What Is Corneal Hypoxia?


Many people find that contact lenses provide clearer vision and are much more practical for an active lifestyle than glasses. Unfortunately, there can be complications for individuals who wear contact lenses often or for long periods of time. Corneal hypoxia is the most common complication, although only 6% of contact lens wearers experience this. Here is what you need to know about this condition.


Corneal hypoxia is caused by a lack of oxygen to the cornea. This lack of oxygen sometimes results from frequent contact lens wear, especially in those who use extended wear lenses or those who frequently sleep in their contacts.

Effects on the Cornea

This lack of oxygen can alter the thickness or curvature of the cornea, epithelial oxygen uptake changes, cell density, and more. Corneal hypoxia can cause mild problems such as eye redness or hazy vision. More serious problems like microbial keratitis can occur as well. Microbial keratitis can cause permanent vision loss from scars on the cornea.


Most people with mild corneal hypoxia can simply stop wearing contact lenses for a time specified by an optometrist. This allows swelling to be resolved, and then normal contact wear can resume. Other patients may require steroids to reduce swelling or need antibiotics. Most patients can continue wearing contact lenses, but they should be careful to follow the doctor’s instruction to avoid future problems.

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