A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that 99 percent of contact lens wearers reported they had at least one hygiene risk behavior known to increase their risk of eye infections.
What can you do to minimize your risk of a contact lens related infection?
- Change your lenses as directed by your eye care professional. Know how often your lenses are supposed to be replaced — typically one day, two weeks or monthly – and don’t stretch their wearing time. Contact lenses can become dirty if worn longer than the recommended time frame, increasing the risk of infection. Protein buildup is more likely to occur on dirty lenses, which can result in irritation or infection.
- Don’t sleep in your contact lenses. Certain lenses are approved for overnight wear; however, even approved lenses worn overnight increase the risk of infection. Eye tissue needs oxygen and any lens will hinder the ability to get it.
- Use a contact lens solution recommended by your eye care professional. Generic solutions don’t keep the contacts as clean as name brand solutions. Don’t “top off” contact lens solution (add new solution to existing solution in a case). Always rinse your case with warm water and allow it to air dry before adding new solution and storing your lenses.
- Take care when storing your lenses. Never store them in water! This is a risk factor for acanthamoeba, one of the most dangerous contact lens infections. Contact lens cases can also harbor bacteria. Replacing your lens case every three months can decrease the risk of infection.
- See your eye care practitioner as scheduled. Contact lens wears need a yearly exam to ensure the fit of the contact lens is still healthy. The optometrist will check the fit with a slit-lamp bio-microscope, looking for signs of decreased oxygen or inflammation on the cornea. This is important because if you aren’t having discomfort or pain, you may not recognize these conditions yourself.
What are the signs of a contact lens related problem?
- Eye pain
- Sensitivity to light
- Redness of the eye
- Mattering (mucus-like discharge)
- Blurred vision
If you develop any of these symptoms remove your contact lenses and rinse the eye with a saline solution. Contact your eye care professional if you have eye pain or blurred vision. If your eyes are red or irritated, wear glasses (always keep a backup pair of glasses). If the irritation does not improve, contact your eye care provider.
Contact lenses allow for comfortable, clear vision and are a nice alternative to glasses. They can be worn very safely by following the above guidelines. If you have questions about your contact lenses contact your eye care practitioner.
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