Contact lenses are no doubt the most convenient kinds of corrective lenses. They’re perfect for sports, dance, or for people who always need to wear eyeglasses and prefer the freedom of contact lenses. Their convenience makes contact lenses easy to forget about. But, the CDC reports 99 percent of contact lens wearers have admitted to being less than careful when it comes to the hygiene of their contacts.
Contacts need more care than eyeglasses as the lens comes directly into contact with your eye. If not cleaned properly contact lenses can carry dirt and bacteria that may cause uncomfortable and irritating eye infections. The best way to avoid this is to wholly understand contact lenses and how to use them responsibly.
Types of Contact Lenses
Contact lenses are lenses that you insert (using your fingers) under your eyelids and rest on your eyeball. They are prescription lenses that are generally used as a replacement to regular eyeglass wear. Like eyeglasses, there are many different types of contact lenses. There are generally four types.
First up are soft contact lenses. These contact lenses are the most popular and the more expensive in the long run as they need frequent replacing. They are made of soft plastic materials that are flexible to provide a comfortable fit. These contacts breathe well, allowing oxygen to flow through the cornea of the eye. These soft contacts are popular because they are easily adjustable.
Next we have rigid gas permeable (or RGP) contact lenses. These lenses are, well, rigid. They’re more resilient than soft contact lenses, but are less comfortable to wear. But because of their higher durability, RGP lenses give clearer and crisper vision. Though they may be less comfortable at the beginning, after a week or so, you’ll barely even notice them. They also last longer than soft contact lenses.
It used to be that contacts were meant to be taken out before bed and placed in a solution to be cleaned overnight. However, extended wear contact lenses are special lenses meant to be worn from six to 30 days continuously. These contacts generally come as soft contact lenses, but can be made special as RGP lenses if that’s your preference. Though these lenses have been FDA approved it is not recommended by a lot of eye specialists.
Disposable contact lenses are a little misleading in terms of its name. Many soft contact lenses are made disposable, meaning they are meant to be worn once and discarded. Rather, many of these supposedly disposable lenses work on the premise of a replacement schedule. This is to say that the lenses are replaced every two to four weeks depending on the type of lenses. They are not meant to be worn continuously, but are meant to be taken out overnight and washed.
Contact Lens Related Infections and Their Causes
Your eyes are a complex organ, so complex in fact, that doctors have yet to fully understand how they work. This makes caring for these organs a sometimes difficult task. Being so exposed and sensitive, we have to be careful around our eyes. The littlest things will cause infections that may not be our fault, such as getting sand or dust blown into them accidentally.
However when it comes to contact lenses, there are no “accidents”. Taking care of lenses is not rocket science. It may be tedious and annoying, but it is essential to the health of your fragile eyes.
Symptoms for contact lens related infections are:
- Redness in the eye
- Blurred vision
- Eye pain/discomfort
- Abnormal discharge
- Light sensitivity
If you wear contact lenses and experience two or more of these symptoms, take your contacts out immediately and make an appointment with your eye doctor.
The most common eye infection due to contact lenses is keratitis. Keratitis is an infection of the cornea, which if left untreated can lead to scarring of the cornea and impaired vision. The main causes of this infection are bacteria, fungus, and sometimes herpes. It is not a fun infection to have.
The leading cause of contact lens related infections is poor or neglectful care. It’s normal to stop caring for something that you use daily. We’ve all done it. For example you have a new shiny bike. The first few weeks, you keep it spotless, then one day you roll through some mud by mistake, then if happens again and again and eventually you stop caring about how dirty it gets.
You can’t have the same mentality when it comes to your contact lenses. They aren’t something that can be hosed down in the backyard. They need care and they need to be cleaned. Don’t let laziness affect your long term vision. It isn’t worth it.
How to Properly Care for Contact Lenses
There are a number of things to do in order to keep your contact lenses clean and safe for wear. Though the list may seem long, caring for your lenses doesn’t have to be a chore. If you find that they may be too much to handle, consider switching to glasses which require less maintenance.
Here are some tips for healthy contacts:
- Never sleep with your contacts (unless advised otherwise by a professional)
- Replace contact lenses as directed or every three months
- Wash out contact lens case and replace the solution every night (don’t just add new solution on top of last night’s)
- Never clean with water
- Avoid wearing contact lenses in water (for example: showers, pools, lakes or oceans, etc.)
Contact lenses can be the best thing that ever happened to you, or the worse. Your experience with contacts is up to you. Take care of them, and you’ll live happily ever after with your contacts. Don’t take care of them, and you can end up with some permanent eye damage.