The conventional wisdom about lipid deposits on contact lenses is that they cause discomfort or, at the very least, reduce comfort. However, researchers at the Centre for Ocular Research & Education at the University of Waterloo’s School of Optometry and Vision Science recently argued that the opposite appears to be true. Their research suggests that lipid deposition may actually be associated with more comfortable lens wear.

The initial purpose of the study was to quantify lipid deposition on contact lenses in those with and without discomfort. The team divided participants into two groups: confirmed symptomatic patients and asymptomatic patients. The symptomatic group included patients whose comfortable lens wear time was less than eight hours and who experienced a noticeable reduction in comfort over the course of the day. The asymptomatic group had a comfortable lens wear time greater than 10 hours a day and only a minimal reduction in comfort over the course of the day. After 14 days, the lens samples were gathered and tested for deposited lipid amounts.

The testing found something rather counterintuitive. Lipid deposition was significantly higher in the lens extracts of asymptomatic wearers compared with the symptomatic wearers for all the types of lipids tested, including cholesterol, cholesteryl ester and triolein.

“Although lipid levels measured are considered low to trigger any observable clinical deposition, they may influence other clinical outcomes, particularly comfort,” the researchers concluded in their paper.

Omali N, Subbaraman L, Heynen M, et al. Lipid deposition on contact lenses in symptomatic and asymptomatic contact lens wearers. Contact Lens & Anterior Eye. May 25, 2020. [Epub ahead of print].