Contact Lenses and Oxygen – A Winning Eye-Health Combination
Posted Aug 07 2012 8:30am
Oxygen is very important for eye health, one expert has underlined, indicating that people should ensure their eyes get plenty of air, even if they wear contact lenses.
Sports Vision Specialist
Gavin Rebello, sports vision specialist, said that this is particularly true when it comes to people who play sports, “certainly if you are getting up to competitive, league level”. He explained: “The front of the eyes get their oxygen from the atmosphere, it doesn’t get it from the heart blood supply.”
Mr Rebello elaborated that the minute you put a contact lens on the eye, it cuts the amount of oxygen reaching the front of the organ. “Therefore, your practitioner needs to know what sport you are doing and they can fit you lenses that allow most oxygen to get through,” he said.
Over-wearing contact lenses
There are available to cater to different individual’s needs, but one common problem when it comes to getting oxygen to the eye is over-wearing contact lenses.
Wearing contact lenses longer than advised, whether this means too many hours in the day, keeping them in at night or going too many weeks with the same set of lenses can all hinder the oxygen flow to the eyes.
If you don’t notice that there is anything wrong, you may be carrying out such practices, thinking they are harmless when in fact you are compromising the amount of oxygen your eyes receive, and this will occur no matter how well the contact lenses breathe and fit. This occurs because the contact lens covers the cornea – the clear, outer window of the eye.
The cornea has no blood supply and therefore gains nutrients from the oxygen in the atmosphere. If it does not get it from the air, it will try to get it from elsewhere, and blood vessels may start growing towards it. This can lead to swelling of the cornea, breakdown on the corneal surface or infection of the cornea.
If a cornea doesn’t get enough oxygen for a prolonged period it can slowly develop neovascularization. This is a painless slow growth of new blood vessels into the cornea. This is undesirable and permanent. Neovascularization cannot be allowed to develop far enough into the cornea or it would cause permanent vision problems. Fortunately this happens slowly enough that it can be diagnosed in the yearly eye exams necessary for all contact lens wearers.
The other main risk of oxygen shortage is an increased risk of corneal ulcers. People who sleep in their contacts lenses are at an increased risk of this particular problem. A corneal ulcer is a very painful condition where the eye gets red and very light sensitive. Corneal ulcers must be treated rapidly to prevent permanent vision loss. Increasing the oxygen to the eye helps decrease the chance of both these problems.
Better vision for sports
While there is a small risk of complications from contact lenses, it is important to remember there are a wide range of benefits to athletes who wear them. Contact lenses provide stable, sharp vision all athletes need when out on the field, tennis court, pitch, etc. — minus the fogging, extra sweating and constant jostling that continually plague glasses wearers. And as any sports enthusiast knows, contact lenses provide unobstructed peripheral vision, resulting in optimal sports performance.
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