Eyes off circle lenses: an eye trend that can harm your health

Fashion trends
come and fashion trends go, some do wonders for your street cred but a few,
while being achingly hip, are actually bad for your health.

Pop
star and fashion icon, Lady Gaga – the latest to have Madonna’s style crown
firmly in her sights – has caused a media storm among eye doctors due to her
penchant for circle lenses, as seen in her Bad Romance video.

The
strangely-hued contacts, much loved by fans of those doe-eyed anime films and
comic book characters, make eyes look much larger and childlike by partially
covering the whites of the eye, too.

Particularly
popular with young Asians, circle lenses come in weird and wonderful colours
like nude gray, black and violet. The interest in the lenses have also no doubt
been popularised by movie makers,’ increasing interest in the vampire and
zombie genres most recently popularised by the Twilight series and HBO’s True
Blood. For many female wearers of circle contact lenses they are akin to
wearing make-up, an accessory to be changed at will. Men also wear them.

Why
eye care specialists don’t see eye-to-eye with the latest fad adopted by
impressionable style mavens is because fashion lenses are non-prescription eye
wear and can be bought online without consulting an eye specialist, to ensure a
proper fitting. Manufactured and distributed mainly in Asia, circle lenses are
widely available via the Internet.

What the eye doctors say

The Lions Eye Clinic located in the Cayman Islands
Hospital sees hundreds of patients a year. Its Lead Consultant Ophthalmologist
Jyotin Pandit says: “Personally, I would not recommend that kind of lens to
anybody as they are not prescription quality eye wear. Most of these lenses are
sub-standard since their manufacture is not closely monitored by any regulatory
agencies in such countries as Malaysia, China and Korea.”

Natalie
Da Silva of Cayman Lens Crafter also says that the quality of circle lenses is
questionable: “With cosmetic lenses, there is more of a focus on the cosmetic
aspect so the quality is usually not as good.”

She
also notes that those ordering contacts from the internet have probably not
been trained in how maintain or wear their lenses correctly, causing them to
over-wear, sleep or share their lenses without realising the consequences.

Dr.
Pandit says that proper care is a requirement for all types of lenses and that
just because circle contact lenses aren’t commonplace in Cayman regular contact
lens wearers shouldn’t become complacent about proper eye care. “You have to
remember that contact lenses are foreign bodies for the eye and so should be
kept in immaculate condition,” he suggests.

Krishna
Mani, a local ophthalmologist with over three decades of medical experience,
similarly stresses the importance of getting all eye wear professionally
prescribed and fitted by a specialist be it an ophthalmologist (who is
certified to undertake eye surgery) or an optometrist: “The fitting of any
contact lens depends on the curvature of the lens. The eye doctor takes the
curvature of the eye and then recommends the contact lens,” he says from his
Pasadora Place clinic.

“The
contact lens fits on the surface of the cornea and the tear flows between the
lens and the cornea. So if the fitting is not right the contact lens can
scratch the cornea which can lead to infection of the cornea and may lead to
blindness.”

Mellisa
Hudell of Tropical Optical on Shedden Road also had reservations about such
lenses. She says: “The problem with this type of lens is that they don’t let
much oxygen reach the cornea so they can cause corneal edemas, a swelling of
the cornea, which can be painful.” She adds that “Unprescribed lenses can also
cause blood vessel growth into the cornea causing pain and blurred vision.”

Corneal
edemas are commonly caused by dehydration of the eye and can cause a halo
effect around light, increased sensitivity to light and if left untreated can
cause permanent nerve damage.

None
of the eye doctors had seen circle lenses worn in Cayman, had been asked to fit
them or knew if they were being sold locally. Dr. Mani, though, recalls seeing
a cruise ship tourist wearing with this [type of] lens and she had a corneal
ulcer.

Proper contact lense care

Always wash your hands with warm water and soap and dry them
thoroughly before handling contact lenses or before touching your eyes.

Always clean prescribed contact lenses with the approved solution
recommended by your eye doctor.

“Some people tend to use just saline, but that doesn’t have the
proper cleaning solution in it,” warns Dr. Da Silva.

Although some types of lenses are approved for long-term wear avoid
keeping them in overnight as this can cause a severe allergy as the lenses will
start to absorb tear proteins and if misused over time can result in the wearer
becoming allergic to their own eye proteins.

“Do not sleep in your contacts unless it’s an actual lens that’s FDA
approved for sleeping in, but the majority are not and especially not the cosmetic
lenses,” cautions Dr. Da Silva.

Visit an eye doctor regularly (at least every six months).
Infrequent consultations, in the long-term, may result in warping of the cornea
and in extreme cases can cause permanent corneal distortion, which is almost
impossible to treat.

“The patient may feel fine, but we can see signs if, for example,
there is not enough oxygen getting to the eye,” explains Dr. Da Silva.

Clean and store contact lenses in a clean case in fresh solution.
Different types of contact lenses require special care and certain types of
products.

Clean contact lens case after each use
with sterile solution or hot water and let air dry.

Clean contact lens by rubbing them gently with your index finger in
the palm of your hand. “No Rub” solutions allow wearers to rinse contact lenses
without rubbing.

If you develop an eye infection remove the lenses and discontinue
use until you talk with your eye doctor.

Never share lenses since doing so can spread any infection.

Wearing contact lenses may cause eyes to become more sensitive to
sunlight, so wear sunglasses with total UV protection or a wide brim hat on
sunny days. 

Put in your contact
lenses before applying makeup to avoid contaminating your contact lens.

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