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Contacts And Infectious, Contagious Diseases: What Your Eye Doctor Will Tell You That Your Mother Didn't

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When you get contact lenses for the first time, your doctor will do everything he or she can to make sure the lenses fit comfortably and that your eyes are healthy enough to wear contacts. Your eye doctor will also tell you how to take care of your lenses and your eyes, because infectious and/or contagious diseases become more serious when you wear contacts. Here are some important facts about contacts and eye disease that your doctor will share and that your mother did not tell you before you got your lenses.

Pink Eye and Contacts

Pink eye, a highly contagious infection of the eye, is especially bad for contact wearers. If you do not have a backup pair of glasses to wear when you have pink eye, do not wear your contacts. The pus produced by the inflamed conjunctiva will coat your contacts and not only make it difficult to see through that nasty mess but also cause you to become reinfected with pink eye after you have treated it with prescription medication. If you have the smallest sign that you may have pink eye, stop wearing your contacts right away, see your eye doctor and wear glasses in the meantime. (If you do not have glasses, you may need assistance getting to your eye doctor so you can get a pair.)

Herpes and Contacts

Herpes is another disease that is highly contagious and should be avoided when you wear contacts. As weird as it sounds, if you touch the herpes virus on someone else's lips or genitals and then touch your eyes or your contacts, the disease will transmit to the mucous membranes of your eyeballs. If your contacts come into contact with the virus (e.g., through a contaminated finger or hands or after being dropped on a surface contaminated with the virus), then you could get it that way too. Whatever you do, DO NOT share your contacts with people who have the virus either (nor any other contagious disease!).

Acanthameba and Contacts

Finally, a lesser-known disease that is now linked to the use of contact lenses is acanthameba. This an ameba parasite that enters your body through whatever openings it can find, and it is small enough to attach to the surface of contact lenses or wriggle underneath the lenses as they move on your eyes. These contagious little buggers can live in soil, brackish water and and even in fresh water areas. People who like to swim in lakes and rivers should always remove their contacts before swimming and/or protect their eyes with swim goggles to prevent infestation of these creatures through the eyes. 

Be sure to contact your optometrist for more info on proper contact wear and care.