Proactively and effectively cleaning contact lenses helps maintain the quality of the lenses throughout their lives and, more importantly, helps protect the health of the eye. The disinfection process is simple and, with a few easy steps, anyone can learn to correctly maintain their contacts. When you need to know about contact lens solutions, start with the basics.
There are two major choices in contact lens solutions and each is used differently. Some almost always require users to both rub and rinse the contact lenses before wearing them. This helps clean off microbial organisms. It also dislodges lipid and protein deposits that might have gathered on the lens. Others are usually used as a “rinse only” solution. Instead of rubbing a finger into the solution, each side of the lens is doused in a rinse instead. Both methods, when followed correctly, are effective in maintaining healthy contact lenses. Different types of contact lenses may require additional steps, so be sure to check with your doctor before making any changes to your eye-care regiment.
The big advantage of multipurpose solutions is that the same solution can be used to clean, rinse, disinfect and store contact lenses in. These solutions make up a large part of the market and require lenses to be rinsed and rubbed after use. The rubbing step is simple and only adds a minute to the evening routine. Just wash your hands, then squirt some of the solution into your palm. Drop one lens into this solution and, using the pad of your index finger, rub gently against the lens. Turn the contact over and repeat the process. It is always best to rub and rinse the lens on removal and before placing in solution to soak overnight. The process significantly impacts the cleanliness of the contact lens, so don’t skip this step. Clean contact lenses ensure that your eyes stay healthy and they can also provide clearer vision.
Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) Solutions
Hydrogen Peroxide solutions are an excellent choice for cleaning and disinfecting contact lenses. Since hydrogen peroxide tends to be hypoallergenic, this type of solution is often best for patients with solution sensitivities or allergies. Hydrogen peroxide solution can be used to rub, rinse, and store the contact lenses in, but it also requires a critical step of neutralization.
If the hydrogen peroxide is not neutralized from the contact lenses, the solution will severely stinging or burn your eyes. The neutralization step is usually accomplished by placing the lenses into a special case that contains a neutralizing disc that reacts with the hydrogen peroxide solution. If using a hydrogen peroxide system, be sure to never put the solution directly into your eyes or on the contact lens without first neutralizing. You’d think this would be a no-brainer but, sadly, it’s happened. It’s also very important to change the cases with every new bottle of solution because the neutralization disc loses its effectiveness with use.
Both of these types of solutions require that the contact lenses be soaked for several hours. In most cases, the lenses should be left to soak overnight (at least six hours). Some brands allow for shorter soak times so, for details, check the box.
Another thing to be aware of when it comes to contact lens solutions is the possibility of allergic reaction or sensitivity. Many contact lens solutions use preservatives to maintain the shelf-life of the product, to which some people may develop sensitivity. Check the dates on the bottle before using the solution and, if you experience any discomfort, be sure to contact a doctor. These allergies can arise even after years of use. As long as these issues are addressed proactively, alternative products are available that are free of preservatives.
- Wash your hands before handling your contacts.
- Splash a few drops of solution into the palm of your hand and place one of the lenses in it.
- Use small circles when you rub the lenses and be sure to do both sides.
- Rinse them with solution once they have been rubbed. This keeps everything from settling back on the lens.
- Repeat daily.
The disinfection process is a great time to use protein removers. Just remember to rinse the lenses afterward. Some eye care professionals also recommend wiping down the contact lens case before refilling it with fluid. This process can remove microbial bacteria and lengthen the life of the case.
- Rinse out the contact lens case each day and replace the solution. Never reuse old solution.
- Saline solutions are safe for rinsing, but not for cleaning or disinfecting. These solutions are safe for storage and rinsing, but only when paired with a heat or UV disinfection system, which are not used very often anymore. These solutions should never be used for disinfection or cleaning.
- Do not apply contacts, freshly rinsed with H2O2 solution, to your eyes. They always need to be neutralized first. Application of hydrogen peroxide to the eyes can have damaging effects and hurt like a…you know.
- Keep the tip of the contact lens solution bottle away from surfaces. It should never touch a counter, a container, or even the lenses.
- Replace contact lens cases every month. These tools are handy, but they collect bacteria, even when stored correctly.
- Never run your contacts under tap water. Only use contact lens solutions to rinse and disinfect. Tap water can carry eye irritants and, sometimes, bacteria. To avoid unnecessary discomfort and infection, only use FDA-approved solutions to disinfect your contacts.
When you follow these basic guidelines, finding and using a contact lens solution is a breeze. There are tons of products on the market that already surpass FDA guidelines. Ask your doctor if they provide a demonstration next time you drop by for a visit.