There are 36 million contact lenses wearer in the U.S. only.
Do you know the Drill: First wash your hands with soap and water before drying them with a clean, lint-free cloth or paper towel. Then, carefully take the contact lens out of your eye before gently “massaging” it in your hand with some solution to get the debris off. Pop the contact in a case that is filled with the fresh solution before screwing the lid on.
But how often do you actually follow all of these step single time you remove your contacts? And how often do you do things your optometrist or ophthalmologist warns you like sleeping or swimming in your contacts, or wearing your monthlies for longer than a month ?
Here are some common mistakes soft contact lenses wearer make:
Do you let tap water come into contact with your contact lenses?
Tap water is not salty like tears, so contact lenses tend to absorb the water and swell. The contact lens will then “hold” it, which is a problem because tap water is not sterile and contains microorganisms. “If your lens swells, it changes how the lens fits on your eye and it will often make the lens tighten on the eye,” Andrea Thau,O.D., an associate clinical professor at the SUNY College of Optometry and a spokesperson for the American Optometric Association says. This can then create microscopic breaks in your cornea that microorganisms can get into, potentially causing infection. That is why it is important not to shower or swim with your contact lenses in, she says (swimming in your contact lenses ups the chances of them coming out of your eye). In addition, you should never use water in place of solution for storing your contact lenses.
When your contact lenses bother you, but you do not carry solution with you, do you use water or your own saliva to wash them before popping them back in your eye?
For the same explanation above, exposing your contact lenses to water is not smart, and your saliva is ridden with bacteria that belong in your mouth and not your eye.If you find yourself in a situation where your contact lenses are bothering you but you do not have access to the solution and a contact lens case, then ,just throw them away. Or use lubricating drops made for contact lens wearers to relieve any discomfort.
Do you re-use your solution?
All the debris and bacteria that are in your eyes and are on your contact lenses, come off into the solution. So if you are re-using the same solution time and again, that means you are letting your contact lenses stew in a bacteria-ridden pool of liquid and then putting those contacts back into your eye. If you have any microscopic breaks in your cornea, those bacteria can then infect the cornea. If you hate dealing with solution and cases, consider daily disposable lenses.
Have you been using the same contact lens case for as long as you can remember?
Contact lens cases should only be used for three months tops before you replace with a new one, Thau says.
Do you wash your contact lens case with water, and then close it up before letting it dry completely?
Wash your contact lens case with solution, not water, since water should not come into contact with your contact lenses, Taylor says. Then wipe the case dry with a clean towel or let it air dry completely before putting the lids back on.
It is better to just get a brand new, clean case than try to disinfect it yourself by running it through the dishwasher or boiling it, Taylor adds.
Do you use the off-brand solution?
Stores that sell their own brands actually purchase the solution from other companies, so you do not know what kind you are getting. Thau says her best advice is to talk to your doctor about the best solution for your own eyes, and then stick to that brand. “It’s not a good idea to switch solutions without having that discussion,” with your eye doctor, she says, since you can develop “allergies, sensitivities and dry eye by switching.”
Are you using contact lenses you got from your eye doctor five years ago?
For starters, the prescription might just not be right anymore. But another thing to consider is that the solution the lenses are stored in has an expiration date. “So the lens, when the solution expires, can cause infection and become very uncomfortable because of the pH change,” Thau explains.
“Solution can over time break down, especially if exposed to sun or heat,” Thau says, which can be bad considering its two main functions are to not bring infectious material into your eye and to prevent infection.
You have a prescription for two-week lenses, but only wear contacts once a week. Do you use the same lenses once a week for 14 weeks?
If contacts are approved to be used for 14 days, “it is two weeks from the time you open that lens package, it is not 14 days of wear,” Rebecca Taylor, M.D., an ophthalmologist in private practice in Nashville, Tenn., and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology says. After that time period is “when the lens starts to break down; the surface starts to break down and take on your protein,mucus and bacteria that normally hangs out with us on our eyelids can lead to infection.”
Your vision is just a little blurry,but do you still wear contact lenses?
If your contact lenses are causing you any discomfort or your eyes look just the slightest bit red, it is better to listen to your body than suffer through the discomfort and potentially develop an infection. “You should make sure your eyes look good, feel good and see good,” Thau says. “By looking good, I mean your eyes should look clear and white. Your eyes should not look red or irritated. And to see good, I mean you can see well and clearly … If you are not seeing well, that is a sign that there is a problem. And then your eyes should feel good, with no physical pain or discomfort.”
Thau says the first line of defense should be to apply lubricating drops made for contact lens wearers. But if that is not enough, just take the lenses out. “Inspect the lens, make sure it is not torn or cut. “You can get a scratched cornea, called a corneal abrasion … You can always replace your contact lenses, but you can never replace your eyes.”
Do you put your contact lenses in after putting your makeup on?
To avoid getting makeup on your contact lenses, Thau recommends putting contact lenses in your eyes before applying makeup and then taking them out before removing eye makeup.
On that same note, she also advises against putting creams or lotions on your hands before handling. “Your hands should be clean; put your lenses in first before you handle any products,” she says.
Do you use waterproof makeup?
Thau warns contact lens wearers to not use waterproof makeup because if the makeup gets on the lens, it will bind to it. And because waterproof makeup requires an oil-based remover, it will “grease up the eyes and the lenses,” she says.
Do you wear your dailies for longer than a day, your monthlies for longer than a month?
Your contact lenses are made of plastic, but they actually have pores to help keep them moist in your eyes. However, these pores can then get dirty and trap debris and dirt in the lens, Thau says. If you use your contact lenses for longer than recommended, you are setting yourself up for trouble, including eye irritation, dry eye, an infection or overall discomfort.
Do you sleep in your contact lenses?
Sleeping with contacts in your eyes severely limits oxygen transmission. When you are awake, your cornea receives oxygen from the air and from your tears. But when you are asleep, the cornea receives less nourishment, lubrication, and oxygen because your eyes are closed and you are not blinking. Therefore, when you put your contact lens overnight, you are further depriving your cornea of oxygen. Thau explains that this can lead to your contact lens tightening in your eye, causing microscopic rips to the cornea — and if there is a microorganism also in your eye, that could also lead to infection. Now, some contact lenses are approved by the Food and Administration for overnight and extended wear. If you are dead-set on being able to sleep in your contact lenses, Thau advises you to talk to your doctor about getting a prescription for one of these types of lenses.
Do you use non-prescribed/costume contact lenses?
Although selling such lenses without a prescription is actually illegal, cosmetic lenses can still be found in stores and online. They are dangerous because they could cause corneal abrasions (scratches on the cornea, which covers the iris and pupil) and ulcers on the eye, which can then lead to infection (keratitis).
If this happens, the AAO warns that corneal transplants and other eye surgeries might become necessary to prevent blindness. Thomas Steinemann, M.D., an AAO spokesperson and professor of ophthalmology at Metro Health Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University, said in a statement, “It all could have been avoided if these patients just took a little extra time to obtain a prescription and only wore FDA-approved lenses. I understand how tempting it is to dress up your eyes on Halloween without a prescription and using over-the-counter lenses, but people should not let one night of fun ruin their vision for a lifetime.”
Contact lenses should only be worn if they are FDA-approved and prescribed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.