The Rate of Corneal Ulcer Infections Increasing in Contact Lens Wearers

Contact Lens Corneal Ulcer

Contact Lens Corneal Ulcer

One of the leading eye care centers in the nation, the Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia, has reported that the rate of corneal ulcer infections is increasing at its institution.  The cornea is the clear outer layer of the eye.  If an infection develops in the cornea it is called a corneal ulcer.  These infections are serious because in more complicated cases they can result in corneal scars, transmission of infection into the eye, or even weakening or rupture of the eye.

The institution treated 507 cases of corneal ulcer between 2004 and 2007 with about half related to contact lens use.  54.3 % of the contact related ulcers resulted from overnight wear of contacts.  45.7% were considered visually threatening.

They had previously reported an increase in the rate of corneal ulcers between 1996 and 2002 and now they have noticed an additional increase in the infection rate between 2004 and 2007.  These results are reported in the October issue of Cornea.  Further studies will need to determine if this same increasing rate of infection is occurring in other locations and to clarify the reasons for the escalating infection rate.

Contact lens users can decrease the risks of infection by removing their contact lenses at night rather than sleeping in them and by meticulous care and cleaning of their lenses.  Contact lens patients should remove their contacts and seek immediate attention from their eye care provider if they have painful or red eyes.

Contact lenses float on the cornea on a thin layer of tears.  Patients with dry eyes often lack a sufficient layer of tears to float a contact.  This can result in the contact lens mechanically scratching the eye, allowing bacteria to enter the cornea and start an infection.  Our eyes tend to become drier as we age and this is more noticeable in areas with low atmospheric humidity like Colorado and Wyoming.  Regular eye exams can ensure that your contact lenses are still safe for your eyes.

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