Contact lens wearers are at risk for keratitis, an inflammation of the cornea (the clear dome covering the coloured part of the eye) caused by bacteria. It can be as mild as general irritation, redness, and light sensitivity, or as serious as developing a corneal ulcer that could lead to permanent vision problems.
But don’t panic, the vast majority of keratitises are preventable, that is, if you handle your contacts as directed. It’s time to break the following bad habits to ensure that you’re taking proper care of your contact lenses.
Studies indicate that about half of disposable and frequent replacement contact users wear their lenses longer than recommended – waiting instead, for the lens to tear or become irritated. This is a major no-no. Don’t wait – wear them for the prescribed day, week or month, dispose of them and move on. Wearing contact lenses longer than their recommended life cycle could potentially lead to major problems.
Simply put, always wash and thoroughly dry your hands before handling contact lenses. Why dry? Well, water can contain harmful microorganisms that can transfer onto the lens and subsequently onto the eye if wearers fail to dry their hands with a clean surface.
A study from Australia found that people who occasionally sleep in their contact lenses have a 6.5 times higher risk of keratitis than people who don’t. A contact lens is made up of plastic and it impairs the oxygen flow to your cornea. Since the cornea has no blood flow, it relies on the oxygen in the air. With your eyes closed during sleep even less oxygen is available to the cornea. The takeaway? Take your contacts out every night before bed and even when you nap. Only sleep in contact lenses that are approved for flexible wear under your doctor’s care and supervision.
Don’t ignore your lens case or try to clean it like you would the dishes. The best way to care for your case is to clean it after each use, and keep it open and dry between cleanings. It’s highly recommended that you change your lens storage case every three months.
When it comes to your contact lens solution or care system, you need to follow the manufacturer's recommendations. Not all solutions are created equally and some are made specific to your lens materials. It’s also important to note that you should always use fresh solution every night (never recycle old solution) and be sure that the solution completely covers each lens when soaking.
We recommend that you put your contacts in their case before swimming or entering a hot tub. Water can be home to many viruses and microbes such as the Acanthamoeba organism, which can attach to contact lenses and cause the cornea to become infected and inflamed. Your best bet for swimming is a great pair of prescriptive goggles.
To learn more about caring for your eyes and contact lenses, or to get an eye exam if you are concerned, book an appointment with an FYidoctors optometrist near you.