Watch Out For Contact Lens Eye Infection  

Written by Dr. Pulyk Nataliya Omelanivna on Fri, 01 December 2023 — Fact checked by Dr. Pakanich Maria Petrivna

Key Highlights

  • Over 150 million people worldwide use contact lenses for therapeutic and cosmetic use.
  • Eye related infection may lead to vision loss and possibly even blindness if left untreated.  
  • viral and bacterial conjunctivitis present with a red eye and are highly contagious.
  • Keratitis, the most common contact lens-related eye infection is called corneal infections.
  • If seriousness of Eye Infection increases consult ophthalmologist. 

Contact lenses, embraced by over 150 million people worldwide, are remarkable ocular prosthetics. They serve a multitude of purposes, ranging from vision correction to cosmetic enhancement and therapeutic applications.

These ingenious inventions consist of thin, transparent plastic disks that delicately rest upon the eye's surface, allowing for remarkable visual improvement. By floating atop the tear film that naturally covers the cornea, contact lenses work their magic, rectifying refractive errors and bringing clarity to a once-blurred world. However, it is crucial to understand the proper usage and care of these lenses to avoid potential complications, such as eye infections. For more insights into this topic, continue reading our informative blog post.

Types of Contact Lenses

Types of Contact Lenses

1. Hard contact lenses

RGP lenses, also known as rigid gas-permeable lenses, maintain a firm shape while allowing oxygen to pass through and reach the eye. These lenses are particularly beneficial for individuals with astigmatism and a condition known as keratoconus.

2. Soft contact lenses

  • Daily wear contacts: You wear these when you are awake and remove them when you go to sleep. Many are disposable, meaning that you wear a new pair of contacts each day. Some ophthalmologists recommend disposable daily wear contacts if you use them just once in a while.
  • Extended wear contacts:  You can wear these while you sleep, but they need to be removed for cleaning at least once a week. Doctors recommend they increase the chance of getting a serious eye infection.
  • Toric contacts: These can correct vision for astigmatism patients, though not as well as hard contact lenses. Toric lenses can be worn daily or for an extended period of time.
  • Colored (tinted) contacts: Vision-correcting contact lenses can be tinted to change your eye color. You can get them as daily wear, extended wear, and toric lenses.
  • Decorative (cosmetic) contacts: These lenses change the look of your eyes but do not correct your vision. Also, they are used to hide eye problems present at birth or caused by injuries. Decorative contacts require a prescription even though they don't correct vision.

3. Other types of contact lenses

  • Contacts for presbyopia: Presbyopia contacts are designed to correct the normal vision problems of people after age 40. It corrects bifocal, multi-focal and monovision correction, where one eye wears a near vision lens and the other eye wears a distance vision lens.
  • Scleral contact lenses: These gas permeable (GP) lenses stretch over the cornea and rest on the sclera or white part of the eye. Their large size helps correct vision problems caused by an irregularly shaped cornea (like corneal scars, keratoconus or surgery). But others may find they provide better comfort than normal GP lenses
  • Bandage lenses: These contacts do not require a prescription. Instead, they cover the surface of your cornea for comfort after an injury or surgery.

What is Eye Infection?

What is Eye Infection?

Contact lens-related infections of the eye can be extremely uncomfortable and, depending on the cause and severity of the infection, can lead to vision loss and possibly even blindness if left untreated. Serious eye infections can cause corneal scarring, which can ultimately require a corneal transplant to restore vision.

Causes of Contact lens-related Eye Infection

  • Sleeping in contact lenses
  • Wearing contact lenses for extended periods of time
  • Environmental irritants
  • Reduction of tear exchange while wearing contact lenses (especially soft lenses in  
  • which metabolic by-products and tear film debris is increased)
  • Improper maintenance of contact lenses or lens case
  • Reuse and/or topping off contact solution

Symptoms of a Contact Lens-related Eye Infection

  • Blurry vision
  • Redness, pain, or swelling of the eye
  • Eye tearing or discharge
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Burning or itching of the eye
  • Sensation of foreign object in the eye

If you experience any of these symptoms of an eye infection, you should contact your ophthalmologist. Treating an eye infection timely will help you feel better but could actually save eyesight.

1. Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis is a common condition that causes dilation of the conjunctival blood vessels and results in inflammation. Both viral and bacterial conjunctivitis present with a red eye and are highly contagious.

  • Viral conjunctivitis: The most prevalent cause of infectious conjunctivitis is viral conjunctivitis. Adults are more likely than children to acquire this virus. Adenovirus is responsible for 65-90% of cases. Herpes simplex or zoster virus is occasionally to blame.
  • Bacterial conjunctivitis: Although a less prevalent cause of conjunctivitis, bacterial conjunctivitis is more common in youngsters. Haemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Staphylococcus aureus are the most prevalent bacteria. Antibiotics may help decrease the duration of the illness, reduce complications, and prevent the infection from spreading to others. Antibiotics may be required in the following situations:
    • Combined with discharge (pus)  
    • When conjunctivitis arises in patients with weakened immune systems  
    • When the presence of certain germs is suspected
  • Allergic Conjunctivitis: This condition is caused by an allergen (such as pollen or animal danger) and normally resolves on its own.
  • Gonococcal conjunctivitis: Conjunctivitis caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae is rare, but it should be evaluated in newborns and sexually active young adults. Antibiotic therapy is advised, and ceftriaxone is the medication of choice.
  • Chlamydial conjunctivitis: Chlamydial conjunctivitis refers to adult inclusion conjunctivitis. It is a sexually transmitted illness that mostly affects sexually active young individuals. The illness is often transferred by hand-to-eye contact with infected vaginal fluids.

2. Keratitis

Corneal infections, an infection of the transparent dome in front of the eye that covers the pupil and iris, are the most common contact lens-related eye infections. They are also known as corneal ulcers.

  • Bacterial keratitis: Bacterial keratitis is an infection of the corneal layer caused by Pseudomonas Aeruginosa or Staphylococcus Aureus. It is caused using contact lenses for an extended period of time, topical steroid use, ocular injury or trauma, contaminated contact lens solution, and corneal disease.  
  • Fungal Keratitis: Fungal keratitis is a corneal infection caused by a fungus, such as Candida, Aspergillus, or Fusarium, in the eye. Fusaria can be found in water, soil, or plants. Fungal keratitis can occur as a result of an eye injury caused by plant material such as thorns, stickers, or branches. Fungal keratitis, like bacterial keratitis, should be treated as soon as possible to avoid eye and vision loss.
  • Viral/Herpes Keratitis: Herpes simplex virus (HSV) causes viral or herpes keratitis, which is a corneal infection. By touching an infected area and then inserting contact lenses or touching the eye, HSV can be transmitted to the eye.
  • Acanthamoeba/Parasitic Keratitis: Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK) is a rare and potentially fatal corneal infection caused by a microscopic ameba.
    • The Causes of AK
    • To disinfect or clean contact lenses, use tap water or a prepared solution.
    • Improper contact lens handling and storage
    • Contact with a contaminated source of water
    • Showering, swimming, or taking a hot tub while wearing contact lenses

3. Endophthalmitis

It manifests as an inflammation of the eye's inner coatings caused by intraocular colonization of infectious organisms with exudation within intraocular fluids. Endophthalmitis caused by systemic infection has been linked to intravenous drug usage.

Preventing Contact Lens-related Eye Infection

  • Keeping Contact Lens-Related Eye Infections at Bay
  • Use only prescription contact lenses.
  • Keep your eyes healthy by getting an annual ophthalmology exam.
  • Wearing contact lenses while participating in water-related activities is not recommended.
  • To disinfect your lenses, only use acontact lens solution.  
  • After each usage, properly clean the storage case and allow it to air dry.
  • Wearing contact lenses while sleeping is not recommended unless specifically prescribed.
  • Always keep eyeglasses on hand in case your contact lenses become uncomfortable.
  • Only use daily disposable contacts once.
  • Keep your eyes healthy by getting an annual ophthalmology exam.


Contact lenses are generally safe as long as they are used correctly, and preventative measures are taken. Conjunctivitis is the most common eye infection, but it rarely causes visual problems. Corneal infection (keratitis) and endophthalmitis are less prevalent but can be fatal. If you have any of these signs of an eye infection, you should see your ophthalmologist. Treating an eye infection promptly will not only make you feel better, but it may also save your sight. 


Dr. Pulyk Nataliya Omelanivna

Dr. Pulyk Nataliya Omelanivna is an Internal Medical Expert who is based out of Ukraine. With a special interest in internal medicine Dr Pulyk graduated from the Ternopil National Medical Academy in Ukraine, in the year 2001. Between the years 2002-2009, Dr Pulyk worked as an emergency physician. Her years of work as an emergency physician gave her immense exposure to a range of patients and an opportunity to learn on the job, and gather extensive experience.

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  1. Watson S, et al. Common eye infections. Australian prescriber. 2018 Jun;41(3):67.
  2. Satpathy G, et al. Chlamydial eye infections: Current perspectives. Indian journal of ophthalmology. 2017 Feb;65(2):97. 

Our team of experts frequently monitors developments in the health and wellness field, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.

Current Version

Dec, 01 2023

Written By

Dr. Pulyk Nataliya Omelanivna

Fact checked By

Dr. Pakanich Maria Petrivna