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Do you need a contact lens intervention?

This article appeared in the Pontiac Daily Leader and Fairbury Blade in August 2014.


By Sasha L Radford, OD

Here’s a quick true or false quiz for all the contact lens wearers out there:

  1. T or F:  I wear my disposable contact lenses until they start bothering my eyes.
  2. T or F:  I can reuse my contact lens solution to save money.
  3. T or F:  I’ve kept the same contact lens case since 1999.
  4. T or F:  I don’t need glasses because I wear my contacts all of the time.

If you answered “True” to any of these questions, you may be a “contact lens abuser.” In that case, it’s time for an intervention! Contact lens abuse can take many forms and you may not even be aware you’re doing anything wrong. Think of everything you currently know about contact lens wear, gather it into a little mental box, and throw it out an imaginary window. We’re starting over. The risks of contact lens abuse aren’t just red eyes and discomfort. When inflammation or infection from improper contact lens care occurs, it can take days or weeks to treat, during which you have to wear that hideous pair of glasses you’ve had in the drawer for years. Chronic inflammation can also make it impossible to comfortably wear contact lenses later in your life. When microbial infection occurs, a corneal ulcer can develop which can result in scarring that permanently damages vision. I’ve seen patients with ulcers who needed corneal transplants to restore their vision. While this is not common, it is a real risk for contact lens abusers. Here are your new guidelines for safe, healthy contact lens wear: Always wash hands before inserting or removing contact lenses using soap with no added moisturizers. Dispose of your lenses according to the schedule your doctor recommends (single use, two weeks, or one month). These wear schedules aren’t designed as a way to get you to buy more lenses; they are determined based on how long a lens can safely be worn. Never sleep in your contacts unless approved to do so by your doctor, and then only for the prescribed amount of time. Clean your lenses each night with the disinfecting solution prescribed by your doctor. Rub side to side and rinse lenses thoroughly before storing in fresh solution in a clean case. Some patients merely soak their lenses overnight; however, a good rub and rinse is necessary to remove debris and deposits on the surface. Always use the specific disinfecting solution prescribed by your doctor. Generic solutions are not the same and many patients develop sensitivities to preservatives in some solutions. Furthermore, not all solutions are compatible with all types of contact lenses. Do not “top off” solution; use fresh solution in your case each time you store your lenses since solutions lose their disinfecting properties after a single use. After inserting your lenses, rinse your case with contact lens disinfecting solution and let it air dry. Replace your case every 2-3 months. Do not rinse or soak your lenses in tap water and do not wet your lenses with saliva. Do not swim in your contacts unless you plan to dispose of them immediately after getting out of the water. Always have a back-up pair of glasses – a pair that you’d actually wear in public! – in case you cannot wear your contacts for some reason. Never wear your contacts when you are ill or if you have any of the following signs or symptoms: redness, pain, discharge, excess watering, light sensitivity, or blurry vision. See your eye care provider right away if any of these problems occur; timely treatment produces the best outcomes for vision and eye health. Single use contact lenses have become much more popular among doctors and patients due to the enhanced safety and comfort of wearing a fresh lens each day. Patients with allergies, excessive buildup on their lenses, or frequent inflammation and infections do much better in a daily disposable lens. As medical devices, contact lenses are similar to prescriptions for medications; a contact lens prescription usually expires in one year. Successful contact lens wear – clear, comfortable, healthy eyes – depends on regular follow up care with your eye care provider as well as appropriate care techniques the rest of the year.