Abu Dhabi: They may seem easy to use, but residents who opt for contact lenses must use them carefully in order to avoid vision-impairing infections and discomfort, doctors have warned.

Without proper hygiene practices and daily removal, infections are very likely in the UAE’s dusty, dry conditions, they said.

“Contact lenses are easy to use, but they are even easier to abuse. This is why it is especially important to consult with an ophthalmologist before using one, and to follow the usage instructions,” Dr Hamed Anwar, consultant ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital, told Gulf News.

The advice came after doctors in England found a ‘hard mass’ of 27 contact lenses in the eye of a 67-year-old patient. As reported by Gulf News, the patient had been unaware of the mass in her eye, and had come in for a routine cataract operation.

“Even though such cases are rare, what is worrying is that up to 60 per cent of contact lens wearers in the country tend to use them improperly, and end up suffering from bad infections,” Dr Anwar said.

Dr Nandagopal Ondenkallat, head of ophthalmology at Medeor 24x7 Hospital in Abu Dhabi, said one of the most common forms of contact lens misuse is sleeping with these lenses on.

“The majority of people use daily wear lenses here, and these reduce oxygen delivery to the corneas. So if you sleep for even a few hours wearing these lenses, it can cause the cornea to swell,” Dr Ondenkallat explained.

Dr Anwar said the risk of infections also increases tenfold if wearers do not remove daily wear lenses before sleeping, because the surface of the eyes, which are kept warm when the eyes are shut, allows bacteria to thrive.

“Another common mistake is failing to take off lenses before showering or swimming. The water is not sterile, and any microorganisms that enter the eyes would be absorbed quickly by the lenses, which act like a sponge. This, again, increases the risk of infections, and severe infection can lead to scarring of the corneas,” he added.

The doctor said he had seen three young patients with bad scarring in just the last seven months.

While there is no hard data on the subject, contact lens appear to be most widely used by women between the ages of 18 and 40 years in the UAE.

Both doctors advised that all residents visit an ophthalmologist at least once before commencing contact lens use, and undertake a yearly visit afterwards.

“People can have eyes with different needs, and these cannot be judged without a proper medical assessment. For example, one study estimated that about half of all residents could have dry eye symptoms, like dryness and a slight pain, while others could have allergies. If these people use contact lenses, it would simply aggravate the discomfort they face,” Dr Ondenkallat said.