How to care for your contact lenses
As a soft contact lens wearer, caring for your eyes means caring for your contacts. Due to the small size and fragility of contact lenses, certain directions and precautions must always be taken, in order to avoid issues or complications.
Before thinking about the care of your contacts, it’s important to ensure that your lenses are right for you. Only ever wear contact lenses that have been fitted for you by your optician. Incorrectly fitting lenses can cause blurred vision, discomfort, and may lead to long or short-term damage of your eyes.
With many different types of soft contact lenses available, there are varying methods and degrees to which care should be carried out. That said, there are a few consistent rules and guidelines that ought to be followed by every kind of contact lens wearer.
Basic contact lens care
- Keep your hands clean and dry - Wash and dry your hands before handling any kind of contact lens. Dirty lenses can cause irritation to the eye, while more extreme cases may lead to an infection. It’s recommended to use antibacterial soaps for keeping your hands sanitised, to ensure that no perfume or oil contaminates your lenses.
- Learn how to properly insert and remove your lenses - When you are prescribed contact lenses by your optician, they will show you how to properly insert and remove them. If you are uncertain about the process, you can refer to this article, or contact your local optician.
- Keep your contacts in an optician-approved solution - Keeping contact lenses in the proper solution is vital for ensuring they’re kept clean and free of impurities. Note that saline does not clean your lenses. If you ever need to rinse a contact lens, only ever use solution approved by your optician. Ingredients in some solutions may not always be suitable for you and can cause an unwanted reaction. Never use water or saliva to clean your lenses. Not disinfecting contact lenses properly, or using water to rinse them, may lead to a serious infection, which can cause ulcers and in extreme situations even lead to blindness.
- Throw away expired contact lenses - Every contact lens has an expiry date written on the packaging. The safety and efficacy of expired lenses cannot be ensured, meaning they should be disposed of immediately after expiry.
- Never wear contacts for longer than recommended - Every type of contact lens as a recommended lifespan, be it daily, two-weekly or monthly. Your optician will also supply you with a wearing schedule based on your personal needs, which should never be exceeded. Your optician’s advice should always overrule the manufacturer’s instructions. The modality on the packaging is a maximum guideline, and everyone has different levels of sensitivity and suitability. Wearing lenses for longer than recommended can cause serious damage to the eye, so always refer to your optician’s advice if unsure as to when you should remove your contacts.
Daily disposables require the least maintenance of any contact lenses. Because of this, the above rules cover just about everything you’ll need to know about caring for them. Of course, as with any new eye care product, you should always seek advice from your optician and read through the manufacturer’s warnings. To avoid infection, daily disposables should never be reused.
Even when following all of the above rules, it’s advisable to have a pair of glasses available that match your prescription. Even for full time wearers, it’s important to give your eyes a break from wearing contacts. If you’re ever caught with an eye condition, a pair of glasses can correct your vision after removing your lenses. Additionally, accidents can happen, and losing or damaging your contacts is possible even when taking the proper precautions.
Looking after monthly lenses
Monthly disposables look and feel very similar to daily disposables, although they have a far longer lifespan. Designed to be worn daily for up to 30 days (depending on the advice of your optician), monthly lenses can offer better value for customers, as they require less lenses to be purchased in total.
Because the same lenses are worn across multiple days, it’s important to make sure that they are kept safe and free of impurities. Knowing how to clean and store your lenses is vital to ensuring your eyes’ safety.
- Disinfect your lenses after removal - In order to prevent harmful organisms building up on your monthly disposable lenses, it’s important to disinfect them immediately after removal. The most effective way to do this with multipurpose solutions is to rub your lenses with solution between your index finger and thumb, to remove any debris. The lenses can then be soaked in a storage case, using disinfecting solution approved by your optician.
- Replace disinfecting solution fully - After disinfecting lenses, you should always discard the existing solution and replace it fully. Re-using or just ‘topping up’ your existing solution is likely to render future disinfecting processes ineffective. If you aren’t using your contacts daily, the solution needs to be changed once every 72 hours.
- Rinse and replace your storage case - To keep your storage case hygienic properly clean your lens case at least once a week using a clean toothbrush and solution, and replace it monthly to avoid contamination. Only ever clean and rinse your case using solution, rather than water and leave to air dry.
Extended wear lenses
Extended wear disposables are different from daily disposables, in that they can be worn for multiple days or weeks without removal. Unlike most contacts, extended wear lenses are specifically designed to be worn overnight. This potentially makes them a viable option for those with more unpredictable lifestyles.
Extended wears aren’t suitable for everyone, and there can be an increased risk of infection if proper precautions are not taken. It’s also important to note that extended wear lenses may only be worn overnight if an optician advises that you are suitable.
Not having to remove your contacts for long periods of times can be highly convenient, though there are a few things to consider when caring for your extended wear disposables.
- In case of discomfort, remove your lenses - Most extended wear disposables can be worn for up to 30 days straight however most opticians will recommend that you remove the lenses at least once a week to let your eyes breath. Keep in mind that these guidelines are the maximum wearing times, and different people can have different tolerances for how long they can wear lenses. You should always remove your extended wear lenses if you feel discomfort of any kind, regardless of how long you’ve been wearing them.
- Clean and store removed lenses - While extended wear disposables can be worn continuously for long periods of time (under your optician’s approval), that doesn’t mean that any less care should be taken between wears. Make sure to follow the same guidelines as monthly disposables when cleaning or storing your extended wear lenses, to minimise the risk of damage or infection.
- Keep track of your wear times - You should always dispose of your extended wear lenses after the optician’s recommended wearing time is reached. By noting down your extended wear start dates in a diary or calendar, it’s far easier to keep track of your lens-wearing schedule.
If you’re ever worried or concerned about the health of your eyes, immediately remove any contacts you might be wearing and seek professional advice. Always get advice from a medical professional before going to bed with painful eyes.
If you need more help or information, please contact your local optician, who will be more than happy to cater to your eye care needs.