Contact Lens Chronic Red Eye, ‘Pink Eyes’ Infection

GregC Asked :

I had a case of pink eyes that was constantly recurring and my optometrist advised me to stop wearing the permanent lenses I was using to determine if it was the lenses or some other problem. The pink eye went down and he told me to go for disposable lenses but I decided to wear glasses for a while.

I have a lot of tiny vessels on the white of my eye that is visible all the time. My eyes become dry and bloodshot if I am in the wind or an air conditioned room and when I wake up in the morning. It even happens if I nap for like 20 minutes. The optometrist now says that there was too little oxygen getting to the eye when I was using contact lenses so new blood vessels grew on my eye. He said that if I used the disposable lenses, this will go down because oxygen can move through these lenses.

I am worried because in my line of work I have to deal with people all the time. It’s terrible to have to face them with bloodshot eyes. Fortunately my glasses masks it a bit. I do want to go back to contact lenses but I am not sure if the optometrist is just promoting these disposable lenses or if it would help by red eyes. Would I still be at risk of pink eye infections with disposables?

This question was posted under the Wear Contact Lenses – Side Effects, Risk and Symptoms article.

Any response by the Health Hype team does not constitute a medical consultation and the advice should be viewed purely as a guide. Always consult with your doctor before making any changes to your current treatment program. The information provided in this article is not an authoritative resource on the subject matter and solely intends to guide the reader based on the questions asked and information provided.

Dr. Chris Answered :
You have raised a number of issues here, all of which are probably related to contact lenses. Your ‘pink eye’ orĀ  conjunctivitis is most likely a bacterial infection that recurs with contact lens use. This is one of the risks of using permanent lenses and disposable lenses will reduce the risk of contracting these infections.

Secondly the increase in blood vessels is due to oxygen permeability of the lenses you were using. I am not sure of exactly what type of permanent lenses you were using – the older varieties were made of materials that did not allow much oxygen to reach the cornea. If you were using your lenses for too long, more than 8 to 12 hours a day, then your eye had to compensate by allowing new capillaries to grow towards the cornea. This carried oxygen rich blood to the area.

Now that you have stopped using contact lenses, and if there are no other eye related problems, these blood vessels will decrease in size. Any irritation to the eye and conditions contributing to dry eyes, like wind and air conditioning, will result in increased blood flow to the area. This is more pronounced in your case because of the ‘extra’ blood vessels you have in the area.

Your optometrist is correct about disposable or soft lenses. These can be discarded on a regular basis thereby reducing the chances of infection. These lenses also allow for oxygen to reach the cornea. However they should not be used for long periods in a day. Avoid napping or sleeping with contact lenses – apart from reducing the oxygen flow to the cornea, they can ‘slip’ and cause other complications. You should speak to your optometrist about your specific needs and he will assist you in making the best decision for your case.

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