While it’s common knowledge that your body needs oxygen to stay healthy, many people still don’t know how crucial it is for the eyes. If you wear contact lenses, you must ensure your eyes get sufficient oxygen. This eyewear can prevent air from reaching your eyes, especially when worn incorrectly. You must follow the wear and care instructions given to you by your eye specialist and let the team know if you experience discomfort while wearing your contacts.
Keep reading to learn why it is vital for your eyes to breathe.
Why Your Eyes Need to Breathe
The cornea is the transparent layer surrounding the eye’s front part. Its primary role is to refract or bend light and focus most of the light that passes through the eye. Proteins and cells make up the cornea. Unlike other tissues in your body, it doesn’t have blood vessels. With blood vessels, the cornea wouldn’t be able to refract light properly, compromising your vision.
Since the cornea doesn’t have blood vessels to give it oxygen, it has to rely on the atmosphere to get its supply and stay healthy. Wearing contact lenses can limit the amount of oxygen that reaches the cornea. To ensure good eye health and comfort, you must wear the appropriate lenses for you and avoid wearing them for too long. A contact eye exam will let you know which option is best for your visual needs
What Happens When Your Eyes Don’t Get Enough Oxygen?
People who wear contact lenses are more likely to suffer from keratitis. Pain, irritation, redness, light sensitivity, excessive tearing and eye discharge are common symptoms of this eye condition. Patients might also find it difficult to open their eyes or experience blurred vision. Keratitis requires immediate treatment, or its symptoms will worsen.
There are two types of keratitis, which are infectious and non-infectious. Fungi, bacteria, parasites and viruses can cause infectious keratitis. On the other hand, non-infectious keratitis can occur due to overwearing contact lenses, scratches from eye injuries, a weak immune system and prolonged sunlight exposure. People in warm climates are at higher risk of non-infectious keratitis due to the higher amount of plant materials that can damage the cornea.
Only infectious keratitis is contagious. You can get this eye condition if you touch your eyes with contaminated hands. It can also happen when you are sick, and the infection reaches your eyes. Moreover, the treatment for this condition depends on what caused it. Your doctor will prescribe eye drops, oral medications or both if it occurred due to an infection. Non-infectious keratitis does not require medication.
Bacteria, virus or allergies causes conjunctivitis or pink eye. It occurs due to conjunctiva irritation. People with this condition might experience eye redness, swelling and discharge. You can have it in one or both eyes, and some types of it are highly contagious. An infected person can transmit it through direct contact with their bodily fluids. You can also get it when you don’t clean your contact lenses properly.
Viral conjunctivitis spreads quickly, often in crowded places like schools. Burning and redness with a watery discharge characterize this condition. It typically develops from the same virus that causes sore throat and runny nose in individuals with the common cold.
An infection from bacteria causes bacterial conjunctivitis, which is also contagious. It causes eye redness and soreness and the production of a sticky discharge. In some cases, the bacteria that cause it is the same as the one that causes strep throat. Non-contagious, allergic conjunctivitis occurs due to an allergic reaction from pollen, animals, car fumes and cigarette smoke.
Poor oxygen supply from prolonged contact lens wear can cause the eye to grow more blood vessels as it tries to deliver more blood to the cornea. It can lead to the development of a vision-threatening condition called corneal neovascularization. The growth of the new blood vessels means that the cornea isn’t clear anymore. People with this condition might experience cloudy or blurry vision. In more severe cases, significant vision loss could occur.
Contact lens wearers are at higher risk of corneal neovascularization. Contacts can irritate the cornea and keep oxygen from reaching the eye when not worn properly. Sleeping in your contact lenses also increases your chances of getting this eye condition. It might also develop in people with eye conditions like keratitis, bacterial infections and eye trauma. You must schedule a visit with your local eye clinic if your eyes get irritated a few hours following contact lens wear.
Your eye specialist might recommend prescription eye drops if you have corneal neovascularization. In more severe cases, eye doctors may suggest a laser or surgical procedure for vision loss prevention. If you are a contact lens wearer, your doctor might ask you to reduce your wear time or discontinue wear.
Ways to Ensure Your Eyes Can Breathe Properly
Replace Your Contact Lenses as Recommended and Don’t Overwear Them
Depending on your needs and habits, your eye doctor may recommend daily disposal, weekly or monthly disposable contact lenses. You must follow the replacement schedule set by your doctor to keep your eyes healthy. Replacing contacts as necessary helps prevent oxygen deprivation in the cornea.
It’s also vital to give your eyes a break from contact lens wear. If possible, wait a few hours before putting in your contacts and remove them a couple of hours before bed. Ideally, for every eight hours of wearing contacts, your eyes should also get a break of eight hours and another eight hours of rest when you sleep. The closer you can stick to this rule, the better.
Practice Proper Contact Lens Wear and Care
Eye doctors can’t stress enough the importance of proper contact lens wear and care. Before handling your contacts, be sure to wash and dry your hands. Keeping your lenses clean helps allow air through them, resulting in safer and more comfortable wear.
Put your contacts in the palm of your hand and rub them with fresh solution for 10 seconds on each side before reinsertion. It will keep your lenses from drying and make them more comfortable. Only use the solution recommended by your eye doctor. It’s also not a good idea to recycle the solution or mix fresh solution with a used one.
Don’t Sleep With Your Contacts in Your Eyes
Different types of bacteria enter your eyes, but tears protect them against infections. Every time you blink, tears flush harmful microorganisms from your eyes. Blinking also helps bring fresh oxygen to the cornea, which is necessary to keep it healthy.
Contact lenses can prevent the cornea from getting the moisture and oxygen it needs. As a result, your cornea struggles to shield itself from bacteria and viruses. You don’t blink in your sleep, meaning fewer tears reach the cornea. Without sufficient tears and oxygen, the cornea can’t regenerate new cells, increasing the risk of infection.
You are five times more likely to develop bacterial keratitis when you wear contact lenses in your sleep. The risk is the same for all lens types, and experts strongly discourage this poor habit. Acanthamoeba and fungal keratitis are other infections you could get from wearing contacts overnight. Save yourself from these eye problems by removing your contacts before sleeping.