Contact lenses are a great choice for vision correction. Virtually invisible, they correct vision not just in front of the eyes (as eyeglasses do), but regarding peripheral vision as well. They’re an excellent choice for sports and everyday wear, and there are many choices in contact lenses that can turn your natural eye color into something completely different. And you can order contacts by the post, over the phone, or the internet.
Disposable contact lenses are the most popular because they require much less in terms of daily care of contact lenses than the non-disposable ones. There are even one-day disposables that require little other than clean hands for inserting them. You just toss them at the end of the day.
But just because contact lenses in many cases are disposable and convenient, it doesn’t mean that care of contact lenses is now simply an afterthought. It is still possible to contract eye infections from improper handling of contact lenses, even if they’re the kind you throw away after a day’s or a week’s use. With annual replacement lenses or quarterly replacement lenses, regular cleaning and disinfection are even more important. These lenses have fallen out of favor in recent years because of the advent of more reasonably priced short-duration contact lenses that are thinner and much less prone to protein deposits on the lenses.
For any contact lenses worn more than once, proper handling is crucial. Basic care of contact lenses begins with a clean contact lens case and multi-purpose disinfection solution. When it is time to remove your lenses, wash your hands thoroughly and ensure that your contact lens case is clean. Squirt some of the multi-purpose disinfection solutions into each container in the contact lens case. Remove one of your contacts and thoroughly rinse it with the multi-purpose solution before placing it in one of the vessels. Repeat with the other lens. Put the caps onto the contact lens case securely so that the lenses can’t escape.
With some lenses – particularly those that are to be worn for two weeks or more – rinsing in multi-purpose solution may not be enough. Cleaning these lenses may require the same steps as above, but before rinsing the lenses, you place a couple of drops of the solution on the lens and gently rub the lens back and forth between your thumb and finger. Then you rinse them thoroughly and store them.
Conditions Related to Contact Lens Misuse
Complications such as eye infections affect around 4% of contact lens wearers every year. The biggest concern is over excessive wear of overnight lenses. Problems with contact lenses may occur in the eyelid, the cornea, and the conjunctiva.
The main eyelid complication from contact lenses is ptosis. Ptosis is drooping of the upper eyelid. When ptosis is severe enough or prolonged enough without treatment, it can cause other eye conditions like astigmatism or amblyopia (“lazy eye”). Causes of ptosis include damage to the muscle that raises up the eyelid or to the third cranial nerve, which is the oculomotor nerve controlling the eyelid muscle. Ptosis can be caused by many things other than improper care of contact lenses, such as diabetes, brain tumors, myasthenia gravis, or the venom of the black mamba snake.
The conjunctiva is the transparent mucous membrane covering the eyeball and the inner surface of the eyelid. Infection in the conjunctiva is called conjunctivitis, or sometimes “pinkeye.” Proper care of contact lenses is vital to avoid contracting conjunctivitis, which is not only painful and unsightly but very contagious. Whether caused by a viral illness like an upper respiratory infection or by a bacterial infection, conjunctivitis is painful and sometimes difficult to get rid of. Bacterial conjunctivitis will sometimes heal on its own, but with painful symptoms that last longer than three days, sometimes antibiotic eye drops are necessary to clear up the infection, which can cause eye discharge, and sticking together of the eyelids, particularly upon waking.
Infections of the cornea are usually due to overuse of extended wear contact lenses and improper care of contact lenses. These infections, also called keratitis, may be caused by bacteria, protozoa, or fungus.
Proper Cleaning of Lenses
Beyond simple cleaning, rinsing, and disinfection, care of contact lenses may involve other steps. Your eye doctor may recommend that you use a protein removal solution on your contacts, depending on how long you wear them and how much protein builds up on your contacts. With short duration lenses, protein cleansing is not usually necessary, but with lenses worn for a month or longer, it may be necessary to keep your lenses as comfortable and safe as possible. This may involve the use of daily protein removal liquids or enzymatic cleaners. Your eye doctor will probably tell you what kind of protein deposit cleanser you should use.
The three most commonly used products for the care of contact lenses are a saline solution, daily cleaner, and multipurpose solution.
Saline solution is a storage and rinsing product. It is used with heat and UV disinfection systems and with enzymatic cleaning tablets. Saline solutions are not suitable by themselves for cleaning and disinfecting.
The daily cleaner is used a few drops at a time. After placing a few drops of daily cleanser into your lens and rubbing the lens as directed, you rinse the lenses and disinfect them.
The multipurpose solution is an all-in-one solution that cleans, rinses, disinfects, and can be used for storage. Multipurpose solutions take care of contact lenses very easy and convenient because no other lens products are necessary unless you wear your lenses for a month or longer, in which case, your eye doctor may recommend an enzymatic cleanser to get protein deposits off your lenses.
Sometimes care of contact lenses involves hydrogen peroxide cleaning systems. These are most commonly used by people who are too sensitive to the preservatives that are in multipurpose solutions. With hydrogen peroxide solution, the lenses go into a special hinged “basket”, are rinsed, and then the whole basket goes into a cup with a neutralizing solution for cleaning and disinfecting. The neutralizing process takes time, and it is critical that you allow the entire neutralization time elapse before rinsing the lenses with saline solution and putting them on.
Cleaning and disinfecting devices usually clean with subsonic agitation or ultrasonic waves. The disinfection is then accomplished by use of a multipurpose solution or an ultraviolet light. These devices look like a contact lens case that plugs into an electrical outlet.
Extra Care for Sensitive Eyes
For those with extra sensitive eyes, there are some products that will make contact lenses more comfortable.
Care of contact lenses may involve the use of enzymatic cleaner weekly to remove protein from the lenses. Daily protein remover drops also remove protein from the lenses but is used every day during disinfection with a multipurpose solution. These products can go a long way to making contact lenses more comfortable.
Lubricating eye drops can help during the day for re-wetting contact lenses. Not all eye drops are safe for use with contact lenses, so it’s important to read labels carefully. Sometimes even vigilant care of contact lenses may result in the development of an allergy to the products in the lens solutions. Signs of allergy include itching, burning, redness, and eye discharge. These symptoms need to be seen by an eye doctor.
No matter which type of contacts and cleaning regimen you use for care of contact lenses, there are a few major rules. First, never touch the tips of solution bottles to any surface, including your fingers. Don’t get tap water on your lenses because they may carry acanthamoeba, which is a microorganism that causes infections. Use products as directed on the label or as directed by your eye doctor. Lens cases should be regularly cleaned with hot tap water when they’re not being used. Follow instructions about how long to keep disposable contacts before throwing them out.
With special effect lenses, contacts by post, cosmetic lenses, or any other kind of contact lens, never share with others. The risk of infection is too high to be worth it. Proper care of contact lenses is the key to ensuring contacts remain a comfortable and practical option for vision correction.