Contact lenses provide effective and safe vision correction to more than 140 million people worldwide. It is estimated nearly 1 in 6 Americans wear contact lenses or nearly 45 million people.
Optometrist, Dr. Jordan Jones weighs in on how to keep your eye healthy and comfortable while wearing contact lenses.
Contact lenses sit on the cornea, the clear button of tissue that covers the colored part of your eye. The cornea is like the window to your eye, and the contact lens sits on top of that window. Outside particles, bacteria, fungi, viruses, or parasites that have access to the contact lens now have access to the “window,” or cornea, and thus the eye. The number one risk factor for microbial keratitis (an infection of the cornea) is contact lens wear. According to the CDC, serious eye infections that could potentially lead to blindness occur in 1 of every 500 contact lens wearers per year. Because of this, contact lenses, even when worn for cosmetic purposes, are considered medical devices that require prescriptions.
Products such as makeup, hairspray, or hand creams and lotions can cause contact lenses to become uncomfortable and irritating. Similarly, work environments, be it low humidly hospitals or extremely dusty construction sites, can cause comfort issues. Extended wear time can lead to blurred vision and discomfort that worsens at the end of the day. Allergies, seasonal or other, can also greatly impact the comfort of contact lens wear. Over the counter (OTC), or in some cases prescription eye drops may be effective in relieving some of these symptoms. Be sure to contact your eye care provider, as not all OTC or prescription eye drops and palliative treatments are compatible with contact lenses.
8 tips to keep your eyes healthy and comfortable while wearing contact lenses:
- Don’t sleep in your contact lenses. Studies have shown that sleeping in your contact
lenses increase the risk of infection up to 8 times.
- Wash your hands with soap and water before handling your contact lenses.
- Keep your lenses away from ALL water (including swimming, hot tubs, saunas, etc.) Water can introduce germs to the eyes through contact lenses.
- Don’t “top off” your cleaning solution. Use fresh cleaning solution every day.
- Replace your contact lens case at least once every three months.
- Don’t over wear your contact lenses. If your eye is irritated, take the lens out. Over wear can lead to inflammation and increase the risk of infection.
- Cleaning solutions stored in contact lens cases lose their efficacy over time. If you only wear lenses
sporadically, be sure to clean your lenses the night before you plan to wear them if they
have been sitting in storage solution for more than a few days.
- If you experience any pain, worsening vision, discomfort, or redness remove your
contact lenses and call your eye care provider for an office visit.
Contact lens wear can provide safe, effective vision correction for a wide variety of visual needs (without the need for glasses!) for millions and millions of people around the globe. Following the instructions of your eye care provider on the wear and replacement schedules, cleaning regimens, and follow-up visit timelines greatly reduce the risks involved with contact lens wear.