Your daily contact lens routine may seem to be working well. But experts say some common practices can be threatening to eye health.
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“It’s a lack of information,” says ophthalmologist Jeffrey Goshe, MD. “People aren’t being told to do most of the things that are standard for contact lens care.”
Dr. Goshe shares these do’s and don’ts for safe contact lens use.
1. DON’T sleep in your contacts.
When you’re tired, spending the time to take out your contacts can feel like a chore. But sleeping with them in reduces oxygen flow to the eye and puts you at risk for infections.
“Despite what manufacturers say about lenses that are safe to sleep in, almost every study of contact lens-related infections found a strong link between the risk of infection and sleeping in contacts,” Dr. Goshe says.
“There are newer lenses that are approved for continuous wear up to 30 days, but I still recommend that my patients remove their contacts on a daily basis.”
2. DO get an eye exam annually.
“If your contact lenses are too loose or too tight, you can have problems,” says Dr. Goshe.
People may not realize that the fit of their lenses can change throughout their lives, and an annual check-up can determine if adjustments should be made.
3. DO establish a relationship with an optometrist and stick with him or her.
When you jump around from doctor to doctor based on who’s offering a glasses coupon, it’s harder to keep track of your eye health over time. If you do have problems, go to an optometrist or ophthalmologist, not an urgent care center.
4. DON’T wear your lenses past their recommended use.
“Some people say they wear them until they feel like they need to be changed – but that’s a sign that something bad has already started to happen,” Dr. Goshe says. That could be an abrasion to your cornea or bacteria building up on the inside of your lens, for example.
“If your lenses are designed to be replaced every two weeks, you should replace them at least that often,” Dr. Goshe says.
5. DO wash your lenses and case properly.
Never rinse your contacts with tap water or stick them in your mouth. Tap water is not sterile and may contain organisms that can cause very severe infections.
Contact lenses should be cleaned with a commercial contact lens solution, following the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Clean and dry your case each day and fill it with new solution rather than “topping off” the solution from the previous day.
6. DON’T ignore the warning signs of infection.
“If you are experiencing pain, redness, blurriness or light sensitivity, your eyes may be having a problem that requires medical attention,” Dr. Goshe says.
As a rule of thumb, if any of these symptoms persists for more than 24 hours, it’s time to see an optometrist or ophthalmologist as soon as possible. If the symptoms are severe, you should be seen immediately.
“If treated promptly, the majority of contact lens-related problems don’t lead to long-term vision problems,” Dr. Goshe says. “However, in severe cases, scarring, reduced vision, or blindness can result.”
By knowing the facts, you can comfortably wear contact lenses without strain or injury to your eyes.