For anyone who’s been annoyed by having to push glasses up the bridge of their nose or contend with wonky, uneven frames, getting contact lenses can be a brilliant experience. As they move with your eye, contact lenses give you a full field of vision wherever you look, plus they’re easy to use and comfortable to wear. However, in order to enjoy those freedoms, you do need to practice proper care when it comes to cleaning and wearing contact lenses. Many people who wear lenses say that they have at least one bad habit that had caused an eye infection.
If your contact lenses could talk, they’d likely have a lot to say about how you’re treating them. (Hint: If you’re like most people, there’s probably some room for improvement.) Let’s shine a spotlight on the things your contact lenses with you knew:
- Don’t over wear: Do you often try to get one more day out of your daily disposables, or an extra week out of your monthly contacts? Using contact lenses past their recommended usage period is a very common and potentially very serious, mistake. Overuse can cause the lens to degrade and protein to build up in the eye. This can cause allergic reactions and reduce the oxygen permeability of the lens (the cornea needs oxygen to stay healthy), potentially leading to infections and other damage. Trying to get a few extra days out of daily disposable lenses can be problematic because daily disposables are packed in a sterile solution designed to mirror your own natural tears.
- Don’t mix with water: Water can cause soft contact lenses to change shape, swell and stick to the cornea. This can irritate the eyes, making them susceptible to infection. This is why you should never rinse or store your reusable contacts in water, and always use an appropriate contact lens solution. The same goes for exposing your soft contact lenses to water while showering and swimming—even a short time in water can expose your contact lenses to bacteria that may be harmful.
- Keep clean: If you clean your contacts correctly, you’ll reduce your risk of irritation, bacterial infection and inflammation that can lead to inflammatory corneal ulcers, or open sores on your cornea. The key to keeping reusable contact lenses germ-free is to rub them between your fingers (wash your hands with soap and water first!) when you clean them with a disinfecting solution recommended by your eye doctor. With this move, you’re literally rubbing away microbes and other deposits. Then give them a good rinse with the solution. You can sidestep the cleaning process entirely if you opt for daily disposables, which you never have to clean since you dispose of them after every wear and start with a fresh pair each day. Also on the topic of cleanliness, remember this mantra: contacts first, makeup second. Insert your contact lenses before putting on makeup, and remove them before washing off your makeup. This reduces the chance that bacteria and particles from mascara, eye shadow and other cosmetics will get onto your lenses.
- Keep the cases clean too: Your case needs to be as clean as your contacts. If it’s not, biofilms, or layers of bacteria, can build up, potentially infecting your reusable lenses. The best method is to pour out any solution you have in your case—you want to get rid of used solution, rather than top it off the next time you use it. Then rub the inside of the case with clean fingers, rinse with solution, dry with a tissue and store upside down, without the cap on. Remember to replace your case every three months.
- Don’t forget to remove before bed: Sleeping with your contact lenses can be risky because it ups your chance of getting a corneal infection called microbial keratitis, which is a bacterial infection that can cause pain, redness and blurred vision. This can happen due to a combination of a potential buildup of pollutants on the contact lens, a lack of eye and lid movement while you sleep, and less oxygen getting to your eye, which your cornea needs to stay healthy.Keep these tips in mind and visit your eye doctor regularly—usually once per year, if you wear contact lenses—and you can count on healthy contacts and healthy eyes.