Most people who regularly wear contacts have been there – it’s the end of the day, you have something in your eye, or any number of other reasons and you have to take your contact lenses out. And, of course you don’t have any solution. A common response to this dilemma is to store or rinse your contact lenses in tap water.
Unfortunately, storing or rinsing your contacts in tap water can do more harm than good. In most areas tap water is purified, but that isn’t enough. Contact solution is specially designed to clean and disinfect your lenses. Tap water doesn’t share the disinfectant properties of contact solutions. In fact, tap water allows bacteria and harmful pathogens to form on your contacts.
UPMC Eye Center expert, Deepinder K. Dhaliwal, MD, L.Ac, has researched the effects of tap water on the eyes for the last few years. Her research has found that the pathogens in tap water have the potential to cause a sight-threatening parasitic eye infection called Acanthamoeba keratitis.
Signs and symptoms of eye infection include eye pain, redness, and blurry vision.
One of the biggest issues that Dr. Dhaliwal discovered during her research is that on the solution box most companies suggest rinsing gas-permeable contact lenses and cases with non-sterile tap water. These written instructions can create confusion for contact lens wearers and result in infections.
Additionally, Dr. Dhaliwal adds that contact lens wearers often think they are doing the right thing by occasionally rinsing their contact cases out with tap water. In fact, this also can lead to harmful microbes being transferred onto the lenses. Instead of rinsing out your cases with tap water Dr. Dhaliwal recommends rinsing with contact lens solution and regularly replacing them.
Proper Contact Hygiene
One of the best ways to avoid potential eye infections is proper lens hygiene. Dr. Dhaliwal recommends:
- Regularly replacing lens cases
- Wash and dry hands before managing the lenses
- Using fresh solution to clean, rinse, and store contacts
- Removing lenses before swimming and showering
- Using a solution recommended by your doctor
- Never rinsing or storing contacts with tap water
Without proper hygiene you can run an increased risk of developing eye infections and even ulcers that can leave you unable to wear contacts for significant periods of time.