Contact Lenses: Preventing Problems, Teen Version

What are some problems that may happen with contact lenses?

Problems with contact lenses are not common, but they can happen. Wearing and cleaning your contacts as directed by your eye care provider can decrease your risk of problems. Know what to watch for so that you can get treatment before problems get serious. Possible problems include:

  • Cornea problems: The cornea is the clear outer layer on the front of the eye. Wearing contacts can scratch the cornea. Contacts can also lead to swelling of the cornea and the growth of abnormal blood vessels on the cornea. The swelling may feel like there is something in your eye besides your contacts. Cornea problems usually can be treated effectively if they are found early.
  • Corneal ulcer: This is an open sore on your cornea caused by an infection. It can lead to rapid loss of vision. It can happen with any type of contact lens. You risk this kind of infection if you sleep, swim, or use hot tubs with your contacts in your eyes. Early treatment can often cure the infection. If an infection is not treated, it could cause permanent scarring and loss of central vision. To help prevent corneal ulcers, sterilize and store your lenses properly, and do not wear them when you are sleeping or swimming.
  • Tight lens syndrome: A soft contact can dry out on your eye and shrink a little. This squeezes the front of your eye like a suction cup. Tight lenses may lead to redness, discomfort, or blurry vision. You may need wetting solution, a looser-fitting lens, or a different type of lens.
  • Allergies: Contacts can make allergies worse. Allergens such as pollen may stick to your contacts. You may also become sensitive to protein deposits on lenses, or to chemicals in contact lens solutions. Your provider may suggest that you change lens solutions, change the kind of contacts you wear, or that you use prescription eyedrops.
  • Cosmetics: The oil in some cosmetics and makeup removers can get on the surface of your lenses. This can cause decreased vision and can cause your contacts to get too dry. Water-based makeup is better than oil-based or waterproof makeup for contact lens wearers. Do not use baby oil or Vaseline to remove cosmetics.
    • If you use eye shadow, it is best to use the cream form. Powders can flake off eyelids and get into your eyes and on your contacts. Avoid lash-building mascara because it contains fibers that can get in your eye and cause irritation. Fragrance-free and hypoallergenic makeup is not safer for contact lens wearers.
    • Try to keep facial creams and moisturizers at least a finger’s width away from the edges of your eyes. This includes make up such as make up for crow’s feet or dark circles under the eyes. It is best to apply make up after you put in contacts. That way your fingers will not have makeup on them when you are handling your lenses.
    • Spray deodorant, sun screen, and hair spray can get on your lenses and make them sticky. Use spray products before you put your lenses in.
    • If you develop an eye infection, throw out all your old makeup.

What are the symptoms of contact lens problems?

If you have burning, redness, pain, unusual light sensitivity, or blurry vision, remove your contacts and see your eye care provider right away.

What precautions should I take with contact lenses?

  • When you first start wearing contacts, carefully follow the break-in schedule prescribed by your eye care provider.
  • Always wash your hands well before handling your contact lenses, but use a plain soap. Do not use soaps that contain oil, moisturizers, perfume, or deodorant. They can leave a film on your lenses. Dry your hands before putting your lenses in or taking them out.
  • Do not wear your contacts while swimming. Soft lenses absorb chemicals from the water. Gas permeable lenses can float out of your eyes.
  • Don’t wear your lenses for longer than recommended. Follow your eye care provider’s instructions about how long you can safely keep the lenses in your eyes.
  • If you have medical problems, note on your Medic Alert bracelet or card that you wear contact lenses.
  • Do not put contact lenses in your mouth to moisten or clean them. It may increase your risk of eye infection.
  • Do not use eyedrops without your eye care provider’s approval. The lens can absorb the eyedrop solution and result in a buildup. This could cause an infection or damage the lens.
Reviewed for medical accuracy by faculty at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins. Web site:
Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2013-12-05
Last reviewed: 2014-10-27
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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