How to Safely Wear Contact Lenses

If you’re wondering how safe and reliable online vision tests are, you’re not alone. While seeing an optometrist or ophthalmologist in person may be required for some people, many patients can get simple prescriptions for contacts and glasses renewed with visual acuity tests performed online. Find out if an online vision test is right for you!

By

Sally Wadyka

| Reviewed by

Cindy Cork, OD

It’s no surprise that millions of people choose contacts instead of glasses to correct their vision. For many people, contacts are more comfortable, convenient and attractive—improving both eyesight and quality of life.

 

But wearing contacts also comes with responsibility and some risks. As many as one third of contact lens wearers have dealt with contact-related redness, irritation or infection that required a doctor’s visit. And up to 90 percent break at least some of the rules of good contact hygiene.

 

If you don’t take  proper care of your contacts and follow the recommendations for how and when you wear them, you’re putting your eye health at risk. Most contact-related eye problems are minor, but about 1 in 500 contact wearers experience infections serious enough that they could lead to blindness .

 

Scary statistics aside, taking steps to keep your eyes safe is really pretty simple. Follow these rules, and you’ll be able to wear your contacts without worry.

 

Clean Your Contact Lenses Carefully

The number one cause of contact-related eye problems is bacteria and bacterial infection. And while you can’t completely prevent bacteria from getting into your eyes and onto your contacts, you can control how well you clean them off.

 

Never put your contacts in your mouth to clean or moisten them and never rinse or store them in tap water. Both contain bacteria that can lead to serious eye infections.

 

Before handling your contacts, always wash and dry your hands thoroughly. If you use saline or multipurpose contact lens solution to clean and store your contacts, proper cleaning and storing requires a few steps. First, wet your lens with solution. Then, rub the lens between your fingers and rinse it again with more solution before placing it in the case.

 

Since most people don’t do all those steps, contact lens solutions containing hydrogen peroxide can be a good option. They effectively clean contacts without rubbing. Whatever solution you choose to use, don’t ever reuse it. Empty any solution left in your lens case, rinse it carefully with fresh solution and let it air dry. And be sure to replace your case at least every three months so that bacteria doesn’t build up on it.

 

Be Wary of Water

Contacts and water are not a good mix. Organisms and bacteria in the water (whether it’s from your tap, a pool, lake, stream or ocean) can get into your eyes and lodge underneath your contacts. This can cause redness, irritation and even potentially dangerous infections.

 

Since it’s not always practical to remove your contacts before you swim or shower, take precautions:

  • Wear goggles when you swim. If you aren’t wearing goggles, avoid opening your eyes underwater.
  • Keep your eyes closed when rinsing your hair or washing your face to prevent tap water getting in your eyes.
  • Whenever possible, avoid wearing contacts in a hot tub—the combination of bacteria, heat and chlorine spells trouble for your eyes.
  • After swimming or hot tubbing in contacts, toss them (if daily wear) or take them out and clean them thoroughly--preferably with hydrogen peroxide contact solution.

 

Think Twice About Sleeping in Contact Lenses

Many contact lenses are marketed as being safe to sleep in. That doesn’t mean it’s always a good idea. When you’re awake, you blink your eyes frequently, which keeps them lubricated and helps sweep away bacteria that gets between your eyes and your contacts. But when you’re sleeping, your eyes are closed for hours at a time, creating a warm, moist environment for bacteria to grow.

 

Sleeping in contacts also means less oxygen gets to your corneas. If you do need to sleep in your contacts on occasion, ask your eyecare provider about the best options. Some brands (such as Air Optix Night and Day) are specially formulated to allow more oxygen through, even when your eyes are closed.

 

Replace Contacts On Time

Even if you take meticulous care of your contacts, they still need to be replaced on the appropriate schedule. But whether it’s because they’re trying to save money or haven’t had time to renew their prescription, too many people continue to use the same pair of contacts for longer than they should.

 

Wearing your dailies for a week, your weeklies for a month or your monthlies for several months is a recipe for infection. Each of these types of contacts is designed to be safe for a specific time period—not longer. If you have trouble keeping track of when it’s time for a new pair, set a reminder on your calendar.

 

The QE Perspective: Contact lenses are a safe and effective way for most people to correct their vision. But it’s important to practice good hygiene and never try to inappropriately extend their lifespan. By offering easy, affordable and accessible online eye exams,  we help people renew their contact lens prescriptions on schedule and keep their corneas safe. 


Source for stats: CDC

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