Contact lenses may look like simple pieces of plastic, but actually, they are medical devices. As medical devices, they require a prescription, even when not used for vision correction. It is essential to care for your contact lenses properly to prevent eye infections and other adverse reactions. It is also important to adhere to the proper wear schedule prescribed by your eye doctor for that particular lens. Lens materials and contact lens solutions can interact, which can affect the disinfection process. Store brand or generic contact lens solutions are often formulated for older lens materials and may not always be compatible with newer lens materials.
The proper cleaning regimen is vital to the health of the eye. The contact lens should be rubbed for about 20 seconds, followed by a thorough rinse for 5-10 seconds—this aids in the removal of deposits and harmful microorganisms. Recent studies demonstrate that rubbing and rinsing the contact lens after use provides the safest wear experience for all contacts currently on the market. One exception is daily disposable contact lenses, which are disposed of at the end of the day. The contact lens case should also be rinsed with the multipurpose solution and left to air dry. Tap water is not recommended for rinsing the case as it may contain contaminants that could damage your lenses or lead to eye infections.
Sleeping in contact lenses drastically increases your risk of an eye infection and is no longer considered safe by most eye doctors. These infections may be bacterial or more serious such as fungal or acanthamoeba (an amoeba found in water). According to the CDC, sleeping in your contact lenses makes you six to eight times more likely to get an eye infection. The cornea, the structure where the contact lens rests, requires oxygen and hydration to stay healthy. When you sleep in your contacts, the oxygen is significantly reduced, putting the cornea at higher risk for infection. Serious eye infections can lead to significant scarring, corneal transplant, and potential loss of vision.
Swimming in contact lenses can also be harmful to the eye. The lenses can absorb water, trapping harmful bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens against your eye. Even filtered and treated tap water can contain pathogens that can cause eye infections. In addition, chemicals found in swimming pools and hot tubs can create additional irritation. There is also the risk of losing your contact lenses if the water flushes them from the eye.
The healthiest contact lenses for your eyes are daily disposable lenses. With daily disposable contact lenses, there is no need for lens disinfection. Simply insert a fresh lens in the morning and throw them away at night. Then start with a new pair the following day.
Washing your hands before handling the lenses is still recommended.
Our doctors at Eye Specialists of Mid Florida are here to guide you in choosing which contact lenses would be best for your vision and eye health needs. Please call us at 800-282-3937 to schedule an appointment.
Dr. Julia King is an optometrist who practices at the Lake Wales location for Eye Specialists of Mid-Florida. Her specialties include primary care optometry and contact lenses. She is accepting new patients.