In a horrifying story broken earlier this summer, a Taiwanese woman was discovered to have had amoeba eat through her corneas because she was not careful enough when wearing her contact lenses. The 23 year old student wore her contacts for six months straight and while swimming. Though this is incredibly rare, it creates the perfect opportunity for all of us contact wearers in the world to reevaluate our own contact wearing practices and to reeducate ourselves on how to keep our contacts, and therefore our eyes, clean and sanitary.
Contacts are great: they prevent us from having to wear glasses, they’re disposable, they only take a few seconds to put in every morning, and when you’re traveling, they’re tiny and very portable. But for all the good contacts do, they can also be hazardous. I wear contacts every day, and I didn’t even know most of this stuff.
What you should do:
1. Follow your doctor’s orders.
Once you get your contact prescription from your optometrist, you should make sure you follow his or her wearing instructions. Some contacts are meant to be worn for only one day, while other can be worn during the day for two weeks or more. Some special kinds of contacts can be worn overnight. Make sure you check with your doctor to make sure you’re only wearing them when you should be.
2. Wash your hands before touching them.
This sounds like a no-brainer, but on busy mornings it can be easy to forget. Your hands harbor tons of germs that could potentially infect your eyes, so make sure you wash your hands before handling your contacts.
3. Store them in clean solution.
Each night, store your contacts in fresh solution to ensure that they’re being properly cleaned. If they sit in the same solution for too long, they could begin to be compromised.
4. Clean them thoroughly.
Every morning before you put your contacts in, use your fingers and fresh solution to clean them. This will prevent germs and other unwelcome things from being transferred to your eyes.
5. Keep up with prescription changes.
It’s important that you wear contacts that are your current prescription. If you feel your prescription has changed, contact your optometrist to discuss ordering new contacts.
6. Regularly replace your contact case.
Even if you do replace the solution every night, your contact lens case can still get dirty and unsanitary. Make sure you buy a new one regularly to prevent problems. Most contact solutions come with a free contact lens case inside the box, so check that before buying a new case by itself.
7. Take out your contacts when you need to.
If your contacts are scratchy or uncomfortable, take them out. If they feel bad, they must not be good for your eyes, so don’t try to suffer through for the sake of looks or convenience.
8. Let your contact lens case air dry.
After cleaning your contact lens case, don’t try to wipe it dry using a towel or a paper product. These can leave small traces of dirt, cloth, germs, and other materials in the case, which can then get on your contact lenses. Set the case out and let it air dry instead.
9. Take a day off every once in a while.
Contacts are great, but sometimes your eyes need a chance to rest. Every so often, go a day without them to allow your eyes a chance to breathe.
10. Wear sunglasses.
Some people experience more light sensitivity when wearing contacts, so make sure you’re properly protecting your eyes when outdoors with sunglasses or a hat with a bill.
What you should not do:
11. Don’t spit on your contacts.
A lot of people use their saliva in lieu of contact solution, and this is a really bad idea. Your mouth harbors tons of germs that could possibly infect your eyes. Don’t use anything other than contact solution.
12. Don’t go swimming with your contacts in.
The main contributing factor to the Taiwanese woman’s problem, which ultimately led to total blindness in both eyes, was that she went swimming with her contacts in. This can let in all sorts of germs and amoeba into the eye, which can attach to the contact and do major damage.
13. Don’t share contacts.
You never know what kinds of eye problems other people have, so never use anyone’s contact lenses other than your own. Harmful germs and diseases can be spread this way, such as pink eye.
14. Don’t shower while wearing contacts.
Just as swimming pools and lakes can harbor amoeba, so can shower water. Take your contacts out before hopping in the shower to wash.
15. Don’t sleep in your contacts.
This is a bad idea for several reasons. First, your eyes need to breathe and contacts don’t allow them to do so. Taking them out gives your eyes a break. This also severely dries the contacts out. In the morning when you open your eyes, you run the risk of scratching your corneas because of the dry contacts scraping across them.
16. Don’t wear them if you have an eye infection.
Not only can this exacerbate your eye problem, but it can also make it possible for the infection to transfer to the contact, thus making it impossible to recover even when taking medicine.
17. Don’t wear contacts in dusty environments.
This will only irritate your eyes and make it easy for any possible germs to be trapped between your contact lens and your eyeball, thus making it easy for them to do harm.
18. Don’t wear them if they’re torn.
A tear in your contact can scratch your eye, which can lead to major problems. Either way, it certainly doesn’t feel good, so make sure your contact is intact before putting it in.
19. Don’t put your contacts in inside out.
Similar to a torn contact, a contact lens that is inside out can scratch your eye and be a source of a lot of discomfort. If you’re finding it hard to tell which way is which, hold the contact on your finger and look at it from the side. If the edges bow out and down, you need to flip it over.
20. Don’t rub your eye while wearing your contacts.
This can dislodge the contact and can also get it stuck somewhere else in your eye. While this is usually a non-emergency, it can become a problem.
Featured photo credit: Andy Simmons via flickr.com