Improving eyesight if you have keratoconus often involves wearing contact lenses. Since soft contact lenses are unable to improve the typical astigmatism caused by keratoconus, Rigid Gas Permeable (RGP) lenses – commonly called “hard” lenses – are often recommended. Alternatively, scleral contact lenses may be recommended if you are experiencing corneal pain or find RGP lenses uncomfortable. As a disorder featured by an abnormal cornea shape causing both myopia and astigmatism, driving a car may only be safe for you if wearing corrective eyewear (such as contact lenses or eyeglasses) while you drive.
Described below are ways to avoid eye injury if you wear RGP contact lenses, and some considerations in determining whether wearing RGP contact lenses makes sense for you.
Risks due to Chipped or Scratched Contact Lenses
Improper care and storage can cause RGP contact lenses to become scratched or cracked. In turn, the damaged contact lenses can cause corneal abrasions. Poor compliance with replacing RGP contact lenses at least every two years is often responsible for contact lens-caused corneal abrasions (per the Journal of Ophthalmic and Vision Research). Meanwhile, scratches to the cornea – corneal abrasions – are even more often caused by failure to remove contacts from the eyes before falling asleep.
Since the abnormal growth of vascular capillaries in the cornea (termed corneal neovascularization) is common in keratoconus-afflicted people – and abrasions can promote this neovascularization – ensuring that you utilize your RGP lenses correctly is critical.
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Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection and RGP Contact Lenses
An active HPV infection is present in around 79 million people in the US, and this is a common sexually-transmitted disease. If a conjunctival papilloma occurs as a result of HPV, contact lens wear of any kind is contraindicated. For a keratoconus-afflicted person with a persistent experience of “dry eyes” as a symptom, even a benign conjunctival papilloma caused by HPV can increase the feeling of having “dry eyes”. Since RGP contact lenses tend to be uncomfortable for anyone with chronic “dry eyes”, you may need to consider wearing eyeglasses rather than contacts if you have a conjunctival papilloma consequent to HPV infection.
Workplace Computer Use and RGB Contact Lenses
During this time period of Covid-19, many employees are working from home in front of their computers – whether as an aspect of their work roles or videoconferencing with their colleagues and supervisor. While wearing RGB contact lenses can make viewing the participants, presenter, and white board in a videoconference possible, videoconferencing via computer for numerous hours at a time can also lead to an increased experience of “dry eyes”.
For someone with keratoconus, the combination of computer screen glare and “dry eyes” can contribute to an increased level of persistent eye pain – making the wearing of contact lenses for more than 30 minutes at a time difficult.
Eye Infections and Improper Cleaning of RGB Contact Lenses
Before inserting RGB contact lenses into your eyes, it is essential that your contact lenses be disinfected after use and stored in the proper solution in their storage case. Besides bacterial eye infections due to careless contact lens care and poor hand hygiene, a coronavirus infection in the eye can result from Covid-19 particles on the fingers during this pandemic transferring into the eyes. For a keratoconus-afflicted person, a bacterial or viral infection in the eye can lead to permanent damage to the cornea resulting in increased keratoconus-related cornea pain.
Schedule a consultation at the Precision Keratoconus Center if you are considering whether eyeglasses or contact lenses can improve your vision.