Contact lenses are a leading cause of eye problems. At Spectrum Eyecare in Peachtree City, Dr. John Henahan examines many patients with complications arising from inappropriate wear of contact lenses. Contact lenses are never risk free, but simple strategies can minimize the risk of problems, according to Dr. Henahan. He discusses the key strategies below.
1) Before handling contact lenses, wash your hands!
This is obvious, but studies have shown that most people do not routinely wash their hands before handling their contact lenses. Remember that bacteria and viruses accumulate on your hands constantly. Household chemicals often get on your hands as well, often without your knowledge. If not washed away, the offending agent can get into your eye as you insert or remove your contact lenses.
2) Contact lenses deserve fresh solution every day
It is tempting to save some money by reusing contact lens solution for several nights in a row, but don’t do it! Contact lens solution does more than just keep contact lenses moist. It also disinfects the lens and removes buildup such as protein and lipids from the lens. This process is critical in reducing infections and increasing wearing comfort. However, the solution only works ONE time. As such, if you re-use the solution several days in a row, the lens can become contaminated with bacteria. This can then infect your eye. Buildup will also occur more quickly on the lens which can lead to chronic inflammation in the eye that makes wearing the lenses impossible, so the patient ends up out of contact lenses for long periods of time so the eyes can heal.
3) Replace your contact lens case when you buy a new bottle of solution
Have you looked at your contact lens case lately? Is it gunky and crusted looking? Filthy? Try and get in the habit of rinsing the case off each day when you insert your lenses. Then replace your case each time you buy a new bottle of solution.
4) Contact lenses need to be replaced on the recommended schedule
Another common mistake is to keep a pair of contact lenses too long. This seems especially problematic when trying to make that last pair last as long as possible. Each day a contact lens is worn, a buildup gradually occurs that reduces the breathability of the lens. An old lens can dangerously reduce oxygen transmission to the eye. Chronic oxygen deprivation can cause abnormal blood vessel growth as well as a sudden death of cells on the surface of the eye. This sudden death leads to a painful, potentially blinding eye infection called a corneal ulcer. Remembering when to replace contact lenses should be a thing of the past with the prevalence of smart phones in which a simple recurring alarm can be set in your calendar. Alternatively, you can sign up for the free service called Accuminder (accuminder.com). It will send a text message or email to you when it is time to change your contact lenses.
5) Sleep in contact lenses at your own risk
When you sleep in your contact lenses regularly, the risk of a corneal ulcer or other serious eye infection increases at least ten-fold. The problem with sleeping in a contact lens is that it is in your eye twice as much compared to someone who removes them daily. Since the cleaning and disinfecting regimen does not occur when you sleep in your contacts, the contact lenses become heavily coated with buildup. Bacteria are also free to proliferate on the lens. Even contact lenses that are “approved” for extended wear are much safer when removed every night.
By following these simple strategies, you can reduce the risk of contact lens complications by 90% or more.
Dr. John Henahan is a Peachtree City resident and founder of Spectrum Eyecare. Call 770-487-0667 or visit his website at speceye.com for more information or to make an appointment.