Seven myths about contact lenses

  1. Photo courtesy of Valley Eyecare Center

    Photo courtesy of Valley Eyecare Center

    There is one “best” contact lens
    Do not think that if your first contact lens experience is less than ideal that you must be “contact lens intolerant”.   The truth is, what one patient loves another patient may hate.  It is all about how that contact’s shape and material interacts with your unique eyeball.  Not every contact lens and eyeball play well together.  There is no way to predict if you eye will like a particular lens until you give the lens a test drive for a few days in a trial pair.  Expect some trial and error with various lens brands.Every doctor will have their go-to contact lens that “on average” they find the most success with in their area.  However, you may not be average.  It is not unusual for the second or even third trial pair of different contact lens brands be the “ah-ha!” moment when great comfort is found.  Most doctors will have the patience as long as you do to find your “ah-ha!” contact lens.

  2. All contact lens cleaners are alike
    The following is a very common conversation heard in an eye doctor’s office:
    Patient:  I suddenly noticed a month ago my contacts were not as comfortable anymore.
    Doctor:  Are you still using the same cleaner I prescribed when you ordered your contacts?
    Patient:  No. A month ago I found a generic cleaner for half the price so I started using that one.

    Contact lens cleaners are not alike.  Stick with the solution your doctors recommends when you order your contacts and the risk of solution-caused comfort issues will be greatly minimized.  Generic cleaners frequently will increase irritation with contact lens wear and reduce wear time.

  3. Contacts can roll behind my eye into my brain
    There is an anatomical barrier called the conjunctiva which prevents the contact lens, or any foreign object, from getting behind the eye.
  4. Swimming will cause the lens to float out of my eye into my brain
    To the contrary, swimming in contacts will actually adhere the contact lens to the eyeball tighter.  For this reason, it is recommended to not remove the lens for a half hour after swimming to allow it time to dry.  Trying to remove the lens too soon after swimming may cause a scratch on your eyeball from having to use extra force removing it.

    Although pool swimming in contacts is generally safe (hot tubs and ocean water being an exception and an absolute no-no), if you swim frequently most eye doctors will recommend you use daily disposable contact lenses so that you never have to use the same lens twice since pool chemicals and other impurities may build up on the lens, increasing the risk of infection.  If a daily disposable lens is not an option for you, your doctor will likely recommend a hydrogen peroxide based cleaning system.  Hydrogen peroxide cleaners provide extra-strength cleaning of most things the pool may leave behind on your contacts.  Wearing swim goggles is highly advised to reduce the risk of sight-threatening infections from wearing contacts while swimming.

  5. Buying contact lenses online is always the most economical way to buy contacts
    Actually, this is rarely the case.  Historically, online retailers averaged a few dollars cheaper than doctor’s offices for the same contacts.  Recently, many of the most common contact lens manufactures now require “uniform pricing”, meaning online retailers and doctors now provide the exact same price for many brands of contacts.

    The real cost savings in purchasing contacts from your doctor’s office occur when manufacture rebates (typically not valid with online purchases) and insurance benefits are applied.

  6. “I have allergy eyes, so I cannot wear contacts.”
    For contact lens wearers who suffer from allergies, Dr. Butterworth, an optometrist from University of Iowa Department of Ophthalmology, states she recommends daily disposable soft lenses for her allergy patients. “Not only does this allow the patient to have a fresh, clean lens on the eye every day, but it eliminates several factors that can make patients’ ocular allergies worse,” she said. “Daily disposables also minimize a lot of debris buildup, which can exacerbate allergies.”
  7. Your eyes are too weird for contacts
    Many patients believe that astigmatism will keep them from being able to wear contacts.  However, we all have astigmatism to some degree.  Astigmatism is the amount by which your cornea (the front surface of the eye) is not perfectly spherical.  But nobody’s cornea is perfectly spherical, just like nobody’s head is perfectly round.  If your astigmatism is high enough, you will likely be placed in an astigmatism correcting contact lens.  For most doctors, more than half of their contact lens patients wear contacts specifically designed for astigmatism.   Whether it is a small amount or a larger amount, there is a contact lens out there for you.

~ David McCleary, O.D.
California Optometric Association
http://www.coavision.org
http://www.eyehelp.org

Proper care of contact lenses

contact pictureNext week, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is sponsoring its first Contact Lens Health Week. Since more than 34 million Americans wear contact lenses, this topic is absolutely important and definitely a little late in coming.

While I would love to say that all of my patients have perfect hygiene habits, many of them do not. I have heard of patients sleeping in their contacts for months on end, using tap water to store them, and cleaning them in their mouths after falling out. Yes, the last one is true

So, after listening to my patients, here is my top ten list for caring for your contacts and your eyes:

  1. Wash your hands before handling your lenses.
  2. Keep your contact lens case clean and let it air dry.
  3. Change your case with every new bottle of solution.
  4. Use name brand solution and never top off your solution (always use new solution!).
  5. Throw your lenses out at the doctor prescribed interval.
  6. Even if your lenses are approved for overnight wear, it is a whole lot safer if you don’t.
  7. The solution may say no rub, rub anyway.
  8. Saline solution is not disinfecting, you need to use a proper solution.
  9. Contact lens solution is not a good rewetting drop. Ask your doctor for a good choice.
  10. Daily disposable contacts are the safest choice for those who swim. Open water and hot tubs are especially dangerous pathogens love these conditions.

The bottom line is that if you follow the rules, contacts can be a very safe and effective way to see better. Just remember to see your doctor every year to make sure that your contacts are still the best choice for your eyes. Your optometrist can be a great resource so make sure to ask questions during your exam and let them know if you are experiencing any difficulties with your lenses.

~ David C. Ardaya, O.D.
California Optometric Association
http://www.coavision.org
http://www.eyehelp.org

Sunglasses- not just a style choice, but a vision-saving device

Photo courtesy of Steven Depolo on Flickr

Photo courtesy of Steven Depolo on Flickr

Not just a style choice

What do you think of when you see someone in sunglasses? Among the most common responses I hear from my patients when I ask them about sunglasses is “fashion.” And while your Michael Kors sunglasses can be an excellent fashion accessory, they can also be a tool well suited to add to your arsenal of eye protection.

Sunglasses are protection

The next question I hear when discussing sunglasses with my patients is “protection from what?” Sunglasses can help provide protection from damaging UV rays of the sun, serve as a barrier for ocular allergens to help reduce allergic conjunctivitis in patients who have eye allergies, and protect the surface of your eyes if you are a patient with tear film insufficiency or dry eyes.

Watch out for UV rays

Damaging Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can cause indirect DNA damage and contribute to skin cancer. It can also cause changes to the health and structure of your eyes. UV ray exposure has unfortunately been linked with a higher incidence of macular degeneration, certain forms of cataracts, and pterygiums (those fleshy growths on the white of the eye that can grow to cover your pupil).

UV radiation from the sun comes in three forms- A, B and C. UV C is the most mutagenic, which means it is the most damaging of the three. Fortunately, our planet’s ozone layer absorbs most of this type of radiation so that it never makes it down to us. UV B is the form of radiation from the sun that causes sunburns, and sunscreens that are labelled with SPF numbers describe how well they block UV B. UV A unfortunately also damages the DNA in your skin and eyes. New full-spectrum sunscreens and sunblocks can help protect your skin from both UV A and UV B radiation. Similar to a full-spectrum sunblock, sunglasses with UV A and UV B protection can help prevent your eyes from exposure to 99.9% of UV A and UV B rays. 

Allergy protection

For patients who suffer from seasonal allergies, especially contact lens wearers, wearing a large pair of sunglasses can be an ideal barrier for potential ocular allergens. Whether they are sport sunglasses or the larger fashion sunglasses, having larger lenses and a bit of face wrap, or curves to fit the front of your face, allow sunglasses to block a lot of the pollens, dust and spores that can trigger eye allergies.

Similarly, for patients who suffer from tear film insufficiency or dry eye, having a large barrier in front of the eyes to protect from the elements encountered outdoors can make treatment and management of this eye disease much easier. 

Sunglasses are always going to be seen as a fashion accessory, but try not to forget how beneficial they can be for eye protection. And remember – there is nothing wrong with looking good while taking care of your eyes! 

~Ranjeet S. Bajwa, OD, FAAO
California Optometric Association
http://eyehelp.org
http://www.coavision.org

The Low Down on Pink Eye

Just your luck, it’s Friday afternoon and you find that you or your loved one has a pink eye, it may be a little irritated or painful, and you are worried because the weekend is coming up.  Your optometrist’s office may be closing soon.  Should you call your optometrist, go to urgent care, or risk the weekend without seeing an eye doctor?

Photo Courtesy of Lone Primate on Flickr.com

Photo Courtesy of Lone Primate on Flickr.com

Pink eye is a term used to describe an irritated pink or red eye.  The medical term is conjunctivitis which is an inflammation of the thin tissue overlying the whites of the eyes.  However, there are a variety of eye conditions that can cause an eye to become pink or irritated, although conjunctivitis is the most common cause.  Conjunctivitis can often be categorized into 3 different categories:

Bacterial conjunctivitis – This form is caused by bacteria and can be transferred in a variety of ways ranging from airborne to direct contact on one’s fingertips.  Bacterial conjunctivitis can cause sticky, yellowish green discharge, occasionally resulting in the lids sticking shut in the mornings.  The eye may be pink, painful, and sensitive to light.  Usually only one eye is affected although the other eye can become infected by indirect contact.  It is contagious and is often treated with antibiotic eye drops.  Once you have been treated for 24 hours with antibiotics, you are no longer contagious.

If you are a contact lens wearer, an irritated, painful and pink eye is usually the result of a bacterial infection.  This needs to be treated right away because you may develop a corneal ulcer and risk permanent vision loss.

Viral conjunctivitis – Most instances of viral conjunctivitis will cause the eyes to appear red and glassy, and there may be a watery discharge.  It usually affects both eyes and may be accompanied by an upper respiratory infection.  The lymph nodes in front of the ears and along the neck may be tender and swollen.  These cases are highly contagious and cannot be treated with medication.  They will resolve on their own within 7 to 10 days.  Some may take as long as 3 weeks.  Until then, patients should avoid spreading it to others.  Some may find relief with cool compresses or artificial tears throughout the day.

Occasionally, an eye can become infected by the herpes simplex or herpes zoster virus.  Symptoms may include a pink eye, pain, decrease in vision, or blisters on one side of the face.  These patients need to be seen and treated immediately in order to prevent vision loss.

Allergic conjunctivitis – This form of pink eye is prevalent throughout the year, depending on a person’s allergies and the plants that are in bloom during that season.  Allergic conjunctivitis will typically cause itching, tearing, and sticky, thick and white discharge that affects both eyes.  Some may notice their symptoms are worse after being outdoors.  Many often complain of an itchy throat or runny nose.  Usually, oral allergy medications will alleviate the symptoms related to the eyes, but many require the additional use of topical allergy eye drops to relieve symptoms.

I have seen a number of patients on a Friday afternoon with complaints of a pink eye.  Many times, the symptoms are not severe enough to determine what form of conjunctivitis the patient has, which can make treatment a little trickier.  In those cases, we advise the patient to return for a follow-up visit to determine if the treatment was effective.

A good rule of thumb for whether or not you need to see an optometrist when you have a pink eye is that if you are experiencing pain, light sensitivity, are noticing reduced vision or wear contact lenses, then visit an eye doctor today.  Make sure you do not put on your contact lenses.  I often advise my patients to try seeing an eye doctor first, rather than visiting urgent care as they may not have all the tools required to adequately diagnose your eye condition.

So, keep your hands clean, don’t share towels and avoid touching your face and eyes!

– Cindy P. Wang, OD, FAAO