In my 17 years of practicing optometry, I've seen a few things in my career. Some pretty. Some ugly. Here's 6 contact lens survival tips to never being THAT gross person.
1. Avoid sleeping in your contact lenses like you would avoid an ex.
Your corneas need oxygen to stay healthy. While you are sleeping, your inner eyelids feed the cornea with nutrients and O2 via it's high density of specialized capillaries. When you're wearing a contact lens overnight (aka 'extended wear'), this re-charge process is blocked.
Currently, there is a brand of contact lenses called Air Optix Night & Day that is FDA approved for 30 continuous days of extended wear because it has the highest oxygen transmission for a soft, disposable contact lens. Even still, out of my 1,500 contact lens patients I manage annually – only 2 patients wear this style of lens. Because, an ex is a thing of the past.
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2. Never, ever, ever, ever let tap water touch your soft contact lens.
And that's because microorganisms such as bacteria live in our drinking water. Our stomachs can kill this bacteria. Our corneas – not so much. If you wear contact lenses full time (40+ hours or more a week) . . . add some bacteria to an already oxygen-deprived cornea, you're just signing up for an vision-threatening ulcer. Bye. Bye. Bye.
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3. Disinfection matters. A lot.
License to kill is the name of the game. If you use a 2 week or 1 month disposable contact lens, that bacteria needs to die. When you wash your dishes, do you use soap? What if you didn't use any soap and just rinsed them with water? Super gross, right? Well the same can be said for contact lenses. Here's what I recommend to patients for safe, healthy disinfection:
If not everyday, at least once a week - run your contact lenses through a cycle of Clear Care. Make sure you read the instructions as this is a hydrogen peroxide based system that cannot go directly into your eyes. In my opinion, Clear Care kills and does the best job of getting your contact lenses the cleanest.
If you prefer a multi-purpose solution due to convenience for killing and rinsing, Biotrue and Opti-Free are my go-to favorites. For me, they rank the highest in terms of 007 power and for my patients, they love the comfort they add to their contact lenses.
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4. Ask your optometrist about daily disposables.
If you wear a 2 week or 1 month disposable contact lens, did you know it starts to become pro-inflammatory on the 2nd day simply because the lens is not quite as clean and sterile like a brand new one? When your lens starts to feel uncomfortable, it's not the lens you're feeling necessarily, but rather it's they symptoms of inflammation and possibly bacteria. Yikes!
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5. After sports. Disinfect or replace.
If you're active in sports, a daily disposable contact lens is your BFF. Last year, there was a case of a woman who went blind in one eye after participating in a popular mud run. If you are going to wear contact lenses for sports such as a mud run or swimming, my best advise is to: 1) put your contact lenses through a cycle of disinfection right after use; 2) do not sleep or nap in the contact lenses; and/or 3) toss out and replace the contact lenses with a brand new set.
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6. Your eyelids may sabotage it all.
Eyelashes exist to trap and keep bacteria, allergens and dirt from falling into the eyes. Washing your eyelids daily with a foaming cleanser will keep those lashes clean, bacteria-free and allergen-free. Why is this important? Because dirty eyelids create inflammation & infection which will make your contact lens wear uncomfortable and your eyes red over time. Here's my foaming cleanser that I invented and use with tremendous success with my contact lens patients. Use nightly.
So the next time you grab those contact lenses, think about oxygen, bacteria, allergens and how awesome you are for being mindful.