Available in various sizes and colors, contact lenses are no longer just a remedy for those with bad eyesight; colored lenses have become fashion items for those aiming for a childlike, doe-eyed look.
Ophthalmologist Heng Chrang of the Prosith Eye Clinic in Phnom Penh said that when worn with proper care, contacts can improve one’s eyesight, or help one look stylish, but cautioned that a lack of attention to hygiene while wearing lenses can harm the eyes. Some of his patients have developed problems after being misinformed about the proper use of contact lenses, the eye doctor said.
“When you wear contact lenses appropriately, you are being fitted with a medical device,” he said. “This doesn’t mean that contact lenses are harmful to the eyes. But before wearing them, patients require consultation and a prescription from a trained ophthalmologist to ensure that they are well informed about contact lens safety and care.”
Cheap contacts are widely sold without prescription, at prices from $2.50 per pair to $40 per pair. Many people simply pick up a pair from a store and rely on instructions printed on the box, or from vendors.
Oum Chanvatey, 24, picked up a pair of colored, doll-eye lenses at a hair salon to achieve an “adorable” look. She bought the lenses for around $15 per pair and was told she could use them for up to a year.
“Wearing lenses with makeup gives you a cuter, edgier look,” she said. “The vendor gave me a bit of advice on how to wear them, and I got a few tips from my friends. But they were hard to take care of, so I threw them away after one use.”
According to Dr. Chrang, wearing contact lenses for too long, and not taking proper care of them, can lead to inflammation of the eye lens. Most of the lens-related problems he encounters in patients stem from improper use of hard, colored contact lenses, he said.
“Young patients come in crying because their eyes hurt,” he said. “Consultation usually reveals that they have been wearing colored lenses but don’t know how to use them properly,” the doctor said.
“One patient told me the vendor told her to keep her eyes moist with lens solution, but that’s not advisable. You can buy separate eye drops for that. Lens solution should only be used to store the lenses in, within the lens case,” he said.
Wearing contacts shouldn’t be a problem if users are informed about their current eye condition, and about how to take good care of the lenses. It is important that young Cambodians who wish to wear lenses consult with an eye specialist to understand their eye conditions and learn about how to wear and care for lenses. In some cases, people with dry eyes should not wear lenses until the condition is treated by a specialist.
Dr. Heng Chrang obtained a degree in ophthalmology in Shanghai. He offers free eye consultations at Prosith Eye Clinic on Street 128 (Kampuchea Krom Blvd), opposite the Asia-Euro University.
Next week: How to wear and take care of your lenses properly.