A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Contact lens dos and don’ts: 5 tips for healthful use

Illustration - Sleeping with your contacts in

Although contacts are improving in oxygen permeability, they are still limited when you sleep in them.

Contact lenses are a key alternative for people who do not want to wear glasses. Although generally easy to use, wearers should keep in mind simple dos and don’ts to keep eyes safe.

Give your eyes a break

Contacts should only be worn for the length of time recommended. This means if they are daily, bi-weekly or monthly lenses, wear them for that specific amount of time.

Also, try to give your eyes a break at the end of the day if they feel irritated or dry. If possible, take out your contacts after 12-14 hours of wear.

Clean your lenses and their case

Brianne Scanlon, O.D., an optometrist at Marshfield Clinic, says three types of solutions are available to clean your contacts: Hydrogen peroxide, multipurpose and saline solutions.

“Don’t use saline to store your contacts,” Scanlon said. “Saline doesn’t have any antibacterial properties. If you need to rinse or re-wet your lenses, that’s fine but don’t clean them with saline.”

Of the other two solutions, hydrogen peroxide is excellent for cleaning lenses, but they need to soak for the proper amount of time. Some require six hours of soaking, while others require eight hours. If you put them in your eyes before the specific time it takes for the solution to neutralize, you run the risk of creating a burn on your eye’s surface.

Multipurpose solution also is a good option to soak and clean the lenses overnight and doesn’t require a certain amount of time for any neutralizing. Scanlon says if your contacts are dirty and need to be rinsed off quick, use the multipurpose solution.

Cleaning your lens case is as important as cleaning your lenses

“Dump the solution, run the case under tap water and air-dry it,” Scanlon said. “Put the case on a clean paper towel upside down and let it air dry completely. People should also change the case monthly. I wouldn’t keep the same case beyond three months.”

Sleeping, swimming, showering and contacts don’t mix

Scanlon says one of the most important things you should not do is sleep with your contacts in. She says although contacts are improving in oxygen permeability, they are still limited when you sleep in them. Cutting off oxygen affects blood vessel growth, which can cause the clear covering of your eye, the cornea, to grow blood vessels. Scanlon says this is not good.

“You can get ulcers from sleeping in them, and any type of infection can cause permanent damage to your vision if you don’t get proper treatment quickly,” Scanlon said.

She says another important thing to not do is swim or shower with your contacts in.

“In water, other microorganisms can affect the eyes,” she said. “If these organisms get into the contacts, they can cause very bad ulcers. If not treated quickly, they can deteriorate your vision.”

Avoid re-using solution

“That’s like taking a bath in dirty bath water,” Scanlon said. “If you’re putting contacts in old solution, you’re soaking in all the germs and dirt from the previous day. So, it’s not cleaning anything. Don’t top the solution off either, just dump it out and put in new solution.”

Put only clean lenses in your eyes

If your contact pops out, clean the contact properly. Clean with multipurpose solution by putting the lens in the palm of your hand, squirting solution onto it and applying light pressure with your finger in a circular motion.

“I’ve heard horror stories about people who drop their lenses and clean them by putting them in their mouth,” she said. “Use your solution no matter what.”

If you have any questions about cleaning or wearing contacts, or think you need contacts, contact your doctor and schedule an appointment.

For contact lens help, talk to a Marshfield Clinic Health System eye care provider.

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