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Facebook Contact Lenses Blindness Story: Myth

  By posted Oct 19th 2011
Healthy Living
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*Image courtesy: © Thinkstock photos/ Getty Images

Recently, an alarming message about how a 21 year old boy lost his eyesight, because of contact lenses, did the rounds on Facebook. Apparently he stared at the burning coals for a couple of minutes, then started shrieking in pain. Once admitted to the hospital, a ‘doctor’ declared that he had been blinded by his contact lenses, which melted from the heat. Bottom-line? Don’t wear contact lenses, they could blind you. Those of you who’ve been wearing lenses for a while know better, but today we bring you the origin of this myth and why it is nothing more than a myth – especially for the novice contact lenses wearers amongst our readers.

Apart from being a grammatical nightmare, this Facebook message has accountability issues. It isn’t even original to Facebook. With the switching over from chain mails and myth-loving mails to social networks, such messages are causing exponentially greater harm today. Irresponsible people post such messages on their walls and therein begins ill-informed debate that always ends with ‘but what if there is a 1% chance that this sort of freak accident happens to you?’

Well, here’s why it can’t: 

According to Dr. Kamal B Kapur, Medical Director, Sharp Sight Medfort group of hospitals, “This is a myth and is practically impossible. Before something like this happens his face would have burnt. Modern sight correcting Contact lenses are made from methacrylate (water containing ACRYLIC) and contain significant percentage of water and further these lenses are always bathed in the tear film of the eyes (again water). Hence before burning of the contact lens ...the face skin, eyelids and eyelashes would have to be scalded first ...logically.”

Before even chain mails, this message’s prototype was doing the rounds as a memo tacked onto office walls, chemical plants and factories. Snopes traced it back all the way to 1967, when, it turns out there was actually an incident that triggered this myth. 

This incident goes back to ‘a Bethlehem steel welder in Baltimore who, on 26th July 1967, accidentally caused an arc flash that hit his hard contact lens. He waited until the next day to report eyesight problems, and an ophthalmologist found severe ulcerations on his cornea, but attributed the damage to the wearing of the hard lenses for 17-18 hours after the incident. The cornea healed completely in a few days, with no permanent vision loss, and investigators found no link between the damage and the arc flash, but the myth of the welder removing parts of the cornea with the lens, and consequently being permanently blinded, continues.’ (via sci.chem FAQ and snopes)

Most of you over 30 will remember other group emails about contact lenses blinding chem lab workers, sun lamp buying ladies, and many other unsuspecting victims who are always heard of, but never seen. Next time you come across another health, or rather, disaster myth on Facebook or Twitter or whatever’s coming next, do yourself and your friends a favour – delete it and move on.

 

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