Origin and composition of lipid deposits on soft contact lenses

Ophthalmology. 1986 Apr;93(4):495-503. doi: 10.1016/s0161-6420(86)33709-6.


"Jelly bump" deposits, common to high-water-content hydrogel extended-wear contact lenses, were shown to be composed primarily of lipids, with calcium an optional minor component. Extraction, separation, and analysis of deposited versus nondeposited regions of the same lenses reveals that lipids were restricted to the deposited regions of the lens, with a composition of long and intermediate chain cholesterol esters (possibly waxy esters) and triglycerides. This composition is independent of deposit size or individual depositor. Except for an elevated triglyceride level, the composition mirrors that of the tear lipid layer. Analysis of tear films of heavy and nondepositors, combined with clinical evidence, reveals that many depositors have a relatively decreased tear flow with some exhibiting an elevated tear-lipid fraction. A mechanism of deposition is proposed to require the local depletion of the aqueous tear layer stranding lipid on the lens surface, thereby creating a hydrophobic region suitable for further deposition. Deposition does not mechanistically involve tear film proteins, calcium, or microorganisms although they can, at times, be associated with the lipid deposit.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Chromatography, Thin Layer
  • Contact Lenses, Hydrophilic*
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism*
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Sulfur / metabolism
  • Triglycerides / metabolism


  • Triglycerides
  • Sulfur
  • Calcium