Ever fallen asleep with your contact lenses in? Or been less than vigilant about swapping out for fresh saline solution? Or maybe you wore a set of lenses longer than recommended, you know, to try to stretch out that prescription. Everybody does it, right? Unfortunately, while these are common practices, they can lead to serious contact lens complications.
“People need to be vigilant about wearing, cleaning and storing contact lenses properly and practicing good hygiene,” says Ryan Jaber, M.D., a cornea specialist at Henry Ford Health. “Being lax about these practices can cause problems ranging from mild irritation to eye infections and corneal ulcers, which can lead to vision loss, even blindness.”
How Do I Know If My Contacts Are Causing Problems?
If your eyes are becoming red or irritated, remove your contacts. But if symptoms persist, or if you experience any of the following warning signs, you should see an ophthalmologist for a comprehensive exam to test for any contact lens complications:
- Eye pain or discomfort
- Unusually watery eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Decreased vision
10 Tips to Help Prevent Contact Lens Complications
- Wash: Before touching your contacts, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
- Rub: Even if you use a “no rub” solution, rubbing them gently while cleaning the lenses helps to loosen the protein and bacteria that can build up, reducing the risk of infection.
- Solution only: Make sure to rinse your contact lenses and case with fresh, store-bought solution, not water.
- Dry: After you have rinsed your case, leave it open and let it air-dry.\
- Don’t sleep with your contacts in: In addition to feeling like your contact lenses are glued to your eyes when you wake up, you’re also more likely to develop an infection. This is true even for “extended-wear” contact lenses that are approved for 30-day continuous wear. Despite that, there is high risk for infections when sleeping in your contacts.
- Maintain your hygiene routine when traveling: When the rest of your routine is changing, it’s easy to be lax about contact lens hygiene. Be prepared by making sure you pack enough solution and a clean case.
- Never put contacts in your mouth: This practice for rewetting lenses can lead to an eye infection, since your mouth has a lot more bacteria than your eyes.
- Don’t stretch your contact lens period: Make sure to follow your contact lens replacement schedule. For many, this means 1-2 week disposable lenses. But no matter what duration contacts you wear, it’s important to replace them on time.
- Keep up with your regular eye exams: These give your eye care team an opportunity to detect contact lens complications early.
- Take a contact lens holiday: “If your eyes are irritated, sometimes taking a break for a day or two, then slowly reintroducing the lenses is enough to resolve the problem,” Dr. Jaber says. “In other cases, antibiotic or steroid eye drops, or a combination of both, may be needed.”
To schedule a comprehensive ophthalmology exam, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-363-7575.
Ryan M. Jaber is a cornea specialist with additional interests in comprehensive ophthalmology and cataract and refractive surgery. He sees patients at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and the Henry Ford OptimEyes Super Vision Center in West Bloomfield.