How Safe Are My Contact Lenses?
5 min Oct. 22, 2021
So here’s some more information which you should find reassuring. Every form of modern contact lens lets oxygen pass through. This means the old days of eyes swelling and suffocating behind hard lenses are largely that: a thing of the past. Advanced polymers made of hydrogels and silicone-hydrogels - plus the science behind rigid gas permeable lenses.
That’s good to know, right? Well yes, but what works in principle doesn’t always work in reality. So, what do you need to be aware of?
THE RISKS YOU WANT TO AVOID
The first is to stick to the indicated replacement period. For daily disposables that’s a single day’s wear, with the lovely benefit of not having to care for them overnight.
As the name suggests, monthly disposable contacts have to be replaced after 30 days, regardless of how often you have used them during that month. With these monthly contact lenses your second job is to keep them clean and disinfected, whilst taking care of the case.
The third necessity is to book an appointment with your optometrist immediately, if a problem occurs.
Follow this simple guidance and you’ll avoid or resolve almost any issues, leaving you free to enjoy a happy future with your contact lenses.
But hold on a minute. We’ve said what to do, but how do you do it? Here’s what you need to know ...
THE CLEAN ESSENTIALS
Let’s take cleanliness first. It’s the key to eye health. Every time you handle your contact lenses, your hands need to be squeaky clean. This means washed in a fragrance-free soap, rinsed, then dried on a (preferably lint-free) towel.
Check your fingertips for dust, debris, hairs and fibres before handling your contact lenses. Make sure the lens is a perfect bowl shape, not inside out with pointed edges. If the contact lens looks damaged in any way, it’s no longer a friend of yours. Keep it well away from your precious eyes.
If you wear daily disposables, change to a new pair any time your eyes feel irritated. Stop wearing them if the new pair fails to improve things - and see your optometrist.
If this happens with monthlies (the sort of contact lenses you take out daily but use for a month), give your eyes a break. Clean and disinfect the lenses, store them in their overnight case, then wait until your eyes feel fresh and ready for their next adventure. Clean the stored lens with your recommended solution, check it for damage and rinse your eyes with artificial tears or contact lens rewetting drops if they still feel a bit dry. This should resolve any problems. This video may help too.
LISTEN TO YOUR OPTOMETRIST
However, everyone’s eyes are unique and respond differently to change. Some people are more susceptible to infections, while others are prone to dry eyes. So it is important to ask your optometrist to examine your eyes whenever your eyes remain uncomfortable for more than a day or so. Don’t delay your visit. A rapid response can stop the condition worsening, ensuring your eyes return to full health quickly.
Whether you wear glasses or contact lenses, seek advice immediately if your vision becomes blurred; your eyes become red, painful or swollen; or if you get visible spots over your iris (the coloured part of your eye).
Even if your eyes become dry or just mildly irritated during contact lens use, go back to glasses until you have had your eyes rechecked.
You may need a few days off from your contact lenses before restarting, a change to a different type of contact lens, or to try an alternative form of vision correction. Don’t buy any contact lenses (online or elsewhere) until you’re sure which ones work best for your eyes. Only your optometrist can determine this, when checking your eyes and fitting your contact lenses, ensuring you get an accurate and personalised prescription.
It’s also important to attend regular check-ups (at least once a year), even when everything seems to be progressing smoothly. You do it for your car, so surely your eyes deserve equal (or greater) care!
A FEW MORE THINGS TO CONSIDER
Never exceed the recommended period for which your specific contact lenses can be worn. Yes, it’s tempting to do so. We get it. It’s really easy to think you can get away with overdoing things, but remember, this is your eyesight at stake.
Don’t gamble! Ignoring the rules may seem like a good idea at the time, but it’s one of the best ways of turning a contact lens into a damaging one.
Unless you’ve been prescribed extended wear contact lenses, please don’t sleep in them! Most contact lenses are not designed for overnight wear and you could damage your eyes by doing so. Sleeping with your contact lenses in raises the risk of corneal infection at least fourfold, whatever type of lens you wear.
It’s also best not to wear contact lenses in a swimming pool or shower. Why? Well, it’s not so much that there’s a small chance they could be dislodged, but more to do with nasty, invisible bacteria and bugs. Hidden in water, these could transfer to your contact lens and into your eyes. That’s also why you should never use tap water to lubricate or clean a lens. It’s loaded with germs and microbes you really don’t want anywhere near your eyes.
As for saliva, well, you can guess what we think about that! Anyone who reckons the microbe-filled contents of their mouth make for a good cleaning solution should be sent to the naughty step, and really shouldn’t be wearing contact lenses.
Ah, but what happens when you drop a lens? If it’s a daily lens, throw it away and use another one. If it’s a monthly, clean it in solution then check it carefully for damage (like rips or grit), before replacing it in your eye. Change the cleaning solution daily and keep your contact lens case clean, using fresh supplies of solution, not tap water. It’s smart to replace the case every couple of months (many care products provide a new case with every bottle, like OPTI-FREE® Puremoist®: it makes sense to use it!).
Finally, only wear contact lenses prescribed for you, and overseen by your optometrist.
The vast majority of lens problems and infections arise from not following basic, simple rules - not from the products themselves.
So do the right things and you can be (almost!) certain to enjoy worry-free, clear vision.