Contact Lenses May Be Changing The Bacteria In Your Eyes

By: Agata Blaszczak-Boxe
Published: May 31, 2015 01:44pm ET on LiveScience.

Wearing contact lenses may change the community of bacteria living in your eyes, according to a small new study.

In the study, the surface of the eye in the people who wore contact lenses had triple the proportion of certain bacteria species, on average, compared with the people in the study who did not wear the lenses, researchers found.

Moreover, the researchers found differences in the composition of the bacterial community on the surface of people’s eyes. In the people who wore contact lenses, this composition more closely resembled the bacteria on the individuals’ eyelids, as compared to the nonwearers. The study included nine people who wore contacts and 11 who did not.

“Our research clearly shows that putting a foreign object, such as a contact lens, on the eye is not a neutral act,” study author Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello, a microbiologist at NYU Langone Medical Center, said in a statement.

More research is needed to examine whether these changes in eye bacteria come from fingers touching the eye, or whether the pressure of a contact lens somehow alters the immune system in the eye, she said. [5 Experts Answer: What's the Best Way to Preserve My Eyesight?]

The findings may shed some light on “the long-standing problem of why contact-lens wearers are more prone to eye infections than non-lens wearers,” Dominguez-Bello said.

Since the introduction of soft contact lenses in the 1970s, there has been an increase in the prevalence of corneal ulcers, which are sores on the transparent covering of the eye, study co-author Dr. Jack Dodick, a professor and chair of ophthalmology at NYU Langone, said in a statement.

One type of bacteria that may cause corneal ulcers, called Pseudomonas, was more abundant in the eyes of people —> Read More