With an estimated 38 Million contact lens wearers in the US, I see my fair share of contact lens wearers. I get to see the good, the bad, and everything in between when it comes to corneal disease, contact lens comfort, and good hygiene practices.
Many people equate the white lies they tell the dentist about flossing with the white lies they tell their eye doctor about how they wear their contacts. But, if you think about the worst possible outcome of not flossing versus the worst possible outcome of corneal disease (permanent vision loss), they aren’t quite the same, are they?
The fact is, complications from contact lens abuse are not rare occurrences that we optometrists see only now and then and use to scare our patients. Unfortunately, I see peoples lives changed weekly by contact lens abuse.
Contact lenses are safe, IF you use them correctly. Here’s my top ten of what you should be doing to protect yourself:
1. Do NOT sleep in your contact lenses unless your doctor has specifically told you that you can. If you are unsure, call their office and ask.
2. Throw away your contacts when you’re supposed to. Stretching the life of your contact lens may feel OK, but you are creating a breeding ground for bacteria. If you are supposed to throw away every 30 days, then on day 31 you should have a new lens on your eye.
3. Don’t top off your lens solution in your case. You don’t want all the bacteria you washed off the night before staying in the case for prolonged periods of time. Each night, dump the solution, rinse with water, dry, and refill.
4. Toss your contact lens case every 3 months and buy a new one. Your contacts spend as much time in the case as on your eye, so make sure they have a clean place to disinfect.
5. ALWAYS wash your hands before inserting or removing your contacts. Dirty hands mean dirty lenses.
6. Buy name brand solution. Don’t skimp on the solution to save 2 bucks. The good stuff goes through FDA testing and approval. The Walmart version does not.
7. Know that you can’t wear contact lenses every day. When your eye hurts, it’s trying to tell you to take your contact out; it needs a break. And this is why…
8. You should always have a back up pair of glasses. See number 7 for details.
9. See your Optometrist every 12 months. When you wear contact lenses, you are putting yourself at an increased risk of countless complications. You owe it to yourself to get your eye health evaluated every year on the dot.
10. Talk to your Optometrist about the best contact lens for you. Just because you’ve always worn the same contacts without issues doesn’t mean there’s not a better lens on the market for you. Technologies are emerging every year and, chances are, there’s a better contact lens out there for you.
Dr. Canaan Montgomery is an optometrist in Paducah, KY. As an eye doctor in Paducah, he fits glasses and contact lenses, treats eye diseases, and sees pediatric patients.