cornea that is dry or damaged from contact lens wear can be akin to looking through a dirty, cracked or even warped window.
Just like other vital parts of the body, the cornea needs nutrients to keep it healthy and functioning properly. The main difference between the cornea and other vital organs is that the cornea is avascular. This means that a healthy cornea lacks blood vessels. Therefore, the cornea requires oxygen and a normal tear film in order to receive nutrients. A poorly fit contact lens or one that is abused (worn longer than the recommended wearing schedule) can prevent the cornea from receiving essential nutrients that only oxygen and tears can provide. This can cause many vision-threatening conditions such as keratitis, corneal ulcers and permanent corneal scarring. If a corneal scar is located in the center of vision, it can cause permanent blindness. These conditions can also cause blinding infections, which can be permanent. Rarely, significant scarring of the cornea could even require a corneal transplant.
Your best protection against becoming a victim of a blinding infection from contact lens wear is to visit your eye doctor at least annually to ensure your contact lens is still fitting properly. If signs of contact lens overwear are noticed, your eye doctor may ask you to discontinue your contact lenses for a period of time, and may also increase your follow up visits to sooner than one year intervals. Another safeguard is to follow a safe contact lens regimen. To find out if your current contact lens regimen puts your vision at risk, read our blog: Soft Contact Lens Wear and Your Eye Health.
If you are a contact lens wearer and are prone to dryness, corneal infections or corneal ulcers, or if you already have corneal scarring which is often a sign of past corneal infections or ulcers, you may be told that you are not safe to wear contact lenses (ever again). Wearing a contact lens under these conditions is extremely dangerous and can be vision-threatening. In this case, your safest choice is to wear glasses. If the idea of wearing glasses full-time doesn’t appeal to you, it may be time to explore LASIK as an option. In the hands of a skilled corneal surgeon, LASIK is a safe and very effective alternative to glasses and contact lenses.
If you’d like to schedule a free LASIK consultation with corneal specialist and micro-surgeon, Dr. Eric Mandel, please contact us at 888-866-3681 or click here to schedule your consultation online.
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