It's well known that wearing contact lenses puts you at greater risk for getting an eye infection. But until recently, scientists didn't know why.
In a study done at NYU Langone Medical Center researchers may have found one possible answer: wearing contacts changes the makeup of microbes, or the microbiome, in the eye.
The study found that contact lens wearers have eye microbiomes that are closer to the variety of bacteria found on the skin under the eyes than what's typically found on the eyes of people who do not wear contacts.
The peculiar collection of bacteria in the eyes of contact lens wearers may be due to their fingers touching the lenses that go into the eyes. Or it could be that the lenses themselves somehow change the immune system in the eye, affecting which bacteria thrive and which fade out.
Either way, the point is that putting a contact lens in your eye is not a neutral act. Instead, it appears to cause significant changes in the eye microbiome--changes that could play a role in raising the risk for eye infections.
The research may also help doctors and contact lens wearers prevent eye infections. Since the infection causing bacteria may come from the skin of the eyelid or hands, better hand and eyelid hygiene could help prevent infections.
"Contact Lens Wearers Note: Your Eyes May Get More Infections Because Their Microbiomes Changed" (EurekAlert)