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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Can I still wear contact lenses if I have glaucoma?

    Related Topic
    I suspect that I may have glaucoma but am worried that I can no longer wear contact lenses. I play many sports where I am unable to wear glasses. Can I continue to wear contact lenses if I have glaucoma?
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    Glaucoma Australia is the peak glaucoma awareness/education/support association in Australia.It is a national, not-for-profit registered charity dedicated to providing educational services to raise awareness about … View Profile

    In short, yes, but this will depend on the treatment you are receiving and the type of lenses used. If your glaucoma is managed with a single night time drop, then this can be instilled after lenses are removed without issue. Similarly, if glaucoma is treated with LASER trabeculoplasty, then contact lens wear will not interfere with this. However, it can become a problem if drops are used in the morning or if dosing is more than once a day. This is because the ingredients of the drop may bind to the contact lens. As a result, the surface of the eye will have prolonged exposure to both the medication and preserving agent in the drop, that in turn can lead to problems with the surface of the eye (such as redness, irritation, burning, watering, conjunctivitis, reduced vision). This is more likely to be a problem with soft compared with hard contact lenses.
     
    The other issue is when glaucoma surgery, typically trabeculectomy, has been performed to treat glaucoma. In this setting, contact lenses may rub against the area where surgery has been performed leading to inflammation, scarring and possibly infection. The later is a potentially blinding complication. Again this may be worse with soft lenses as they have a larger diameter but as a rule long-term contact lens wear should be avoided after this type of glaucoma surgery.

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    Clin A/Prof Andrew White

    Ophthalmologist (Eye Specialist)

    Andrew is Clinical Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney and glaucoma specialist at Westmead Hospital. His area of expertise is the medical and surgical … View Profile

    As with the response from Glaucoma Australia, the majority of patients with glaucoma can still wear contact lenses and eye drops or laser treatment should not interfere with this.

    It used to be that patients requiring surgery to treat glaucoma (commonly called a trabeculectomy) would not be able to wear contact lenses after the surgery. However, ad vances in surgical technique and alternative forms of glaucoma surgery are available that make contact lens wear possible after a time of recovery. If surgery is required, you should discuss these options with your ophthalmologist.

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    Dr Colin Clement

    Ophthalmologist (Eye Specialist)

    The answers from Glaucoma Australia and Dr White are absolutely correct. I would like to re-emphasize the point raised by Dr White that many more options are now available if surgical management of glaucoma is required including several solutions that are compatible with contact lens wear.

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