Contact lenses can pose a risk as they can disrupt the natural bacterial environment in your eyes. A small-scale study found that in individuals who wore contact lenses, the surface of the eyes contained bacteria that are commonly found on the skin surrounding the eyes.
It is still unclear as to why these bacteria are found on the surface of the eye, but researchers suggest it could be because of the finger-to-lens interaction. The research does pose the question of whether or not this change in bacteria could increase the risk of eye infections.
Lead author Maria Dominguez-Bello said, “Wearing contact lenses is known to increase the risk of microbial keratitis and other inflammatory eye conditions.”
Keratitis is a painful and potentially serious inflammation of the cornea
Over 30 million Americans wear contact lenses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one in every 500 contact lens wearers will develop a vision-threatening eye infection. A large reason for this has to do with hygiene, as 40 to 90 percent of wearers do not practice proper hygiene techniques when it comes to their contacts. Another reason may be due to a change in bacterial environment of the eye, but this has largely been overlooked.
The researchers collected samples of 58 adults and analyzed eye surface bacteria, the skin below the eye, and contact lenses from 20 users. Additional samples from 20 users were taken over the course of six weeks.
The researchers found a difference in eye bacterial environment in non-users and contact lens users. Contact lens wearers were found to have similar bacteria on their eye surface and on the surrounding skin – which was not seen in non-users.
The researchers are still unaware if this change in bacteria can contribute to additional infections and complications, as Dominguez-Bello explained, “Future studies are needed to determine the role of the microbiome in the increased risk for eye infections in contact lens wearers.”
In the meantime, contact lens wearers are urged to adhere to proper hygiene when it comes to wearing contact lenses.