Woman Left Blind After Wearing Contact Lenses for WAY Too Long

contactsAnyone who wears contact lenses knows the fears associated with them. After all, we're touching our eyes every morning. It's kind of gross, when you really think about it. But none of us could have been prepared for the horrifying story out of Taiwan that represents all those nightmares in one: 23-year-old Lian Kao, a student, is now blind after a parasite ate her eyeballs because she left her contacts in for six months.

OK, so we ALL know you're not supposed to do that. I have been wearing contacts for 25 years and have only slept in them once or twice. But most of us also know people who sleep in their contacts almost every night, right? Maybe not for six months, but for a lot longer than they should.


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Apparently, in this tragic case, leaving them in so long allowed a single-cell amoeba to breed between Kao's lens and cornea.

"When contact lenses are in place, the eye does not get 100 percent of the oxygen it needs, so the cornea needs time to recover when the lenses are out," says Dr. Robert Noecker, an opthalmologist with decades of experience in eye treatment and surgery. Additionally, he says, micro-scratches caused by the plastic are healed while the contacts are out. So if we leave them in too long, those scratches never fully clear up.

Yikes. And the risks are very dramatic.

"At a minimum [you could get] blurred vision," says Dr. Noecker. "The body will grow blood vessels around the edges [of the micro-scratches] that can make the cornea less clear." And then of course, there are even bigger dangers the longer the lenses are left in -- such as Kao's loss of vision.

So let's all consider that our cautionary tale. God, this poor young woman. And oh, our poor stomachs at the thought of what happened to her. If you're reading this and thinking it sounds like you, just stop. Keep taking your contacts out regularly. Please.

As a longtime contacts wearer, I have seen many iterations of them. First there were hard lenses -- does anyone use those anymore? Those gave way to soft lenses that you had to scrub every night with a special solution. Now we have disposable contacts that are supposed to be replaced once a month and no longer need to be washed nightly.

Sounds harmless enough, but Kao's tragic story is a rude awakening as to just how dangerous contacts can really be. What happened to her should serve to remind us that no matter how busy we get, we have to take the time to take care of ourselves. It's vital.

"The safest way to wear contact lenses is to take them out and disinfect them every night, being sure to wash your hands thoroughly before handling them," says optometrist Jessi Lee. "Contact lens wearers should see their eye doctor annually to ensure that their lenses fit well and that there are no signs of corneal damage." 

Do you wear contacts and are you guilty of going too long without taking them out?


Image ©iStock.com/leungchopan

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