by Todd Childs
When you’re choosing a contact lens solution, your doctor will recommend which is the best for your eyes and for the type of contacts you wear. It’s important to always follow these recommendations, as not all solutions are appropriate to be used with all contact lens materials.
Proactively and effectively cleaning your 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. Most will require you to 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 regimen.
The big advantage of multipurpose contact lens solutions is that the same solution can be used to clean, rinse, disinfect and store the contact lenses. 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 your evening routine. Just wash your hands then squirt some of the solution into your palm. Drop one lens into the 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 the solution to soak overnight. The process significantly impacts the cleanliness of the contact lens, so don’t skip this step. Clean contact lenses will provide clearer vision and ensure your eyes stay healthy.
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 people 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 sting 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. 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.
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.
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.
Updated May 9th, 2014
Todd Childs, O.D. has been practicing optometry for the past twelve years. He currently practices at South Valley Optical in Draper, Utah. Dr. Childs earned his Doctor of Optometry at Southern California College of Optometry.