One of the many drawbacks of wearing contact lenses is the possibility of acquiring corneal hypoxia. Corneal hypoxia happens when the corneas don’t get enough oxygen and largely prevalent among contact lens users because of the way contact lenses create a barrier that reduces the amount of available oxygen. Wearing contact lens, especially during sleep, can cause corneal hypoxia. If mild, corneal hypoxia produces epithelial edema as well as temporary blurred vision. If severe, it can cause epithelial cell death.
Wear contact lenses but want to know if you have corneal hypoxia? Here are some of its common signs and symptoms:
- Actively engorged blood vessels
This is the most common sign and symptom of corneal hypoxia. When anything interferes with your eyes’ oxygen supply, the body responds by growing larger blood vessels to funnel more oxygen and nutrients to your eyes. This can also be attributed to redness and mild eye pain moving the eyeballs sideways. This usually happens when the lens is worn for more than 10 hours a day.
When blood vessels are longer than 2mm from the cornea, your eyes need to be treated immediately or else permanent intolerance to contact lens or loss of vision can occur.
Tearing usually occurs when you have dry eyes. Since corneal hypoxia deprives oxygen, and therefore dry your eyes, it can mimic the symptom. If your eyes are tearing up despite you not wearing contact lenses, it could mean an underlying disease as tearing can also be a sign for other eye issues.
- Sensitivity to light
Sensitivity to light or photophobia is when bright lights hurt your eyes. Mild cases can make you squint while outside or even in a well-lit room. In major cases, light sensitivity can cause severe pain when the eyes are exposed to almost any type of light.
- Intolerance to contact lens wear
If not treated, corneal hypoxia can become chronic and cause decreased corneal sensitivity. Decreased corneal sensitivity leads to mild to severe discomfort with contact lens wear, even those the ones that are oxygen-permeable.
- Eye infections
If corneal hypoxia becomes chronic, it can lead to increased cell size, thinning of the epithelium, decreased epithelial shedding, and increased bacterial binding to the surface of the cornea. Basically, the epithelium provides a barrier against bacteria so if it gets thinner, bacterial infections are more likely to occur.
How To Prevent Corneal Hypoxia
The most obvious way to prevent corneal hypoxia is by simply being watchful of how long you wear your lenses. You can also opt to have your phone alert you when to have a “no contact lens” period to let your eyes rest. The type of lens matters too, so pick the pair that not only fits nicely but also provides proper oxygen permeability. Special eye supplements like ialutec® and ialutec® RED are capable of keeping your eyes healthy and functioning optimally. It’s because they are made with 100% pure hyaluronic acid, a compound that lubricates the eyes and offers a lot of long term health benefits.
Credit: Credit: 123rf/Antonio Guillem