Contact lenses are convenient but require care

Lenses should be cleaned using a specific contact lens disinfecting solution and never water or saliva. Net PHOTO

What you need to know:

Even though they correct eye defects, prescribed eye glasses when worn for long hours can be a burden. For people involved in activities such as sports, glasses are an inhibition. This is where contact lenses come in handy although they, too, have a few disadvantages.

Mona Lisa Nalujja is a proud mother of athletic children. Her teenage daughter is the captain of her school’s swimming team. Unfortunately, after bouts of debilitating migraines, it was recently discovered that her daughter has a vision impairment that requires her to use corrective lenses.
The news was received with despair and frustration because glasses would definitely interfere with her athletic lifestyle. “She was devastated; she could not believe she would have to wear glasses for the rest of her life. We were forced to get a second and third opinion until one optician gave us the good news that she could opt for a combination of glasses and contact lenses depending on the activity she was involved in. We were relieved and she is now slowly adapting to both,” Nalujja narrates.

How they work
According to Dr Anil Agarwal, contact lenses are medical devices worn directly on the cornea of the eye. Like eyeglasses, contact lenses help to correct refractive errors and perform this function by adding or subtracting focusing power to the eye’s cornea and lens.

Convenience and effectiveness
He notes that contacts lenses are effective and convenient for people who need vision correction but for one reason or another other are not able to wear glasses.
“I would recommend them for people who are able to take proper care of them. The biggest reason most opticians discourage patients from using contact lenses is that they demand high attention to hygiene which if not heeded to can result in serious infections. Keeping them clean in a dusty environment like this (Kampala) poses a big challenge,” notes Dr Agarwal.
According to Dr Joseph Masajjage, contact lenses give the wearer more freedom and in some instance give a wider scope of vision because of how snugly they sit on the curvature of the eye.

They are extremely handy for physically active individuals such as athletes or adventurers where they do not have to worry about their glasses falling off or getting affected by fog or rain drops,” Dr Masajjage notes. There are different kinds of contact lenses for different defects.

Types of contacts
Dr Masajjage reveals that contacts can be classified by how often they should be changed such as daily, every two weeks, or monthly.
They can also be classified by the different types of refractive errors they correct.

Standard contact lenses
These correct Myopia. Myopia (nearsightedness) is a condition in which objects that are at a distance appear blurry but those that are close by are seen clearly.
This occurs when light enters the eye without being correctly focused which is directly caused by the shape of one’s eye.
Hyperopia (farsightedness) is the opposite of myopia in which objects that are nearby appear blurry due to light focusing past the retina. This condition also uses standard contact lenses available in all modalities.

Multifocal contact lenses
These can correct presbyopia. Presbyopia is an age-related condition that resembles hyperopia in that it causes near objects to be blurry. Presbyopia, however, stems from a different cause. While hyperopia is caused by the eye being misshapen, presbyopia is caused by the hardening of the lens in the eye which ultimately happens to everyone as they get older.

Toric contact lenses
This type of contact lense corrects astigmatism, a condition that occurs when the eye does not focus light evenly onto the retina due to an irregularly shaped cornea or lens.

Cosmetic contact lenses
You have probably seen your favourite celebrity’s eye colour change and wondered why. The reason is because they wear coloured contact lenses. There are cosmetic contact lenses to enhance, or even change the colour of your eyes. This includes “plano,” or zero power, lenses with no magnification. However, since contacts are medical devices, you should speak with an eye care professional before using such novelty contact lenses.

By Gabriel Buule
I use eye contacts and I find them more comfortable than glasses. But they shouldn’t be used for cosmetic reasons.
Mariah Nakonde

I would only use them if they are recommended by a specialist.

Fionah Nakinga

What if they are defective! Or damaged moreover it ever involves tampering with the eyes. My worry is what happens when the eyes get an infection.

Barbara Mawande

Cleaning Tips
1. Before you handle contacts, wash and rinse your hands with a mild soap. Make sure it doesn’t have perfumes, oils, or lotions. They can leave a film on your hands. If they get on your lenses, your eyes could get irritated or your vision might be blurry.
2. Dry your hands with a clean, lint-free towel.
3. If you use hair spray, use it before you put in your contacts. It’s also a good idea to keep your fingernails short and smooth so you won’t damage your lenses or scratch your eye.
4. Put on eye makeup after you put in your lenses. Take them out before you remove makeup.
5. Some contacts need special care and products. Always use the disinfecting solution, eye drops, and enzymatic cleaners your doctor recommends. Some eye products or eye drops aren’t safe for contact wearers.
6. Never put tap water directly on your lenses. Even distilled water can be home to germs that can cause an infection or hurt your vision.
7. Never put a contact in your mouth to rinse it.
8. Clean your lens case every time you use it. Use either sterile solution. Let it air dry. Replace the case every three months.
Compiled from
Dr Masajjage emphasizes that although they are as effective at improving vision as glasses are, contact lens wearers can be more at risk of eye complications than those who use glasses.
If wearers do not follow contact lens care instructions properly, they can be at risk of eye infections that can even lead to blindness.
“This is why we do not recommend them a lot in Uganda. Contact lenses tend to attract dust and one would be forced to remove them and clean them several times thereby increasing chances of contamination,” he says.

Contact lens care
Many people compromise their visual health due to bad habits when it comes to wearing contact lenses. For instance, contact lenses should not be exposed to water because of microbes such as Acanthamoeba that are often found in many sources of water.
This means washing hands with soap and water and drying them comprehensively before touching contact lenses.
Doing so prevents the transfer of germs from the hands to the lenses and consequently the eyes.
With soft contact lenses, water can also alter the shape of the lens and potentially damage the cornea. As a result, contact lens wearers should remove their lenses before showering, swimming or using hot tubs, as tempting as it may be to keep them in.
While people can opt to use disposable lenses that are designed to be worn daily, many choose to wear lenses that last for longer periods and need to be stored properly when not in use.
Unsurprisingly, many eye problems arise from bad habits pertaining to the storing of contact lens and associated products.
Contact lenses need to be kept clean if they are going to be used for multiple days.
Lenses should be cleaned using a specific contact lens disinfecting solution and never water or saliva.
Contact lens cases should also be replaced at least once every three months.

One of the most frequently repeated recommendations concerning contact lenses is that wearers should always follow the advice of their eye care providers.
Unlike glasses, contact lenses are in direct contact with an opening into the human body, and as such there are alot that could go wrong from a health perspective.
When used correctly, contact lenses can have a transformative effect on the wearer’s quality of life. The same cannot be said for when they are used incorrectly. As already mentioned, improper use can cause infections that could lead to blindness.

While they might feel like a relatively modern invention, rigid contact lenses made from plastic were first manufactured in the US between 1938 and 1940.
The soft contact lenses currently worn by an estimated 93 per cent of contact lens wearers were first introduced in 1971.

Contact lenses : How safe are they?
For many, contact lenses are a luxury accesory which are usually more costly than conventional eye glasses.
Contacts are actually much more than just that. But you would only know this if you have to wear a pair of glasses every day of your life. Even if they don’t weigh much, they are a burden and inconvinincing especially for athletes or even when one has to go to the gym or take part in other physical activities.
Unless they are a tight fit, they keep slipping off and have to be adjusted all the time and in some caes like swimming they can’t be used at all. This is where contact lenses come in handy. But how safe are they?
Opticians are not quick to recommend them especially if one lives or works in a dusty area. This is because contact lenses, when they accumulate dust could cause eye infections, some mild others serious.
They must either be handled with alot of care or be avoided altogether. At the end of the day though, we can only make recommendations, the choice is yours to make. choose wisely.

Additional reporting from


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