Do’s and Don’ts if you wear contact lenses

As someone who has been wearing contact lenses for nearly 15 years, I know how important it is to follow good habits and ensure optimal eye health. There are, however, a few things I didn’t know when it comes to taking care of my eyes and lenses. I received a mailer by eyesupply.co.za which was, well, eye-opening, and I thought I would share it here. It contains some valuable advice that all contact lense wearers should take to heart.

Do’s

Keep your hands clean

Our hands are covered with germs that we pick up through the day and without proper hand washing, bacteria will transfer from your fingers to the contact lenses and ultimately to your eyes. Make sure you use clear, lotion-free soap, and dry your hands thoroughly.

Clean your lenses properly every day

Clean your contact lenses daily with your prescribed solution, ideally upon removal to create a routine. If you are cleaning with a multipurpose solution, gently rub your lenses to remove biofilms of bacteria, protein, and lipid deposits.

Clean your contact lens case once per week & replace it every 3 months

Clean your contact lens case once a week with mild soap and allow it to completely dry before adding your contact lenses and solution. This will prevent bacteria from settling on your contact lenses. You should also replace your contact lens case every 3 months.

On a daily basis, keep your case clean by pouring out all contact lens solution, then rub it with a clean finger and rinse it with fresh solution. Wipe it dry with a tissue, and store it upside down (caps, too) on a tissue until you’re ready to remove your contacts at night.

Researchers found that people who didn’t clean and dry their contact cases, and wash their hands with soap and water before handling them, had a higher count of microorganisms in their cases.

Give the eyes a break in the evening for a few hours before bed

You should wear your contact lenses less than 12 hours per day, ideally 8-10 hours, in order to maintain healthy corneas.

Take a day or 2 off during the week with no wear

Take a break from wearing contact lenses every once in a while. Pick up your specs and wear them at least once a week.

Throw away expired lenses and solutions

Do NOT be tempted to use expired product because you want to be thrifty. When contact lenses and contact solution pass their expiry date the chemicals that kill bacteria don’t function properly, allowing impurities to build up on the lenses. This can lead to severe bacterial or fungal infections, vision loss or in extreme cases, even blindness. If you’re a person who buys in bulk, be sure you check expiration dates before you purchase or open a new box of lenses or solution bottle.

See your optometrist regularly

Preferably every 6 months. Even if your eyes feel fine, make an appointment. Occasionally, contact-lens-related issues are caught during a routine examination, before the eyes become uncomfortable. If your eyes become itchy, red, or watery, take your contacts out immediately and see your doctor if your eyes either don’t get better, or start feeling worse.

Don’ts

Don’t “top off” contact lens solution

Always use fresh contact lens solution when you’re storing your lenses overnight. Adding new solution to old solution already in the case, or cleaning lenses with water, has been linked to cases of Acanthamoeba keratitis, where amoebae invade the cornea of the eye. It is a rare but painful infection that is difficult to treat.

Be careful with eyedrops

Not all eye drops are suitable for contact lenses. Contacts can interfere with absorption so, artificial tears aside, it’s a good idea to take them out before using drops. Read the instructions on medications carefully, and speak to your doctor if you have any questions.

Don’t borrow lenses from a friend or another person

You run the risk of contracting an eye infection from pathogenic germs that can be found on the other person’s lenses. The other person may look perfectly healthy and never had a problem with their eyes, but this is not a guarantee.

Don’t over wear your contact lenses past their wearing schedule

Follow your contact lens wearing schedule to ensure that you are not using your lenses for too long. It is important that the wear is not “stretched” passed the prescribed period. Protein deposits, lipids and bacterial biofilm will start to settle in the contact lens pores. These are not easily removed past the recommended wear schedule and can cause infection.

Some disposable lenses are intended to be thrown away either every day, every other week, or monthly. Gas-permeable lenses are an exception: they’re longer-wearing and are typically replaced once a year.

Wearing contact lenses beyond the recommended time can lead to unhealthy eyes, discomfort and ultimately infection.

Don’t  sleep in contact lenses

Sleeping in contact lenses increases the risk of an eye infection by approximately 10 times, so sleeping in them, even part time, is typically not recommended even with extended-wear types.

Some contact lenses are approved for wearing at night, however, so as long as you get regular eye checkups and your doctor approves, it might be all right. Always consult with your optometrist first.

Don’t shower or swim with contacts in

Avoid showering in contact lenses and remove them before having a bath or going swimming. Water has small organisms that can lead to an eye infection, so water should not come into contact with the contact lenses. Avoid water activities while wearing contact lenses to prevent dirty water settling between the contact and eye. This is especially important when it comes to hot tubs and pools. Prescription swimming goggles are the best eyewear solution if you are involved in water sports.

Don’t leave your contact lenses for over 7 days without changing the solution

If you do not wear your contact lenses often, remember to change the solution every 7 days if you’re not wearing them. The solution does lose its affect over time when exposed to unsealed environments and keeping fresh solution in the case will prevent bacteria build-up on the lenses.

Don’t ignore your eyes if they are not happy

If your eyes are uncomfortable at any point contact your optometrist immediately for professional advice.

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