Contact lenses are an excellent option for improving your vision when glasses aren’t the right fit for you. Roughly 45 million Americans choose contacts to see clearly.
Contact lenses are a safe, effective, and convenient way to correct various vision problems. They’re also comfortable and undetectable. While the risk of complications of wearing contacts is small, contracting an eye infection is one possible — and largely avoidable — risk.
Here at Suburban Eye Associates, our eye care specialists want to make sure you develop healthy habits so you can avoid potential complications of wearing contact lenses. With these five simple tips, you can protect your eyes and reduce the risk of infection down the line.
1. Practice good hand washing hygiene
It’s easy to forget that our hands come in contact with a lot of surfaces throughout the day where bacteria and other germs lurk, from door handles to restaurant menus. Adopting a good hand washing regimen slashes the risk of introducing harmful substances to your contacts and transferring them to your eyes.
Only handle your contacts or touch your eyes after washing your hands, and get in the habit of washing your hands regularly throughout the day. If you forget to wash your hands, you’re likely to transfer germs to your contact lenses and lens case.
As a rule of thumb, wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds using soap and water. It’s wise to lather between your fingers and under your nails, as these are areas that can harbor germs.
2. Avoiding swimming or showering in contacts
Leaving contacts in while showering, swimming, or even using hot tubs is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Wearing contacts in water, even chlorinated water, boosts the risk of eye infections. It also raises the risk of a serious eye infection from an amoeba called Acanthamoeba keratitis that lives in water all over the world. Though rare, the eye infection is painful and difficult to treat.
3. Avoid sleeping in contacts
Sleeping in contacts, even for a short nap, is risky when it comes to eye infections. It significantly increases your risk of developing microbial keratitis, a serious infection of the cornea. The bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa commonly causes this infection, and sleeping in contacts is a major risk factor.
Even if you use extended-wear contact lenses approved by the FDA for day-to-night wear, you should always remove your contact lenses before you hit the sack.
4. Clean your contacts properly
Keeping your contacts clean is one of the best ways to avoid developing an eye infection. Many contact wearers believe that rinsing them in a disinfectant solution and soaking them overnight is the best way to clean them between each use.
However, the American Academy of Ophthalmology says the best way to remove microbes from your contact lenses is by placing them one at a time in the palm of your clean hand and rubbing it in your store-bought contact lens solution with the tip of your clean finger. Then, rinse your contact lens with contact lens disinfecting solution.
Avoid using tap water to clean your contact lenses. Tap water contains microbes that can infect your eyes.
5. Avoid using your contacts lenses too long
You can safely wear contacts for a recommended time frame. Some contacts must be replaced weekly, while daily disposable contacts need replacing after one day of wear. No matter the lifespan of your contacts, it’s important that you adhere to the recommended time frame for replacing.
People who don’t replace their contact lenses when they should are more likely to experience discomfort and develop eye-related complications that may lead to eye damage.
Even with proper cleaning and care, your contact lens case can still become contaminated with microscopic germs over time. You should replace the case from time-to-time as well.
Keeping your eyes healthy is our top priority. For comprehensive eye care for the whole family, call any of our offices directly, or schedule an appointment online with one of our highly-trained ophthalmologists.