Wearing contact lenses instead of eyeglasses has its rewards. You don’t have those pesky frames obstructing your vision, and you may feel that you look better too. But wearing contacts can also be risky. Contacts give you an increased risk of infection and are sometimes rigid, uncomfortable, hard to insert or remove, may get trapped in the corner of your eye, or cause scratches on your cornea. That is unless you know how to care for your contacts properly. Keep reading to learn some basic tips on how to clean, maintain, and wear contact lenses.
Should I Wear Contact Lenses?
If you’re on the fence about wearing contacts, you should first ask yourself why you want to wear contacts. Convenience, unobstructed views, and aesthetics are just a few reasons.
Then, to wear them safely, you need to first get a vision exam from a professional eye doctor (ophthalmologist or optometrist) to measure each eye to the proper fitting lenses and see how your eye responds to wearing them.
You must also have healthy corneas and the ability to make tears, be able to insert and remove contacts properly, and be able to see comfortably and clearly in contacts. Do not wear contacts if you have severe allergies or dry eyes, work or live in a dusty area, or are prone to getting eye infections.
Common Types of Contact Lenses
According to the FDA, there are two main types of contact lenses – soft and rigid gas permeable (RGP), all of which require a prescription from an eye care professional.
Soft contact lenses are made of flexible plastic that allows oxygen to pass through to the eye. Most soft lenses are made to be used once and discarded. There are also soft lenses made for extended wear of one week all the way up to 30 days. Rigid lenses are more affordable, durable, and long-lasting but may be uncomfortable for the user.
There are also colored decorative (plano) contact lenses that people wear to temporarily change their eye color for Halloween or other occasions, but unless purchased from a reputable eye care professional with a prescription, these lenses could cause pain, limited eyesight, and possibly even permanent damage to your vision and eyes. “Many of the lenses found online or in beauty salons, novelty shops or in pop-up Halloween stores are not FDA-approved and are being sold illegally,” according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
But for the rest of the lenses out there acquired through a valid prescription, you shouldn’t have to worry about eye damage if you learn how to care for your contacts properly.
How to Care for Your Contacts
Step 1. Wash Your Hands
One of the most important things you can do when it comes to wearing contacts is making sure you regularly wash your hands. That doesn’t mean using a glob of hand sanitizer or splashing some cold water on your hands. Properly washing your hands is a practice that means wetting your hands with warm water, applying soap (fragrance-free antibacterial soap works best), and vigorously rubbing your hands together for at least 20 seconds, followed by a thorough rinse. (Avoid lotion or oil-based soaps.) Then dry your hands with a lint-free towel.
Step 2. Clean Your Contacts
Never use saline solution or rewetting drops to disinfect your contact lenses. Instead, always use fresh, sterile contact lens cleaning solution every time you remove contact lenses from your eyes. Contact solution should match the type of lenses you wear and be used for cleaning as well as conditioning, rinsing, removing protein buildup, and storing contacts.
Try Multi-Purpose Contact Lens Solution Comfort Formula by Clear Conscience, a cruelty-free formula made for all types of contacts, including RGP and soft contact lenses.
To start, place three drops of contact solution on each side of your contact lens. Be careful not to touch the tip of the solution bottle to the lens. Rub for 20 seconds. Avoid touching dirty fingernails to the lens. Then remove surface debris by rinsing each side of the lens thoroughly with the contact solution.
Step 3. Clean Your Contact Lens Case
Also use contact solution to carefully rinse off your contact lens case. Never use water, as there are microorganisms in water that may get into your case or your eyes. Leave the empty case open to air dry. Replace the case at least every 3 months, especially if it is cracked or dirty.
Step 4. Store Your Contacts
Place your clean contacts in the clean lens case and fill with fresh contact solution. Soak for at least four hours. Avoid storing your lenses in a humid room. Also avoid smoke and other pollutants or contaminants. Keep your solution bottle cap tightly secured, and replace your contact lenses, case, and solution according to each product’s expiration date and instructions.
Step 5. Wear Your Contacts
Never touch your fingers to your face or eyes unless they have been thoroughly cleaned. Never wear contacts to bed or in the shower or pool. (You’ll want to avoid getting water in your eyes at all costs.)
See your eye doctor regularly, as your vision and the shape of your cornea can change over time. For more helpful information, read tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention here.
Do you prefer wearing contact lenses to eyeglasses? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below!