Researchers may have found the real cause behind the surge in eye infections in contact lense wearers. They say that the thin polymers that help us enhance our vision without making us look geeky alter the bacteria on our eye balls in a negative way.
Scientists explained that our eyes already have a healthy “community of bacteria” that fight off any type of invaders, but incorrect use of contact lenses boost harmful bacteria colonies.
Dr. Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello, senior author of the study and researcher at New York University School of Medicine, explained that contact lenses disrupt the delicate balance between the two types of bacteria, which may result in serious eye infections on the long run.
During their research, study authors compared the type of bacteria that dwelled on the eyeballs of lens-wearers to those in the eyes of non-users. They involved 20 people in the study and presented the results during this year’s conference of the American Society for Microbiology.
Scientists performed laboratory tests on eye bacteria samples along with DNA mapping of the bacteria. The tests revealed significant differences between the eye microbial flora of contact-wearers and people who do not use the medical devices.
Researchers were shocked to learn that the bacteria on the eyeballs of lens users were almost as many as the bacteria on their skin. They believe that that has something to do with skin bacteria from the fingers they use to insert their contact lenses into their eyes.
Another explanation may be linked to the lenses which may favor a bacteria-rich environment.
Regardless of the explanation, contact lens-wearers are at a higher risk of developing inflammatory eye conditions including conjunctivitis and keratitis, which may have life-long consequences if they are left untreated.
Other studies had linked those conditions to contact lense use, as well, and deemed the disks a risk factor for keratitis, an eye condition that involves red eyes, moderate pain, impaired eyesight, and intolerance to light.
Though the study was too small to be taken into consideration as preliminary, its authors said that microbial flora of the eyes was often overlooked, while researchers focused on gut and skin bacteria more.
“Despite being important in ophthalmology, the eye microbiome has been largely neglected, and its functions remain unknown,”
one of the researchers said.
In the world, there are more than 70 million contact lens users, while in the U.S. there are more than 30 million. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that more than 1 million GP appointments or ER visits are related to inflammatory eye conditions caused by improper lens use.
The CDC also cautions that improper lens use could lead to severe eye infections or even blindness in one out of 500 wearers every year.
Image Source: Excellence in Eye Care
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