Nobody wants a nasty eye infection. However, there are still people who disregard the basic dos and don’ts of contact lens wear. This post aims to remedy that by discussing bad contact lens habits, their negative effects, and how to prevent those effects.
1. Handling contact lenses with unwashed hands
Inserting or removing contact lenses with unwashed hands can transfer bacteria from your hands to your eyes, which can cause serious eye infections. This is why you must always wash your hands with antibacterial soap and water before handling your contact lenses.
Here’s how to properly wash your hands before handling contact lenses:
- Wash your hands with antibacterial soap and warm water.
- Avoid oily soaps or soaps that have strong scents, as residue from these soaps can stick to your fingers and latch on to the surface of your contact lenses.
- Rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds and remove any dirt that may be stuck under your fingernails.
- Rinse thoroughly to get rid of any soap residue.
- Dry your hands with fresh paper towels or a clean hand towel, making sure that your hands are completely dry.
2. Exposing your contact lenses to water
Never clean your contact lenses with tap water, saliva, or other similar liquids. Never swim or bathe while wearing your contact lenses. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) strongly advises against exposing your contact lenses to any water source.
Even tap water can contain a ton of germs and bacteria that may lead to serious eye infections. Non-sterile water sources can also contain an amoeba called Acanthamoeba. This amoeba can cause a severe eye infection called Acanthamoeba keratitis, which is excruciatingly painful and can lead to permanent blindness in the affected eye.
From now on, keep in mind that water and contact lenses don’t mix. Remove your contact lenses before swimming or bathing, and only clean your contact lenses using the contact lens solution that your eye care professional (ECP) prescribes.
3. Sleeping in contact lenses
First, don’t sleep in contact lenses that aren’t FDA-approved for overnight wear. Doing so increases your chance of contracting an eye infection. Only sleep in contact lenses that are designed and FDA-approved for overnight wear.
Second, even if your contact lenses are FDA-approved for overnight wear, make sure you don’t do it for prolonged periods. Overwearing your contact lenses reduce the amount of oxygen to your eyes, which leads to oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can result in pain, inflammation, and infections, because the lack of oxygen makes it easier for bacteria and other pathogens to attach to your eyes.
4. Wearing contacts past their replacement schedule
Modern contact lenses are available in replacement schedules, namely:
- Daily disposable contact lenses (dailies)
- Bi-weekly contact lenses
- Monthly contact lenses
Dailies are designed to be worn once and then disposed of at the end of the day. Never wear dailies overnight. Bi-weekly contact lenses should be disposed of after 14 days even if you didn’t wear them every day. Resist the urge to wear them past the 14th day. The same logic applies to monthly contact lenses: you’ll need to dispose of monthly contact lenses after 30 days even if you didn’t wear them every day.
Your ECP will prescribe a replacement schedule for you depending on your lifestyle and your specific vision requirements. Always follow your ECP’s advice when it comes to your contact lens wearing schedule.
5. Reusing contact lens solution
Reusing contact lens solution or “topping off” the solution in your contact lens case is one of the worst things you can do as a contact lens wearer. The old solution in your case is no longer effective at killing bacteria, and topping it off with fresh solution won’t help either. This practice only encourages more bacteria to grow in your contact lens case and latch on to your contact lenses.
Every day, you should:
- Throw out the old solution.
- Rinse your contact lens case with fresh water.
- Leave the case open so it can air-dry.
- Fill your contact lens case with fresh solution only prior to use.
Contact lenses are a safe and effective tool for vision correction as long as you practice good contact lens habits. Take care of your eyes and your contact lenses, and just remember that the advice we offer is not meant to replace the advice of a licensed eye care professional. If you have any other questions or concerns, consult your eye care professional immediately.