August 17-21, 2020 marks the seventh annual Contact Lens Health Week – a CDC strategy to increase public health awareness of how to safely care for and wear contact lenses. Approximately 45 million Americans wear contact lenses. They are a safe and convenient alternative to eyeglasses and can correct many vision disorders including nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. However, not caring for and wearing them properly can lead to serious problems, among them infections and damage to your eyes. In rare cases, this can lead to blindness.
Best strategies for reducing your risk of infection involve proper hygiene; following recommended wearing schedules; using proper lens care practices for cleaning, disinfecting and storing; and having routine eye exams.
Proper hygiene for contact lenses
- Wash your hands with soap and water before handling contact lenses. Dry hands with clean cloth.
- Avoid oily cosmetics and hand sanitizers before touching your lenses. Put your lenses in before applying makeup; replace eye makeup every 3 months.
- Inspect lenses to ensure they are clean and free of tears.
- Don’t sleep in your contact lenses. This can increase your risk of infection.
- Never reuse solution. Rub and rinse your lenses daily in fresh solution.
- Don’t put your lenses in your mouth to clean them. Saliva is not sterile!
- Get a new case every 3 months.
- Remove contact lenses before showering or swimming.
- Never purchase lenses without a valid, non-expired prescription.
- Call your eye care professional and take out your lenses immediately if you experience swelling, pain, red eyes, discharge or blurred vision.
- Consider using artificial tears to keep contacts hydrated.
- Have a back-up plan. Carry a spare set of lenses and have a pair of eyeglasses with you at all times.
How do you know if contact lenses are not right for you? Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you have the time to be compliant with safety measures and good hygiene?
- Do you work in an area with lots of dirt or debris in the air?
- Do you have dry eye problems? If you don’t make enough tears, your lenses may be uncomfortable, and you also may risk infection. Ask your eye care professional if you are not sure.
Most importantly, never skip your annual eye exam. This is especially important if you wear contact lenses because of the increased risk of abrasions and infections. In addition, regular eye exams will detect changes in vision, as well as diseases like glaucoma or cataracts.