Fact Or Fiction: Can Contacts Melt In Your Eye?
By Essilor News
Have you ever heard of contacts melting due to extreme heat close to the eye? True or False?
The rumor, as posted on Facebook in July, 2013, states "A 21 year old girl had worn a pair of contact lenses during a barbecue party. She stared at the fire charcoals continuously for 2-3 minutes, after which she started to scream for help. When she was admitted into the hospital, the doctor said she'll be blind permanently because the heat from the charcoal melted her contact lenses."
First of all, staring into a fire for two to three minutes would not allow the contact lens to reach its melting point unless the person was actually in the fire, at which point they would experience severe life-threatening burns to the body and eyes. Before the contact lenses melt on your eyes, your skin might have burnt.
An article from Mulamoottil Eye Hospital & Research Center in Kerala, India sums up the entire case. Contact lenses are sterilized by autoclaving up to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. In most clinics, a dirty contact lens is cleaned and re-sterilized by placing in boiling water. Considering that a layer of tear fluid covers the contact lens when worn on our eyes, if BBQ heat can melt contact lens, shouldn't our tears boil first, as the boiling point of water is 212 degrees Fahrenheit?
If standing close to normal BBQ heat was enough to melt lenses, then household heaters, stoves, and a variety of other common heat sources would presumably have the same effect. There would have been millions of such incidents, which is clearly not the case. Given that there are at least 125 million contact lens wearers worldwide, it is vastly improbable that such injuries would have somehow escaped the notice of medical authorities and the news media till now.
Also quite obviously, if contact lenses where so apt to cause blindness when exposed to commonly occurring heat sources, then they would have been removed from the market years ago. The FDA has a fact sheet with warnings pertaining to contact lenses, yet the sentiment of the rumor above does not appear on it.There are warnings regarding care and cleaning, plus those involving swimming or exposing the lenses to water - but no warnings regarding heat. Most warnings related to contact lenses appear to be regarding proper care of the lenses, eye irritation, and infection.
At heat levels that can melt contact lenses, the eye will be cooked and our skin will be cooked much before. Welders use contact lenses. BBQ heat or any kitchen heat is not greater than that temperature reached during welding.
Even with welding, the American Welding Society has received reports concerning welders who have claimed to have had contact lenses fused to their eyes, either by the heat of the arc or by microwave radiation. Not one of these reports has been substantiated. As noted in an American Welding Society fact sheet published in 2000, the arc flash rumor has been repeatedly debunked by medical and safety experts.
Something which people disregard is the warning not to wear contact lenses for too long. If you wear them for too long, then the portion between your eyes and the lenses might dry up. Dry eyes without adequate tear moisture could lead to difficulty getting the contact lens out of the eye, making it feel like the contacts were stuck to the eye, but they actually would not be and a drop of artificial tears would be enough lubrication to help with removal of the contact.
Seems the stories of contact lenses melting in the eyes are just that, stories. Enjoy that BBQ!