If you have eye problems, chances are contact lenses have been a life saver for you. They’re light enough that you don’t feel them, they don’t fall off your nose when you lower your head to read something or when you jump around with your dog, and they don’t change the shape of your face.
Unfortunately, you can kiss your paradise goodbye as a recent study has found that they also turn your eyes into a very comfortable and welcoming home for damage inducing eye bugs.
Researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center say that lenses seem to transfer bugs from your skin to your eye, damaging the natural bacterial ecosystem inside the eye and causing infections and / or inflammations.
Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello, lead researcher and doctor at NYU Langone Medical Centre in New York City, gave a statement saying that “Our research clearly shows that putting a foreign object, such as a contact lens, on the eye is not a neutral act”.
She hopes that the new findings will help doctors and scientists better understand a long-standing problem referring to why contact lens wearers are much more likely to get eye infections than non-lens wearers.
For their study, the researchers used high-precision genetic tests in order to detect and classify all the different bacteria that populate the human microbiome. They took samples from nine (9) contact lens wearers and eleven (11) non-lens wearers.
They found that contact lens wearers had a much more diverse group of microorganisms in their eyes, one that more closely resembled the group of microorganisms typically found on a person’s eyelid skin. The non-lens wearers on the other hand had a much less diverse group of microorganisms in their eyes.
In fact, the researches noticed that the conjunctiva (the eye surface) of contact lens wearers not only has a wider range of bacteria than the skin sitting directly beneath the eye, but it also has three (3) times the average amount of Methylobacterium, Lactobacillus, Acinetobacter, and Pseudomonas bacteria.
They concluded that the conjunctival microbial ecosystem of contact lens wearers becomes more like that of the skin, rather than that of the eye.
Unexplainably, the experts found more Staphylococcus Bacteria in the eyes of non-lens wearers than in those of lens wearers. Staphylococcus Bacteria is commonly found in abundance on the skin, and has been linked to eye infections
Dr. Dominguez-Bello hopes that the study conducted by her and her colleagues and their future experiments will eventually show whether or not these changes in the eye microbiome of contact lens wearers occur because the fingers regularly touch the eye, or if they’re the cause of the lenses directly applying pressure and “affecting and altering the immune system in the eye and what bacteria are suppressed or are allowed to thrive”.
Jack Dodick, chair of opthalmology at NYU Langone and co-investigator professor, also gave a statement sharing that there has been an increase in corneal ulcers since soft contact lenses have been introduced all the way back in the 1970s.
He says that Pseudomonas has been a pathogen commonly implicated, and recommends that people who wear contact lenses pay more attention to their hand hygiene.
Image Source: eye.uams.edu