Contact Lens Care Guidelines
There is no doubt that you are excited about putting those old glasses on the shelf—I have fit thousands of contact lens wearers over the years, and I’ve seen that excitement. By reading and adhering to the following guidelines, you should have many years of successful contact lens wear.
Tip 1 Always wash your hands before handling the contact lenses. Bacteria, viruses, fungi and even protozoa can be transferred from unwashed hands to the contact lenses and then to your eyes. Under certain circumstances, some of these germs can cause serious eye infections or ulceration. This is a risk you don’t need to take! In addition, use a soap such as Ivory, with no oils, lotions, or fragrances in it. These added substances may smear your lenses and cause eye allergies.
Tip 2 You should take your lenses out at night and soak them. Even if your lenses are approved for overnight wear, you will be doing your eyes a favor by taking the contacts out at night. Your eyes need oxygen to remain healthy, and contact lenses significantly reduce the amount of oxygen your eyes will receive, particularly at night. Your eyes will be nine times more likely to become infected and ulcerated if contacts are worn overnight. In my opinion, ‘waking up in the morning with clear vision’ is not worth the risk.
Tip 3 Don’t skip steps or take shortcuts when cleaning your contacts. Occasionally, I see patients who have gotten into trouble after taking shortcuts. People who initially ‘get away with it’ tend to be lulled into a sense of security and then skimp even further. If nothing bad happens, they cut corners again—eventually, it catches up with them and infection or even worse, a corneal ulcer can develop. Always use the contact lens solutions as directed to avoid trouble. It takes less than three minutes each evening to ensure clean lenses and healthy eyes. If cleaning your lenses is a hassle, I'll refit you into disposable lenses, which require less care.
Tip 4 Have an updated pair of eyeglasses as a backup. You should always have a backup pair of glasses in case a problem arises with your contacts. What would you do if you ripped a contact lens? What would you do if your eyes became irritated? What about an infected eye? Contact lenses should not be worn in these situations. Whenever your eyes become irritated, remove your lenses and rinse them off—then try reinserting the contacts. If the irritation continues you’ll need to wear your glasses for the remainder of the day—and you should give us a call.
Tip 5 Come in for your yearly exams. These are exams in which I do several things. I’ll see if you are still happy with the lenses, and if you are not, I’ll try to solve any difficulties you might be facing, such as either comfort or vision problems. In addition, I look at your eyes with a microscope to look for any signs of trouble—to make sure there is no neovascularization, which is an indication of lack of oxygen to the cornea. I also look for edema, or swelling of the cornea, or other warning signs that you as a patient probably would not be aware of. Just because you feel good with your contacts doesn’t mean everything is all right!
Remember the cleaning steps. Wash hands, gently rub lenses in the palm of your hand with solution for 20 seconds, and store in disinfecting solution overnight. For disposable lenses, you simply wash hands and store in the solution.
Never wear your contacts while swimming. Even chlorinated water contains germs that can be very dangerous to your eyes. Lakes or streams are even more risky.
Rinse and air-dry your case every day. After you insert your contacts, rinse and air-dry your contact lens case to kill any germs that may have survived disinfection.
Keep your glasses and contact case handy. If your contacts ‘act up’ you’ll need to remove them.
Insert your lenses after hairspray has settled but before applying mascara. Mist from sprays can coat your contacts and be very difficult to remove. Mascara will soil your lenses if the lenses touch your eyelashes on the way in.
We hope this information is helpful to you. This, in addition to one-on-one training with your eye care professional, should provide you with all that you need to become a satisfied contact lens wearer. Remember to see your eye doctor at the first sign of trouble—play it safe with your eyes!
Matthew L. Burr, O.D.