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Corneal Damage From Contact Lenses & Solutions
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I have been diagnosed with Celiacs, gluten-free and Soy Free (I have an intolerance) for a little over 6 months.

Just got back from the eye doctor for a visit that surprised me. Though there are some other threads on this forum dedicated to topics like contact solutions, etc, I wanted to start another dedicated solely to the topic of contact lens issues (intolerance, etc).

I thought that I had scratched my cornea in my right eye (hiking or via a collision with a friend's pooch), but it turns out that my contact lenses have been suffocating my eyes for some time now. My corneas have literally been starved for air and moisture and the contact solution I was using (Opti Free Express - recommended for a Toric Lens wearer like myself) is contributing severe irritation. I have an astigmatism and wear special toric lenses as a result. My doctor says that in order to survive, my cornea is growing blood vessels. There are pock marks around and on the cornea. This causes hyper-sensitivity to light, air, etc. Thankfully, we caught it.

I have been ordered to stop using contacts until I get the all-clear - could be weeks, could be months. I am also advised to switch to a hydrogen peroxide-based lens solution once I go back to contacts to avoid all of the chemicals in other solutions. Right now, I'm in a lot of pain and discomfort, am sensitive to light, and not looking forward to a summer filled with hiking, swimming, etc. while wearing glasses. But such is life! And it could be worse!

Has anyone had similar issues? I didn't consider possible issues with contact lens solution, so I'm interested to hear if others have had similar diagnoses like corneal damage.

Notably, my doctor told me to be patient, to which I replied 'I have honed that skill via my dealing with Celiacs'. He seemed surprised to hear that I was a Celiac. I did ask him directly whether or not there might be chemicals in contact solution derived from verboten grains or soy, but he wasn't sure. He did say that it would be very difficult to comment on any kind of correlation between the issues I was having with my eyes and Celiacs because a) frequency of Celiac patients in an Opth. office and B) lack of self-reporting of Celiacs to Opth.'s would complicate the ability to determine some kind of correlation.

Thanks for your help fellow intolerants! :)

Emily in Philadelphia

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Could you have sjogren's syndrome? It is an autoimmune disease that can affect the eyes, mouth, mucus membranes, and probably other things (there are several people on here with more knowledge than I) that could be causing the dryness? Here is a link: http://www.sjogrens.org/ On a side note I gave up wearing contacts in 1999 due to the constant dryness and redness despite how much I used drops. I decided last year to try them again and did well for about 8 months. The dryness came back with a vengence and I literally want to gouge them out and I only use them 1/2 the time alternating them with my glasses. I went back this year and told the eye doctor about my issues and we are trying different brands to see if a different material helps. I did not have any of the changes like you though. I may look at punctal plugs next if this last brand does not work. Otherwise I'll just keep wearing my glasses. I also don't wear the lens you do as the dr. said my astigmatism isn't severe enough. The reason I wanted occasional use of contacts is because I'm very rough on glasses when I am doing activities.

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Corneal infiltration is pretty common. I haven't been able to sleep in extended wear contacts for years because they don't let quite enough oxygen through. I doubt it has anything to do with celiac.

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Also, I forgot to ask if your contact lens are the daily disposable ones that you use a new pair every day? That is what I have been using for the last year. The brand I am using now are alot more comfortable than the previous. Dr. said they are made out of the same material heart stents are made from. He told me that the material is more compatible with tissues. I like putting in a fresh pair every time I want to wear them.

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I had a similar experience with the toric lenses but no where near as bad. I stopped wearing them years ago but it was literally years before the red circles that marked the edges of the where the lenses were went away. Mine were a hard lense but I don't know if your's were. My DS and DD both use lenses with no real problems. Our doctor wouldn't give them the extended wear that you sleep in, he felt they were dangerous and too prone to problems. One wears the extended wear but removes them at night and the other uses the daily wear ones where you put in a new lense daily. Both have had good luck with those.

Myself I feel 'naked' without glasses as I have gotten so used to seeing them on my face so after my bad experience with contacts have just accepted that they are not for me. I did have dry eyes, mouth etc but doctors always attributed it to the large number of meds I was on. That has improved gluten free but I don't know whether the dryness was caused by the meds or the celiac.

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Could you have sjogren's syndrome? It is an autoimmune disease that can affect the eyes, mouth, mucus membranes, and probably other things (there are several people on here with more knowledge than I) that could be causing the dryness? Here is a link: http://www.sjogrens.org/ On a side note I gave up wearing contacts in 1999 due to the constant dryness and redness despite how much I used drops. I decided last year to try them again and did well for about 8 months. The dryness came back with a vengence and I literally want to gouge them out and I only use them 1/2 the time alternating them with my glasses. I went back this year and told the eye doctor about my issues and we are trying different brands to see if a different material helps. I did not have any of the changes like you though. I may look at punctal plugs next if this last brand does not work. Otherwise I'll just keep wearing my glasses. I also don't wear the lens you do as the dr. said my astigmatism isn't severe enough. The reason I wanted occasional use of contacts is because I'm very rough on glasses when I am doing activities.

I don't think so (re: Sjogren's), as I don't have any of the symptoms and my eyes are not generally dry. I think I'm going to give up contacts, too. Not worth the risk of losing eyesight! Thanks for the response! Sorry to hear that you have such issues with dryness - I hope you are able to find a solution.

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Could you have sjogren's syndrome? It is an autoimmune disease that can affect the eyes, mouth, mucus membranes, and probably other things (there are several people on here with more knowledge than I) that could be causing the dryness? Here is a link: http://www.sjogrens.org/ On a side note I gave up wearing contacts in 1999 due to the constant dryness and redness despite how much I used drops. I decided last year to try them again and did well for about 8 months. The dryness came back with a vengence and I literally want to gouge them out and I only use them 1/2 the time alternating them with my glasses. I went back this year and told the eye doctor about my issues and we are trying different brands to see if a different material helps. I did not have any of the changes like you though. I may look at punctal plugs next if this last brand does not work. Otherwise I'll just keep wearing my glasses. I also don't wear the lens you do as the dr. said my astigmatism isn't severe enough. The reason I wanted occasional use of contacts is because I'm very rough on glasses when I am doing activities.

Roda...do you have Sjogren's yourself? It sounds like you do. I have never been a contact lens wearer as I just couldn't stand them. Maybe I had developed Sjogren's earlier than I thought but I wear glasses for driving and don't have to wear them all the time. It's the small print glasses for reading that are worn more than anything else. If you have dry eye, wearing contacts is a bad idea. I can't understand why people wear them as they can damage your eye badly. Having Lasix eye surgery is a bad idea if you have dry eye also. It will dry them out even more and it will become extremely problematic as you age, believe me!

Try asking for a Rx for Restasis eye drops. They work wonders for dry eye. I finally broke down and tried them when I was diagnosed with Sjogren's officially (I already knew I had it before the doctor did) and my eyes have improved dramatically. Yes, I have to use it for the rest of my life but that's a tiny price to pay for eye relief. My eyes were so dry, I could have lost my vision eventually if I didn't take aggressive action to make things better. I would advise trying that over punctal plugs. I told the eye doctor no way were they going to do that to me but fortunately, my lower eye lids turn slightly inwards so the plugs would have irritated my eye anyway. You can only have them if your tear duct opening doesn't come into contact with your eyeball.

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Roda...do you have Sjogren's yourself? It sounds like you do. I have never been a contact lens wearer as I just couldn't stand them. Maybe I had developed Sjogren's earlier than I thought but I wear glasses for driving and don't have to wear them all the time. It's the small print glasses for reading that are worn more than anything else. If you have dry eye, wearing contacts is a bad idea. I can't understand why people wear them as they can damage your eye badly. Having Lasix eye surgery is a bad idea if you have dry eye also. It will dry them out even more and it will become extremely problematic as you age, believe me!

Try asking for a Rx for Restasis eye drops. They work wonders for dry eye. I finally broke down and tried them when I was diagnosed with Sjogren's officially (I already knew I had it before the doctor did) and my eyes have improved dramatically. Yes, I have to use it for the rest of my life but that's a tiny price to pay for eye relief. My eyes were so dry, I could have lost my vision eventually if I didn't take aggressive action to make things better. I would advise trying that over punctal plugs. I told the eye doctor no way were they going to do that to me but fortunately, my lower eye lids turn slightly inwards so the plugs would have irritated my eye anyway. You can only have them if your tear duct opening doesn't come into contact with your eyeball.

To my knowldege no. It came up in casual conversation while at my eye appointment, but the eye doctor didn't elabroate any more on it. He just mentioned that I just might have to give up on the notion of wearing contacts. I have no redness or damage to the eye from the contacts. I remember when I was 14 when I first got contacts, the doctor did tell me I was not a canidate for extended wear contacts. I have no idea why, since no other reason was given. I was alright with that because the thought of leaving them in for weeks grosses me out anyway. After reading a little on sjorgens the only other symptome I can relate to is possible reynauds syndrome. I've thought I might have had this years ago. My hands a feet can get so cold and become discolored. It can take forever for them to warm up. People will look at me like I have something wrong with my hands. I've just always joked saying I must have bad circulation.

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I had to see a corneal expert last summer due to constant corneal tears that happened at night during my sleep (recurrent corneal erosions). He feels my problems are probably celiac related. He said celiac sets off lots of other autoimmune problems.

He said I have an inflammatory issue with my eyes it could be sojourns or rosacia of the eyes. He said it didn't matter which it was as it was still an inflammation issue. I am on a ton of meds to control the inflammation, which is working.

I have never been able to wear contacts for any length of time. I occasionally wear them for special occasions.

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Corneal infiltration is pretty common. I haven't been able to sleep in extended wear contacts for years because they don't let quite enough oxygen through. I doubt it has anything to do with celiac.

Agreed. I have had giant cell conjunctivitis and now have dry eye syndrome and have to use Systane drops or Genteel Gel. I had to stop wearing lenses years ago. I doubt it has anything to do with celiac. Too many non celiacs out there with the same problem. My husband, for one. It's a very common problem. My husband got Lasik because he had trouble with the extended wear lenses and the others were too much hassle.

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What type of lens do you use? I wear gas permeable rigid ones. I would "never" wear extended lens and sleep with them. It is no effort at all to remove them before sleep. I have been wearing contact lens for 40 years now. The originals were not gas permeable but rigid. I tried soft lens about 30 years ago and did not get on well with them. Have had gas permeables ever since. I live in a very dry climate and have some astigmatism. I get regular health checks every 2 years with a Specialist and yearly checks with an optician. I have a huge prescription strength so that normal glasses ( even micro lens ) do not work and I get curvature problems with the glasses. Eventually after cataract surgery I may then not need contact lens but they have been a miracle for me.

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