Did you know over 30 million people rely on contact lenses to correct their vision temporarily? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two-thirds of contact lens wearers are female, and 50% of both male and female wearers are between the ages of 25 and 44.
The same source cites that between 40%-90% of contact lens users do not properly follow care instructions, which has been linked to outbreaks of serious eye infections.
Ways to Care for Your Contact Lenses
A person’s risk of infection varies depending on the type of contact lens. Single-use lenses are the safest types of soft contact lens to reduce any risk of infection. On the other hand, rigid gas permeable lenses are a much safer alternative than any soft contact lens. Consulting a professional eye doctor is crucial to determine which type of lens is right for your eyes.
No matter which type of lenses you use, proper care of the lenses is essential to eye health. The superior way to avoid eye infections is to follow appropriate lens care guidelines, including the following:
- Wash your hands rigorously with soap and water, then rinse and dry them with a lint-free towel. This prevents bacteria and foreign objects from adhering to your contact lenses when handling.
- When cleaning your contact lenses, gently rub them with your fingers, then rinse the lenses with sterile solution before soaking them. This act termed “rub and rinse” is acknowledged by some experts as the superior method of cleaning, even when the solution you are using is a “no-rub” type.
Contact lenses should never be rinsed with or stored in tap water.
Do not use saliva to wet your contact lenses. Saliva is not a sterile solution.
Remove your contact lenses before immersing yourself in water, especially when swimming in chlorine-induced pools and saltwater beaches.
- Clean the contact lens case with fresh solution, not water. Then, leave the case open to air dry.
- Never use saline solutions and medication drops to disinfect lenses because neither is an efficient or approved disinfectant.
- Always clean and replace your contact lens case or carrier at least every three months. Lens cases can be a significant origin of contamination and infection.
- Refrain from using damaged lens cases since they are easier for bacteria to invade.
- Follow the contact lens cleaning and storage guidelines from your eye doctor and the solution manufacturer.
It is also of utmost importance to handle your contact lens solution with care. Proper guidelines include:
- Most contact lens solutions come in bigger bottles, but that does not suggest transferring the liquid into smaller travel-size containers. This can impact the sterility of the solution, which may lead to an eye infection.
- Prevent the tip of the solution bottle to come in close contact with any surface or object.
- Ensure the bottle is tightly closed when not in use.
- Dispose of any old and unused solutions.
Also, if you leave your contact lenses in the case for an extended period, consult the instructions for the lenses and the contact lens solution to identify if re-disinfecting the lenses is suitable before you wear them. In no case should you wear your contact lenses after storage for 30 or more days without disinfecting them again.
If you only wear contact lenses on an occasional basis, some experts suggest wearing single-use daily disposable lenses instead.
Ways to Care for Your Eyes
Eye infections can result in ocular damage or vision loss in some cases. With that said, taking care of your eyes is just as necessary as practicing proper lens care.
- In the event of symptoms — including redness, itchy sensation, pain, tearing, blurry vision, discharge, increased light sensitivity, or swelling — remove the contact lenses and consult an ophthalmologist immediately.
- Never sleep while wearing your contacts. Most contact lenses are only designed for daytime use. Though lenses for nighttime wear do exist, not all eyes can adapt to them.
- Stop smoking cigarettes or tobacco. Several studies show that contact lens wearers who smoke have a much higher rate of developing eye problems than nonsmokers.
- Do not share contact lenses. Microorganisms that can cause severe eye infections can be passed along when you share contacts.
- Be cautious of using decorative contact lenses, such as those often sold at costume shops for Halloween. Most of these lenses are generally unsafe and have the potential to damage the eyes permanently.
- Get regular dilated eye exams. Whether you wear contact lenses or not, it is crucial to have a professional eye care provider examine your vision annually, or more often as needed.
Contact lens prescriptions expire within a year. To avoid any infection or permanent damage, make it a stern habit visit your ophthalmologist every year. Regular eye exams ensure accurate and appropriate prescription, all while presenting important opportunities for reinforcing proper lens and eye health care.
Understand that Eyeglasses May Be a Better Option (For Now)
Your doctor can help you decide which combination of features is right for you and your eyes. In addition to your personal preferences, your doctor will assess your eye structure, tears, and visual acuity to determine which pair of lenses will be comfortable for your eyes’ condition. Once in a while, an eye care practitioner may feel that first-time contact lens wearers are not ready, or that contacts may not be right for a patient’s particular lifestyle. However, even if contact lenses are not the best option for now, they might still be in the future.
Is LASIK a Better Option?
For patients with more serious ocular conditions, LASIK eye surgery may be a better and more permanent solution to damaged or blurred vision. While LASIK may seem like an expensive procedure, it is an investment that will require much fewer expenses throughout the course of your life.
Our trained specialists can help determine what is best for your eyes. Schedule your next eye checkup now, so you can identify your vision needs and determine what to do about them. To book an appointment with Arizona Retinal Specialists, contact us by calling 623-474-3937 (EYES). We provide complete and thorough individualized care, all while examining how a specific disease of the eye is associated with other potential disease processes taking place within the body.