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Using contact lenses? Read this

By Vallari Shah
Last updated on: May 17, 2006 16:59 IST
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Contact lens are in the news -- for all the wrong reasons.

A fortnight ago, the Federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention, New York, recorded several cases where contact lens users developed Fusarium Keratitis. This is a fungal infection that, in severe cases, can lead to blindness.

The cause of the infection was suspected to be linked to the use of ReNu with MoistureLoc Multi-Purpose Solution, a contact lens cleaning solution manufactured by Bausch & Lomb.

Bausch & Lomb has now withdrawn the product worldwide and is conducting an internal investigation.

Symptoms include pain, redness, watering, a discharge from the eyes, diminishing vision and development of photophobia (intolerance towards light).

Closer home, Shantanu Rajadhyaksha, 17, a student from Mumbai, says she has had an encounter with Fusarium Keratitis.

"Small swellings started developing on the inner wall of my pupil due to which my lenses kept moving up and down indefinitely. This caused a lot of irritation to my eye. My doctor advised me to stop wearing my lenses as she suspected a problem with them. Later, she diagnosed a problem in the contact lens solution and not the lens," says Shantanu, who now uses a different brand of cleaning solution.

Mumbai-based ophthalmologist Dr Ashok Vachharajani, a practitioner for the past 20 years, shares handy tips for contact lens users:

Do you really need lenses?

Eye power is measured in diopters.

When the difference between the power of the left and right eye is more than four diopters, you may experience 'double imaging' when you use corrective glasses. Contact lenses do away with this problem.

Also, contact lenses are recommended when the eye power is high because the corrective glass used would be very thick. This could take a toll on the quality of vision since the field of vision is reduced as one is unable to view the area on the side.

Contact lenses, on the other hand, help increase the field of vision.

Sometimes, lenses help stabilise the eye power. This means they could help to prevent the power of the eye from increasing.

On the other hand, contact lenses are not necessary when you have a low power (such as 0.25 and 0.5) unless your profession demands it. So, if you are into acting, modelling or are cabin crew member for an airline or are in the hospitality industry or in other such jobs, you could consider it.

Is age a factor?

Very small children are usually not given lenses except in very special cases; when a small child has to use contact lenses, parents are taught how to take care of them.

Children in the age group of 13 to 14 years can wear lenses if they are mature to handle them.

As of now, bi-focal lenses are not available in India; however, they are expected to make an entry soon. Since bi-focal numbers are predominant in an older age group of people (40 years and above), even they will be able to wear lenses.

How to maintain your lenses

  • Don't leave your lenses lying around. When not in use, store them in the appropriate container with the cleaning solution. A dusty atmosphere and chemical fumes may damage your lenses, if they are left uncovered.
  • Utmost hygiene must be maintained as contact lenses come into direct contact with your eyes. Always wash your hands before you handle your lenses.
  • Daily sterilisation of your lens is a must for soft lens users. Sterilisation refers to cleaning of the lenses with the prescribed cleaning solution, which are sold along with the lenses.
  • Clean the lenses daily ONLY with a cleaner prescribed by your doctor. Regular water must not be used for this, as it is not sterile and may damage the lenses.
  • Change the storage fluid daily. If the cleaning solution or the storage fluid is unclean, or the container is dirty, this may damage the lenses and, in turn, your eyes.
  • If your lenses do not settle on the eye, get them checked.
  • If you experience any sort of pain, watering, redness, discharge, decreasing vision or heaviness, remove the lenses immediately and consult your doctor.
  • Change the lenses periodically, depending upon their life span.

    What you must not do

  • Never swim with your lenses on.
  • Do not sleep with your lenses on, because the oxygenation process may be hampered. This might result in the lens getting stuck to the cornea, which may damage the lens and the eye. Even if you are taking a quick nap, do take them off.
  • Stick to the time limit given by your doctor. Do not wear them longer that the time prescribed. Usually, lenses can be used for a maximum of about 12 to 14 hours a day.
  • Avoid lenses if you are a diabetic as the chances of infection are higher.

    Sure, lenses may enhance your physical appearance but do you have the time, patience and inclination to take care of them?

    Part II: How to choose the right contact lenses


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    Vallari Shah