Contact lenses are great medical devices that help over 30 million people in the world improve their vision. However up to 90% of contact lens wearers do not follow the proper care instructions for their lenses. And that can lead to bad news for your comfort and vision. Here are some tips on good lens care and hygiene. Replacement Schedule: Depending on the brand, soft contact lenses come in monthly, biweekly, or daily replacement schedules. It is important to adhere to the recommended schedule. Extending the life of your lenses can cause excess build up of protein, allergens, pollutants, or mircoorganisms that can irritate your eyes causing dryness and discomfort or worse an eye infection. Daily disposables are trending more these days since they eliminate the build up of debris allowing for better comfort. Daily lenses also result in better compliance for patients who forget when it is time to replace their lenses after several weeks. I recommend daily disposables especially to my younger patients who have very active lives. Contact lens solution and how to clean your lenses: Always wash your hands with soap and water before handling your contacts and eyes. This is how microorganisms contaminate your eyes and lead to irritation or infection. When removing your lenses at the end of the day make sure to rub with multipurpose solution with your fingers for 20 seconds and then rinse them before placing them into the case overnight. Be sure to only use contact solution to clean your lenses. Multipurpose solution is designed to disinfect lenses unlike water, saline, and/or rewetting drops. Never reuse old solution and never top off old solution in your case. It is just as important to clean the case and allow them to air dry during the day. Remember to replace your case every 3 months as it can be another source of microbial contamination. Conveniently, companies usually include a new case in the package of each bottle of solution. There are various types of contact solutions on the market these days. Multipurpose solutions can be used to rinse, clean, condition, and store contacts. Examples of multipurpose solutions are Bausch and Lomb's Biotrue and Alcon's Opti-Free. Also available are products such as Clear Care by Alcon which uses hydrogen peroxide to clean and remove debris from lenses. They require a specialized case and takes 6 hours to neutralize the peroxide into saline. Beware that if you place the solution directly into your eyes it will result in redness and stinging - a painful mistake! However, once the peroxide is neutralized after 6 hours it is perfectly safe to directly place the lenses onto your eyes. Hydrogen peroxide solutions are also preservative-free which is great for patients who experience sensitivity to other products. Do not sleep in your lenses! I always stress to my patients the dangers of sleeping in contact lenses. The cornea is the top layer of the eye on which the contact lens sits on. Wearing contacts normally reduces oxygen transmission to the cornea from the open air. By closing your eyes and sleeping you deprive them of oxygen even further. The cornea can swell thereby causing blurry vision. You are also more likely to get an infection from any bacteria harboring on your lenses and then sitting on your eyes overnight. I tell my patients to remove their lenses earlier in the evening before they get tired to avoid accidently falling asleep in them. Update your contact lens prescription annually Lastly, contact lenses require a prescription. Your eye doctor will exam your eyes to make sure they are in good health as well as check if your glasses and contact lens prescription have changed. Many times corneal issues are detected during routine exams.Visiting your doctor annually and following these simple rules of contact lens care will keep you and your eyes looking sharp!
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.