Doctor, I Have a Question
Question Answered by:
Jillia E. Bird, OD/MS
President of the World Glaucoma Patient Association
and member of TGF’s Medical Advisory Board
Can people diagnosed with glaucoma wear contact lenses? What are the issues?
Many glaucoma patients can wear contact lenses successfully. The key is to discuss with your eye doctor any possible complications or any interactions your glaucoma treatment may have with the lenses, and to stick to all care regimens and wearing schedules prescribed to avoid such complications. Here are some of the possible issues:
Before you start using prescription contact lenses, it’s important to find out if the medication contained in your eye drops can possibly interact with the contact lenses. The most common interaction is that the preservative in some glaucoma eye drops can be absorbed into certain types of lenses, leading to intolerance of contact lenses. Some medications may cause decreased sensitivity of the cornea over time creating a greater risk of accidental injury and infection from wearing lenses. Also, some glaucoma drugs can increase the symptoms generally known as "dry eyes”, and healthy tear films and well-lubricated eyes are necessary for safe, comfortable contact lens wear.
While most individuals with glaucoma can wear contact lenses without difficultly, problems can arise following some glaucoma filtering surgeries, such as a trabeculectomy. In this procedure, a blister or “bleb” is created on the surface of the eye underneath the upper eyelid to assist in fluid drainage. A bleb has a raised, irregular surface that may cause fitting problems and frequent dislodging of some lenses and special care will be needed to avoid infection of the bleb. Contact lens users should discuss these problems with their eye doctor.
There is one definite “no-no.” No one should wear non-prescription costume decorative lenses. These illegally sold cosmetic lenses, sold on a ‘one-size fits all basis’, may not be sterile and can cause a host of very serious eye problems capable of morphing a party night into a nightmare. In fact the FDA has classified all contact lenses as medical devices and restricted their distribution to licensed eye care professionals.
There is some encouraging news about contact lenses for glaucoma patients as well. To improve the treatment of glaucoma, researchers are working to develop alternative, more effective methods of drug delivery utilizing contact lenses. Contact lenses that deliver glaucoma medication over long periods are getting closer to reality. New technology is using nanodiamonds and polymer films combined with glaucoma drugs to improve the timed release of the drugs. The next issue will provide an update on some of these "new" contact lenses.
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to The Glaucoma Foundation today.
From left: Chris Hart, Dr. Catherine Hart, Honoree Dr. Bruce Spivey, Honoree Dr. Bruce Shields, TGF Founder and Medical Director Dr. Robert Ritch
Benefit Ball a Bash
January is Glaucoma Awareness Month
The fact that glaucoma remains the leading cause of preventable blindness makes observances such as Glaucoma Awareness Month as important as ever. There are other glaucoma facts that need restating as well.
In the vibrant setting of New York’s Time Square, some 250 friends of The Glaucoma Foundation gathered on December 3rd for TGF’s 28th Annual Ball, the Foundation’s primary annual fundraising event. The 2014 showcase raised $300,000 in support on Foundation initiatives. Income generated from the Ball supports cutting edge research that will lead to a cure for glaucoma, with a focus on exfoliation syndrome. Proceeds also sustain Foundation efforts to educate the public about the disease and the need to detect the disease in its earliest stages.
Two individuals who have distinguished themselves as luminaries in the ophthalmic community were honored at the Ball. Bruce E. Spivey, MD, MS, MEd, received The Glaucoma Foundation’s Kitty Carlisle Hart Award of Merit for Lifetime Achievement. Dr. Spivey served as a departmental chairman for 16 years, a hospital CEO for 16 years, the CEO of a national specialty society for his specialty for 17 years and the CEO of multi-hospital systems for over 14 years. From 1976 to 1992, he was Founding Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. He is also the Immediate Past President of the International Council of Ophthalmology, which he headed for eight years.
Also honored at The Glaucoma’s Foundation 2014 Ball was M. Bruce Shields, MD, who was presented with the 2014 Robert Ritch Award for Excellence and Innovation in Glaucoma for his dedicated and exemplary career and contributions as a renowned glaucoma specialist.
Glaucoma affects people of all ages and all races. By the time the patient notices visual loss, damage is advanced. And to date, once vision is lost to glaucoma, it cannot be restored.
Yet, most blindness from glaucoma could have been prevented if detected and treated in time. How can you spread the word that early detection and treatment are crucial? Have your family members and friends ask these questions. Answering ‘yes’ puts them at higher risk for glaucoma.
As the New Year approaches, we hope that everyone’s resolutions will include making eye health a priority and scheduling a comprehensive eye exam soon.
- Did parents, grandparents or great-grandparents lose their sight? What was the cause of their vision loss? Glaucoma occurs at least twice as frequently among people who have blood relatives with glaucoma.
- Do I have diabetes?
- Am I of African-American or of Afro-Caribbean descent? (if so, you are more likely to get glaucoma at a younger age.)
- Am I of Asian descent? People of Asian descent have an increased risk of developing acute angle-closure glaucoma. People of Japanese descent may be more likely to have normal-tension glaucoma.
- Am I 40 years of age or older?
- Have I had an eye injury or eye surgery, even as a child?
- Am I very nearsighted?
- Have I taken steroids on a long-term basis?
Get Involved with TGF
TGF's research and education programs and donate today.
a TGF glaucoma support group online to learn how other patients manage their disease.
with other glaucoma patients on TGF's Facebook page.
TGF on Twitter and start the #glaucoma discussion.
your personal glaucoma story with us.