You’ve undoubtedly heard the horror stories surrounding poor contact lens care. The most recent of which is a 67-year-old woman who went in for cataract surgery and the eye doctors found 27 pairs of contact lenses in her eyes, which shocked both the patient and the physicians. There are several other stories about eye infections from contacts that weren’t properly cared for, and some of these infections can even lead to blindness, so taking proper care of your contact lenses is an essential part of your ocular health.
Regardless of the brand or type of contact lens you wear, it’s important to ask yourself these questions:
1. Do You Have Regular Eye Exams?
The first part of maintaining healthy eyes is having annual eye exams to make sure your prescription is up to date and that you don’t have a common vision disorder impacting your eyesight. During your eye exam, Dr. Foulkes will look for any signs of infection or disease as well as check for any vision changes. Your eyesight fluctuates until your mid-20s, but once your prescription has been stable for one to two years, you could be an ideal candidate for LASIK.
2. Do You Remove and Apply Your Contacts Properly?
It’s easy for long-term contact lens wearers to neglect some of the important steps of taking out and putting in each pair. Whether you have daily, bi-weekly or extended-wear contact lenses, you need to make sure you follow the appropriate measures to maintain healthy eyes, which involves washing your hands with soap, drying them and avoiding lotions or perfumes before putting your finger in your eyes. Always take your contacts out before applying makeup and remove them before you take off your makeup. This prevents irritants from getting into your eye and ensures your hands are free from products such as mascara, eyeliner and foundation. Once you’ve removed the contact, place it in your palm with a few drops of the appropriate lens solution and rub it gently to remove the debris that has built up during the day.
3. Do You Carry a Spare Pair of Contact Lenses with You?
There are many situations where your contacts may become contaminated such as spraying aerosol products, working in an environment with debris and particles in the air without protective eyewear, and going swimming in a pond, pool or the ocean. If you have a spare pair of contacts with you, you can use the new ones and you won’t be tempted to keep using the contaminated pair.
4. Do You Have an Updated Pair of Glasses with You in Case of Emergencies?
There are unforeseen events where you may need to take your contacts out such as spending the night at a friend’s unexpectedly, working late, or the contacts are irritating your eyes. Having a pair of glasses on hand will prevent you from sleeping in your contacts or continuing to wear a pair that causes discomfort or pain.
5. Have You Used Tap Water as a Cleaning Solution?
Most contact lens wearers have done this at least once, which means you know how bad it is for both your eyes and the pair of contacts. Tap water contains bacteria which could lead to a severe, site-threatening eye infection, and it also causes your contacts to morph, making it difficult to wear the pair again. Your eyes will likely be irritated, red and itchy.
6. Do You Replace Your Contacts as Directed?
Some contacts are discarded daily while others are thrown out every two weeks or once a month. If you use a pair of contacts longer than directed, you’re more at risk of infection, and your vision will suffer. Daily lenses are manufactured to be worn approximately ten to 12 hours a day and thrown out after that. Continuing to wear daily contacts for several days will make your eyes teary, red, and susceptible to infection. The same goes for two-week and extended-wear lenses. Additionally, you shouldn’t wear contact lenses past their expiration date because they may have been exposed to bacteria and other contaminants. However, the shelf-life for contacts can be up to four years, depending on the company and type of contact.
7. Do You Regularly Clean Your Contact Lens Case?
Contact lens care doesn’t stop with the lenses. Ideally, you need to rinse, dry, and fill your lens case with new solution every day. Some people may not follow that rule, but you’ve likely seen what can build up in your contact case. After just a day or two, you may see floating particles in the solution or a smudge on the contact itself. This is why it’s important to first rub the contacts with the solution before placing them in the case over night. Bacteria can easily build up inside the lens case even if it’s dry and hasn’t been used for a while. You should clean your case with hot water and dry thoroughly because bacteria can live for years inside a dry contact lens case. Our eye doctor also recommends you switch to a new lens case every month or so.
8. Are You Using the Right Products for Your Type of Contacts?
There are many types of contacts. Depending on the length of time you wear your contacts, you’ll need to be sure you use the right products and care for them properly. Most contacts can be cared for using a multi-purpose solution, but the brand matters and you will also need lubricating eye drops if your eyes are easily irritated. You may have an allergic reaction to a certain product or even the contacts themselves. Ask Dr. Foulkes if you’re using the right solution and brand of contact for you during your next eye exam at our Chicago or Lombard offices.
9. Have You Considered LASIK Eye Surgery?
A recent study found that long-term contact lens wearers were more likely to develop microbial keratitis (a potentially severe eye infection) than those who have had LASIK eye surgery. This is because you’re putting your eyes at risk of infection every time you forget to wash your hands first and every time you fail to clean them properly. Some eye infections can go on for years without notice, which is what happened with the 67-year-old woman we mentioned above. Essentially, you’re at a daily risk of infection when you wear contacts, but if you have LASIK, you have a one-time risk.
If it’s time for your annual eye exam or you’re interested in LASIK, please contact our eye doctor in Chicago today at 630-724-1400 to schedule your appointment with Dr. Foulkes. Foulkes Vision serves clients in the Chicagoland area, including Lombard.