The use of soft contact lenses in today’s society has grown exponentially since their initial development. The amazing lens materials available and the various uses for contact lenses have contributed to their success. With the simplicity of these medical devices today, it is easy to forget the importance of maintaining the best hygiene practices for contact lens use. Below are some of the most important Do’s and Don’ts to keep in mind when taking care of your lenses and ensuring that your eyes are protected from infection.
DO Rub and Rinse
For those that are not wearing daily disposables, cleaning the lenses before going to bed is a key step in the hygiene routine. The best way to clean them is to place the lens in the middle of your palm, add some solution, and rub both sides of the lens with your middle finger. After this step, you can insert it into the peroxide or saline solution to be stored overnight. This will remove the protein and fat deposits that build up on the lens during the day
DON’T Sleep in Contact Lenses
This is often a tough one to remember for patients as it can be easy to accidentally fall asleep in the lenses. Unfortunately, this is one of the most common risk factors for infection. Overnight, the eye receives less oxygen and thus is less able to protect itself from invading microbes.
DO Replace Your Contact Lenses Regularly
If you are wearing monthly lenses, make sure to discard them 30 days after opening the package. Many people mistake the discard time for the number of days that the lenses are in the eyes but the best way to prevent infection is to discard the lenses according to the designated schedule. This means, for example, that even if you only wore the lenses 4 days out of the 30, you still need to discard them. Increased amounts of time outside their packaging can increase infection rates, induce more eye dryness, and cause irritation.
DON’T Use Tap Water
It is important to remember that contact lenses should never touch tap water. In fact, the lenses should only be in contact with specific disinfecting solutions or saline. Tap water is especially concerning as there are microbes in the water that can adhere to the lens and cause an infection. So, whether you need to rinse the lenses in order to remove debris or rewet them, make sure to never use tap water.
DO Clean and Replace Your Contact Lens Case
Contact lens storage cases (for monthly or biweekly lens wearers) are hot spots for bacterial growth and about 50% of cases will be contaminated. It is important to remember to clean the cases after each night of use. The best routine would be to dump out the rest of the solution, rinse the case out with contact lens solution, wipe the case and lids dry, and turn them upside down on a clean tissue. Ideally, these cases are also replaced every month or, at most, every 3 months.
DON’T Swim With Your Contact Lenses
Lakes, swimming pools and ocean water have a variety of bacteria and chemicals that can stick onto the lenses. This exposes your eyes to dangerous organisms that have the ability to damage the front surface of the eye permanently. The only time this may be done is if daily disposable contact lenses are used and are thrown away immediately upon exiting the water after a short time frame of use (i.e. 1 hour of swimming lessons).
DO Use Hydrogen Peroxide Disinfection
Monthly and biweekly lenses will need to be stored in solution overnight for up to 30 or 14 days, respectively. The best way to store them overnight and kill possible bacteria on their surfaces is in a hydrogen peroxide solution that will clean the lenses while you sleep. This solution often comes in a bottle with a red cap that is easy to identify so that it is not mistaken for a bottle of saline. This is because if hydrogen peroxide touches the eye, it will sting and burn the eye temporarily. A special case is needed to use this solution, as a disc at the bottom of the case will neutralize the solution overnight and allow the lens to be used in the morning directly from the case.