Contact Lens Related Eye Problems

Instead of prescription eye glasses, many people choose to wear contact lenses. Contacts offer a safe alternative to glasses, though they do require care. When a doctor prescribes contacts, he will give a detailed explanation for cleaning and proper use. If a contact lens wearer does not follow these guidelines, contact lens-related eye problems may occur.

Dry Eye

Contact lens use may cause the surface of the eye to dry. This may lead to irritation and discomfort with or without the contact lenses in the eye. Symptoms of dry eye may include scratchiness, burning and foreign body sensation. Using contact lens rewetting drops may help with comfort, and when lenses are removed, artificial tears may help as well. If symptoms continue, an eye doctor may need to evaluate the lenses in use to determine if they fit properly or if the wearer has not followed proper procedures for wear.


Wearing contact lenses may result in conjunctivitis, an eye infection commonly known as “pink eye.” The condition may appear in hard contact lens wearers, but also in soft lens users who do not replace the contact lenses often, says the American Optometric Association. Conjunctivitis causes redness, itching, discharge and eyelid swelling. Doctors easily treat the condition with antibiotic eye drops. Even if symptoms improve, it is important to use the full schedule of drops to prevent a recurrence of the infection. Do not wear contact lenses with an infection, and discard any lenses in use prior to diagnosis and treatment to prevent recontamination.

Corneal Ulcers

Improper contact lens wear may result in an area of erosion on the cornea, a condition known as a corneal ulcer. Most corneal ulcers from contact lens wear occur from “soft contact lenses worn overnight,” says the U.S. National Library of Medicine. The ulceration creates an open sore on the eye, causing pain, light sensitivity and redness. A visible cloudy area may appear on the cornea as well. With any symptoms, a contact lens wearer should remove contact lenses and contact an eye care professional. Doctors will typically prescribe an eye drop to resolve the ulceration. If left untreated, permanent scarring and damage to vision may occur.

Corneal Neovascularization

Extended use of contact lenses may also result in the growth of blood vessels in the cornea, the transparent covering of the pupil and iris in the front of the eye. A healthy cornea does not have blood vessels to allow a clear window for vision. This new blood vessel growth, also called corneal neovascularization, will disrupt clear vision and cause discomfort. Eye doctors will recommend that the person stop wearing contact lenses, and will prescribe eye drops to reduce the growth of the vessels. In severe cases, doctors may discuss surgical treatment, including corneal grafting, says Columbia University.

About this Author

Kay Rockwell lives and writes in Oregon. After working as a certified ophthalmic technician for more than 10 years, she decided to return to school and focus on freelance writing. Her fiction has been featured in literary magazines and she has published numerous book reviews and author interviews in regional magazines.