Contact lenses are a safe and effective way for people to enjoy good and comfortable vision without glasses. However, if the proper precautions aren’t taken, they could cause severe eye problems.
Experts at the UPMC Eye Center offer their best advice to keep your eyes healthy while wearing contacts.
How You Can Keep Your Eyes Healthy
- Keep your contact lenses clean
Keeping your lenses clean by washing your hands and using sterile solutions recommended by your eye care provider anytime you handle your contacts is one of the most important ways to avoid lens related eye problems.
- Don’t sleep in your contacts
Unless it is medically necessary, do not sleep in your contacts. Studies have shown that overnight use of contact lenses greatly increases the chance of getting an eye infection.
- Replace your contacts regularly
As a contact ages, the integrity of the plastic is compromised—just like a tire can wear out, so can a lens. Wearing an old lens can cause complications that can result in your doctor keeping you out of your contact lenses for weeks or months while you recover.
- Take your lenses out after dinner
I tell patients that every day they should be without their contacts for at least 3 to 4 hours. This allows the eye to recover from the microtrauma caused by wearing a lens. A good rule of thumb is to take them out after you eat dinner.
- If you have redness or irritation, remove your lenses and call your doctor.
If your eye has any problem, even if it seems small, you should not insert your contact. You should notify your eye care provider immediately and ask to be seen the same day if possible.
- Don’t use water or saliva on your lens
Never use tap or distilled water or other non-sterile solution on any kind of contact lens. Water is not pH balanced to your eye and can cause a soft lens to swell to many times its normal size. Organisms called Acanthamoeba inhabit all water sources and can cause devastating eye infections. If you don’t have solution on hand, use an artificial tear, or leave it dry.
- Avoid showering or swimming with your lenses
Because of the risk of Acanthamoeba discussed above, it is not recommended that you wear contacts when you are exposed to non-sterile water. Chlorine in hot tubs and swimming pools does not kill the Acanthamoeba organism or adenovirus (the most common cause of pink eye). If you swim for exercise, prescription goggles are recommended and are not expensive.
- Go one day a week without contacts
I generally recommend that patients not wear their contacts at least one day per week. If you are home on a weekend, don’t use them—just wear your glasses.
- Use daily eye drops
Contact lens wearers should use lubricating eye drops at least once a day to help keep them clean and moisten the surface of the eye. Using computers, which is common in the workplace, can often increase dry eye symptoms.
- Discuss medications with your eye doctor
Patients who must take eye medications should discuss whether they are compatible with lens use with their eye care practitioner.