Don’t sleep in your contact lenses and other pro tips to save your eyesight
Whether you are new to contact lenses or have been wearing them for a while, it is always a good idea to double-check your hygiene practices.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 45 million Americans choose to wear contact lenses, for many good reasons.
The lenses move with your eye, giving you a natural field of vision. You don’t have to deal with frames that can obstruct or distort your vision. Contact lenses do not fog or get splashed in the rain, and they are more convenient than glasses for sports or other physical activities.
However, CDC professionals at your local ophthalmologist warn that wearing contact lenses can increase your risk of getting an eye infection if you don’t follow strict safety precautions.
Contact lenses = Medical devices
Like regular glasses, contact lenses can correct myopia or farsightedness and astigmatism,but, unlike ordinary glasses, they are medical devices that sit directly on your eye. “And that makes all the difference,” says David Meyer, OD, FAAO, director of contact lens services at the John A. Moran Eye Center.
Meyer lists these basic practices, all of which are critically important:
- Do not sleep with your contact lenses on unless your provider tells you to. Sleeping with contact lenses can increase the risk of eye infection.
In fact, “overwearing” contact lenses is the most common mistake people make. Whether it’s daily, bi-weekly, or monthly contact lenses, people tend to wear them for longer than recommended, increasing the risk of bacterial infection, contact lens deterioration, and dry eyes.
- Always wash your hands with soap and water and dry them with a clean cloth before touching your contact lenses.
- Avoid getting water in or on your contact lenses, as this can introduce germs through the lenses. Remove your lenses before swimming and do not wear them when you shower.
- Avoid applying makeup to your hands or face on your contacts.
- Clean your lenses properly. This means using a doctor-recommended contact lens disinfectant solution, never saliva or water, to clean them every time you remove them. Store brand or generic solutions increase the risk of an allergic reaction and may be inferior in terms of cleaning.
- Do not mix or “top up” the fresh cleaning solution with the old or used solution. It’s a bit like bathing in yesterday’s bath water.
- Use only contact lens solution to clean your contact lens case. Let it air dry completely and replace it at least once every three months.
- Never order lenses online without first seeing an eye doctor and getting a prescription.
Meyer also offers a few quick tips to help contact lens wearers follow their regimen:
- Set an alarm to remind you when to throw out your contacts (every two weeks or once a month).
- Place your lens case next to your toothpaste as a reminder to remove your lenses at night.
Schedule annual eye exams
“In addition to practicing good hygiene, contact lens wearers should take extra care to make sure their eyes stay healthy,” Meyer said. “That’s why we recommend annual eye exams for these patients. We also recommend that you schedule your next appointment in advance, so you don’t lie too long between visits.”
During an annual check-up, your doctor:
- Make sure the lenses are always properly fitted and do not cause damage to your eyes.
- Make sure the lenses allow enough oxygen to reach your eyes.
- Watch for the risk or presence of an eye infection.
- Look for signs of dryness or scarring that an ill-fitting lens can cause.
- Evaluate how the lens interacts with your cornea, eyelids, and tear film to maintain the overall health of your eyes.
“Take care of your contact lenses, and they will do their job,” Meyer says. “Once you’ve established the ‘best practices’, it’s easy. “