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Contact Lenses: Safety, Impact & Solutions

Contact lenses, for many, provide a degree of freedom from glasses. For a variety of activities such as exercise, photography, baking and beyond, sometimes glasses do not provide the level of visual acuity needed – in these instances, people will typically seek out contact lenses as an alternative.

The Risks of Wearing Contact Lenses

As with any medical device, contact lenses are generally safe when used properly, however they do come with potential risks:

Eye infections: Improper cleaning and disinfection of contact lenses, as well as wearing them for too long, can increase the risk of eye infections such as conjunctivitis, keratitis, and corneal ulcers. Infection risks are greater with extended or overnight wear lenses than daily wear lenses.

Both forms of contact lens carry a higher risk of infection than LASIK eye surgery. It is essential that contact lens wearers maintain the highest standards of hand sanitisation, while swimming in contact lenses must be avoided.

Corneal abrasions: Contact lenses can sometimes cause tiny scratches on the surface of the eye, known as corneal abrasions, especially if they are not fitted properly or if foreign particles get trapped underneath the lens.

Dry eyes: Contact lenses can exacerbate dry eye symptoms in some individuals, particularly if they are worn for extended periods or in environments with low humidity.

Corneal neovascularization: Prolonged contact lens wear can lead to the growth of new blood vessels in the cornea, which can compromise its clarity and function.

Giant papillary conjunctivitis (GPC): Some people may develop an allergic reaction to the presence of the contact lens, leading to inflammation of the inner surface of the eyelid.

Contact lens intolerance: Some individuals may simply find contact lenses uncomfortable to wear, experiencing symptoms such as itching, redness, and discomfort.

The Environmental Impact of Contact Lenses

In addition to the aforementioned risks, contact lenses can contribute to environmental pollution if not disposed of properly. The environmental impact of contact lenses primarily arises from:

Disposal: Many users dispose of their contact lenses by flushing them down the toilet or washing them down the sink, which can result in the lenses entering wastewater systems and ultimately ending up in bodies of water. Since contact lenses are made of plastic materials that do not biodegrade quickly, they can persist in the environment for a long time.

Microplastic pollution: Contact lenses, like many plastic products, can break down into smaller particles over time, known as microplastics. These microplastics can accumulate in aquatic environments, posing risks to vital marine life and ecosystems.

Packaging: The packaging of contact lenses, including blister packs and plastic containers, also contributes to plastic waste when disposed of improperly.

Cleaning solutions: The chemicals used in contact lens cleaning and disinfection solutions can also have an environmental impact if not disposed of correctly.

The Solution to Contact Lenses


To mitigate the environmental impact of contact lenses, users can take the following steps:

Proper disposal: Instead of flushing contact lenses down the toilet or washing them down the sink, users should dispose of them in the trash. Some manufacturers also offer recycling programs for contact lenses and their packaging.

 At Optical Express you can recycle your contact lenses and their packaging in any of our clinics.

Education and awareness: Increasing awareness amongst contact lens wearers about the environmental impact of improper disposal and encouraging responsible disposal practices can help reduce pollution.


To avoid the risks of contact lenses:

LASIK surgery: This modern day correction procedure offers a fantastic alternative to contact lenses. It not only achieves a level of precision in correcting your eye prescription that is 25 times more accurate than contact lenses, it also significantly decreases your risk of infection. Compared to daily wear lenses, LASIK reduces this risk by fourfold per year, and by twentyfold for those who wear extended or overnight lenses. Additionally, LASIK contributes to environmental sustainability by minimising the negative impact that contact lenses can have on the environment.