Can contact lenses cause eyesight to deteriorate?

The answer to this question is a pretty simple no. Contact lenses are a perfectly healthy option for those suffering from all kinds of visual impairments, no matter how old or young they might be.

Despite this it’s a question that does come up quite often, which is pretty understandable really. Putting anything in your eyes can seem like an alien concept at first, but over time it’s something you quickly become accustomed to. Lenses are built to be as comfortable as possible, allowing enough oxygen to reach your eyes while keeping them moist and healthy. Your optician will also ensure you’re wearing the perfect size for your eyes, so you barely notice they are there throughout the day.

Is there scientific proof that contact lenses cause short-sightedness to worsen?

Whether a link exists between the wearing of contact lenses and worsening vision has been the subject of numerous scientific studies.

In one major study - the Adolescent and Child Health Initiative to Encourage Vision Empowerment (ACHIEVE) - researchers investigated myopic progression, sometimes referred to as 'myopic creep', to try to establish whether contact lenses contributed to children's increased short-sightedness.

The study focused on a group of 484 children between the ages of 8 and 17 who had been clinically diagnosed to be suffering from myopia (between -1.00 and -6.00 Diopter) who had not regularly worn contact lenses.

The study - which lasted for a three year period - divided the participants into two groups. One half was given glasses to wear for the duration of the research project while the other children were given soft contact lenses.

At the conclusion of the investigation the myopic creep was measured in each participant and it was determined that there was no significant difference in the progression of the short-sightedness between those children who wore contact lenses and those who wore glasses.

How safe are contact lenses?

As long as you are keeping your lenses clean and using them correctly, you really have nothing to fear from using contacts.

Remember to let your eyes breathe easily

It is easy to avoid restricting the oxygen supply to your eyes by following simple advice.

  • Remember not to wear contact lenses for too long at a time, it's best to keep a pair of glasses handy so you can give your eyes a break when needed. For most lenses, that period is around 10 hours, although specialist lenses can be purchased which last for longer.

  • You might also consider trying silicone hydrogel lenses. These lenses allow around 5 times as much oxygen to reach the inner eye as normal lenses, decreasing the risk of oxygen deprivation.

Keep those lenses squeaky clean

Caring for your lenses properly can help avoid infection

Eye problems can also develop due to the use of dirty contact lenses. During regular use, bacteria and grime develops on the front and back of contact lenses.

Eye experts recommend that lens wearers use contact lens solutions recommended by their opticians to disinfect their lenses after using them. Another thing that many contact lens wearers forget to think about is how their lenses are stored. Contact lens cases can be a source of infection as well, and it is sensible to disinfect your lens cases regularly, and replace it after around 3 months of use.

It is also very important to use properly concentrated lens cleaning solution. Don't just top up yesterday's solution. Doing so reduces the effectiveness of cleaning products and raises the risk of infection.

Listen to the experts and keep to a schedule

When using any medication it is important to keep to a schedule, and contact lenses are no different. When you are prescribed your lenses, your optician will recommend a routine that you should stick to. They will suggest the amount of time that lenses should be worn for and inform you about the right cleaning products to use, and how often.

Short-sightedness is a natural condition which progresses with time and may eventually stabilise. Contact lenses will, in the interim, provide you with an effective and convenient way to enjoy sharper eyesight, enabling you to go about your daily life more comfortably.