The Third Week of August marks the 5th Annual observance of Contact Lens Health Week. Since Soft Contact Lenses were first invented in 1961, and introduced to the USA by Bausch and Lomb in 1971, the “uniqueness” of the experience has faded a bit and people have often become somewhat lax in their care of these medical devices we are inserting into our bodies. Summer is the perfect time to review some of the practical steps we can take to ensure a safe and comfortable relationship with your contact lenses.
Along with summer can come a change in some of your habits and daily routines. It is important to travel with a supply of your care solutions, backup glasses, and spare pairs of contact lenses. Inspect any solutions and cases in your travel gear to be sure they have not expired or become “overused”. You should not alter your lens care unless you discuss it first with your Eye Doctor or the Contact Lens Technician. A chemical reaction along with fidgeting with an irritated eye can result in a breach to the surface defenses of your cornea, and an inroad for bacteria to establish an infection.
Your lens case should be replaced after 3-4 months usage, and rinsed and capped every day. You should always replace the fluid and not top-off used solution remaining in the case from the night before or use water to store your lenses. In addition, you should not wear your contact lenses swimming or in hot tubs—these are not completely sterile conditions and any bugs that survive will love the breeding ground in the environment of your eyes. However, if you do, then remove your lenses as soon as possible when you get out of the water, and be sure they complete the manufacturer’s storage time to complete a cycle of sterilization. You can also rinse out your eye with artificial tears and wash around your eyelashes and eyebrows.
When you are out in the elements, be aware of eye coverage (sunglasses), use a visor or cap, and carry lens rewetting drops with you. If you want to be able to sleep in your lenses, be sure to discuss it with your Optometrist or the Contact Lens Technician. We have entered into an age of contact lens materials that now transmit over 8x the amount of oxygen to your cornea than their previous generation did. Nevertheless, you need to be aware that wearing your contact lenses as “Extended Wear” will increase your likelihood of developing an infection, a mechanical abrasion, or an allergic eye complication. Wearing your lenses for 5 or more consecutive nights without removing them makes this risk statistically skyrocket.
If you do develop any irritation that won’t settle down with the use of a Contact Lens Rewetting Drop, then you must remove the lens. If the irritation persists, DO NOT RE-INSERT THE LENS. Try using an ocular lubricant (fancy name for Artificial Tears)—but AVOID using any drops that “Get the RED OUT”. If the pain continues, call your Eye Doctor and observe any other factors that may signal complications, such as: sensitivity to light, type of tears (thick and mucousy or thin and runny), sore throat or fever, any upper respiratory problems, seasonal allergies, etc.
The ultimate in safe contact lenses are the Daily Disposable Contact Lenses and the most wonderful feeling for a contact lens wearer is when a brand new lens is inserted in the eye for as low as 65 cents per day (with the help of some of the manufacturers’ rebates and after applying any insurance benefits from your Vision Plan). The cost is higher if Astigmatism is significant or if you require bifocal lenses.
Play it safe with your contact lenses and follow these tips to keep your eyes healthy, and it is quite reasonable that they will provide you with decades of an alternative to wearing glasses or undergoing surgery to correct your vision.