Today's blog post comes to your courtesy a crazy day at the office. This past Sunday (yes, I work Sundays... and yes, I am a little bit crazy... thank you for asking), I felt like I was working in some sort of contact lens emergency clinic. It was like Clearly Contacts was having a sale on eye infections or something! I'm sure the Liberal government backed them on it and I must have missed Trevor Linden's ad campaign on TV...
A while back, I wrote a blog titled Contact Lens Addicts, which explained how some patients become so dependent on their contact lenses that they put themselves at risk of suffering many different problems, some of which could lead to permanent vision loss. Well, Sunday was like a Contact Lens Addicts Anonymous meeting with Dr. Sian mediating.
The CL-AA meeting started with a pleasant, 50-something woman whose contact lens had folded up and tucked itself so far behind her upper eyelid that I almost wished I had a third hand to help flip her eyelid, and/or hold a q-tip, and/or grab the forceps.
Now, lets just take a quick second to answer the question that is likely swirling around in some of your minds... No, the contact lens cannot go so far back that it ends up behind the eyeball. Luckily, the conjunctiva (the thin skin that covers the eye ball) actually folds over itself and covers the inside of the eyelids as well. Effectively creating a natural contact lens catching contraption (and you thought conjunctiva was hard to say).
Next up was a very friendly lady in her mid-thirties who is actually quite good at taking care of her contact lenses. She doesn't over wear them, she replaces them on schedule, and she's good at cleaning them every night (sounds too good to be true, but I believed her). However, despite all of the regular care and maintenance, she managed to fall asleep in her lenses.
Now, we all know that one night stands are a bad idea (right?). Well, sleeping with your contacts is a lot like a one night stand... There's usually booze involved, it seems like a good idea at the time, you wake up in the morning with something feeling itchy and/or irritated (we're talking about eyes folks!), and then you're doing the walk of shame... into my exam room!
Even for someone who takes care of her contacts, one night with her lenses was enough to cause a small corneal ulcer. Yes, an ulcer. And yes, it is as unpleasant as it sounds.
Last, and certainly not least, is the poor little girl who was actually the impetus for me to write this blog, so I could tell you her unfortunate story. A 16 year old kid who has been wearing Orthokeratology lenses (aka Ortho-K, aka dream lenses). I won't go into detail, but basically these are lenses you only wear at night while sleeping. Hopefully the "only wear at night while sleeping" part raised a red flag or two for most of you. To make matters worse, she was fit for and bought the lenses overseas, so I have no idea what she's been wearing. Not all that different than buying contacts online without being fit for them by a professional, might I add.
But I digress...
The poor kid was in so much pain, she could not open her eye if her life depended on it. When I finally got a look, this is what I saw...
A very red and upset eye with a large, central corneal ulcer. Long story-short, she is and will be in need of a lot of eye drops (as much as every 30-60 minutes all day AND night) and maybe even some oral medications. The worst part of it is that when the infection is finally controlled, this ulcer will likely leave a large scar right in the center of her vision thus causing a permanent decrease in vision in that eye.
These were just three of the multiple cases I dealt with during the CL-AA meeting on Sunday.
Its extremely important to understand the consequences of taking our vision for granted. Online sales and deregulation have made it easy to overlook the fact that contact lenses are actually medical devices. They are pieces of plastic that we put on our eye ball to help improve our vision. We should not lose sight of that (pun intended).
I am genuinely concerned and upset about this young girl and so many other patients who suffer from serious issues due to improper contact lens wear and poor ocular hygiene. So, if you or your kids wear contacts, be sure to have the lenses fit by a professional and never hesitate to come in and have your eyes checked if you think something is wrong. As with most things, if we catch it early, its much easier to treat.
Note: The pictures are not of my patients, but are accurate representations of their respective issues.