Tips for Healthy Contact Lens Wear

It is summertime – time for travel, vacations and fun in the sun! It is also the time of year that we may be in out of our daily routines and is the perfect time to review tips for healthy contact lens wear. Healthy contact lens wear is important to prevent microbial keratitis (inflammation of the cornea). Almost one million visits for microbial keratitis or contact lens complications occur annually. The single greatest risk factor for microbial keratitis is contact lens wear. Because the FDA classifies contact lenses as “medical devices,” only an eye doctor should prescribe them. Contact lenses are medical devices that may be worn to correct vision, as well as for cosmetic or therapeutic reasons. In the United States, all contact lenses, even ones used purely for cosmetic use, require a prescription.

Courtesy of n4i on Flickr

Courtesy of n4i on Flickr

In order to have a successful contact lens wearing experience, see an eye doctor for a comprehensive examination and evaluation of your suitability for contact wear. Contact lens prescriptions generally expire on a yearly basis, unless otherwise determined by your eye doctor. Seeing your eye doctor regularly for a comprehensive eye exam will not only assess your vision and need for updated prescriptions, but it may also help identify and lead to a diagnosis of other health concerns such as hypertension and diabetes.

If contact lenses are a good fit for you, your eye doctor will provide you with the contact lenses, lens care kits, individual instructions for handling, wear and care, and unlimited follow-up visits over a specified time. Poorly fitting contact lenses can lead to serious concerns such as scratches on the cornea, corneal infection, pink eye, decreased vision or even blindness.

11 Tips for Healthy Contact Lens Wear

  1. Hand hygiene is the most critical component of successful contact lens wear. Always wash and dry your hands thoroughly before handling contact lenses.
  2. Always follow the recommended contact lens replacement schedule. For example, daily replacement contact lenses should be replaced each day.
  3. Remove contact lenses immediately and call an eye care provider if you are experiencing eye pain, discomfort, redness, or blurred vision.
  4. Carefully and regularly clean contact lenses as directed. If using a multipurpose contact lens solution, rub the contact lenses with your fingers and rinse them thoroughly before soaking the lenses overnight in solution that completely covers each lens.
  5. Store lenses in the proper contact lens case. Rub the case with a clean finger, rinse with contact lens solution and wipe with a tissue. Store the case upside down with lid off. Store the case in a clean and dry location (not in the bathroom. Replace the case at least every three months.
  6. Use only products recommended by your eye doctor to clean and disinfect your lenses. Saline solution and rewetting drops do not disinfect lenses.
  7. Discard used solution from the contact lens case and clean it with fresh solution, never water, every day. Change the contact lens solution based on the manufacturer’s recommendations, even if you don’t use the lenses daily.
  8. Keep all water away from contact lenses. Avoid showering while wearing contact lenses, remove them before using a hot tub or swimming, and never rinse or store contact lenses in water.
  9. Never sleep in contact lenses unless advised to do so by an eye care provider.
  10. Carry a backup pair of glasses with a current prescription in case contact lenses need to be removed.
  11. See your optometrist for your regularly scheduled contact lens and eye examination.

~Melissa Barnett, OD, FAAO, FSLS
California Optometric Association

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