You are here

Potential Dangers of Contact Lenses

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported late last week that there has been a 19 percent increase in the number of people who have picked up a dangerous eye infection, a condition called Fesarium keratitis.

This outbreak of Fesarium keratitis, first in Singapore and now in Europe, is thought to be related to one or more contact lens cleaning products produced by the eye care company, Bausch & Lomb.

Bausch & Lomb actually halted shipments of one of their products, called MoistureLoc, to east Asia more than three months ago after an outbreak of Fesarium keratitis was reported in Singapore.

A similar outbreak was reported more than a year ago in Hong Kong, at which time 40 percent of those who acquired Fesarium keratitis reported using MoistureLoc.

Thus far, more than 200 confirmed or suspected cases of Fesarium keratitis have been reported. Eight of these people have had cornea transplants.

Fesarium keratitis can actually cause blindness and/or significant scar tissue formation if it is not caught in time and properly treated.

In a video message on the Bausch & Lomb web site, chief executive officer Ron Zarrella reports that they are working closely with health officials to identify the source of this outbreak.

If you wear contact lenses, I strongly encourage you to avoid all Bausch & Lomb cleaning products until they are able to identify the source of this outbreak.

I also encourage you to consider not wearing contact lenses at all. The cornea (whites) of your eyes are innervated by the trigeminal nerve, a cranial nerve that sends a signal to your brain whenever the slightest amount of pressure is applied to the cornea. When your brain receives this signal, it sends a message out to your eyelids via a different cranial nerve, called your facial nerve, telling them to drop down to protect your eyes.

This loop of electrical activity occurs within milliseconds and is called your corneal reflex. It's what causes your eyelids to instinctively whip down when an insect comes flying toward your eyes out of nowhere, or whenever you are suddenly surprised by any object that you feel will hit your eyes.

Put another way, your corneal reflex exists to protect your eyes against damage that can be caused by direct physical trauma to your eyes. And whenever you put contact lenses on your eyes, you are teaching your body to ignore your corneal reflex.

Does your corneal reflex weaken over time with repeated use of contact lenses? Does a diminished corneal reflex lead to a decrease in eye and overall health over the long term?

No one has definitive answers to these questions. But in my mind, it's never wise to engage in any activities that go against our natural design. And having our eyes learn to accept contact lenses most definitely goes against the corneal reflex that all of us are born with.


Join more than 80,000 readers worldwide who receive Dr. Ben Kim's free newsletter

Receive simple suggestions to measurably improve your health and mobility, plus alerts on specials and giveaways at our catalogue

Please Rate This

Your rating: None Average: 3.1 (54 votes)
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.


Helen Halton said...

Anything we do that is not completely natural is a trade-off. I get that. I have been wearing soft contacts since 1980, and I love them. My eye doctor tells me that they are the cleanest ones he has ever seen. I am meticulous about cleaning them, and taking care of my eyes. The advantages to me far outweigh the disadvantage you are speaking of. I wear the long term ones- not the throwaways, and I take them out and clean them every night. I do not sleep in them. Once a week, I remove the protein from them.

My nearsightedness STOPPED getting worse when I began wearing them, and I had never changed prescriptions until real recently, when I got more far-sighted. I am 56. I got my first glasses when I was 8 years old. I will continue to wear them because glasses are a burden I never want to return to.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006 4:00:59 AM
Ben Kim said...

There's no question that it is virtually impossible to live an "all-natural" life.

And as I mentioned in this post, no one in this world knows with certainty if wearing contact lenses has significant impact on long term eye or overall health.

If you are diligent about cleaning your contact lenses with a solution that you know is not contaminated and find that the advantages of wearing them outweight the potential disadvantages, then I think they are fine to wear.

Still, based on what I wrote about the corneal reflex, I encourage those who have never worn contact lenses to avoid starting with them if possible.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006 6:21:26 AM
Anonymous said...

Speaking of cleaning solutions, I have found that the best cleaning solution is pure baking soda.

Baking soda can be used on soft or gas permeable/hard lenses, and it removes EVERYTHING - even the hard to remove protein deposits.

I heard about this from a friend who used it for years with her soft lenses. I ran it past my optometrist and he agreed that it is a good cleaner and actually safer than any of the toxic chemical cleaners you buy in stores.

Did you know that some contact lens solutions contain thimerosol? Time to start reading labels!

Tonya Hersh
Tuesday, May 09, 2006 9:31:01 AM
Sarah said...

This is very concerning seeing as Bausch & Lomb is a popularly prevalent brand. I will certainly advise all my contact-using friends of this important information you've shared.


And a side note: I am terribly sorry to hear about the discontinuation of your public discussion forum due to inappropriate solicitations. Although I never got around to partaking in the group, I regret that it will no longer be available for those individuals who sincerely sought health information and resources.

How does the saying go? One bad apple spoils the whole bushel. Such a shame.

All the best,
Tuesday, May 09, 2006 11:11:17 AM

I totally agree with Sarah when she said, "How does the saying go? One bad apple spoils the whole bushel. Such a shame".

Every once in a while, it appears that something is not right with one contact lens cleaning solution or another, which is really too bad.
I agree that contact lenses might not be the most natural thing, but as was said before, there always is a trade-off. Most people love their contact lenses, and nothing bad ever happend, but obviously, there are always some exceptions. So, there is a risk with wearing contact lenses, but everybody has to decide for themselves, if contact lenses are worth that risk!