The single most important step you can take to avoid complications with your contact lenses is to learn the basics of contact lens care.
When you get a prescription at your eye doctor’s office, they will walk you through the care and cleaning process. It takes some practice, but repeating the steps daily will help you master the routine.
Start by learning how to put your contact lens in and how to take them out.
Putting in your contacts
- Before you take your contacts out of the case, wash and dry your hands so that no dirt or dust gets on the lenses. Use a mild hypoallergenic soap that doesn’t contain lotions, perfumes or cosmetics as they can leave behind an oily film on your fingers that can transfer to your lenses. After rinsing your hands, dry them with a clean, lint-free towel.
- Always inspect the contact lens before putting it in your eye. Make sure it is moist, clean, and free of any nicks, tears or debris. If you see the lens is damaged, replace it with a new one.
- After putting in your lenses, empty, clean and rinse your contact lens case using fresh cleaning solution. Be sure to prop both the case and caps open face-down to let them air dry. Avoid letting the case dry in a humid place or near a toilet.
Taking out your contacts
- Wash and dry your hands like you did before putting in your contacts.
- Take out the first lens and set it in the pam of your hand. Put a few drops of solution on the lens and rub it with your finger for as long as the solution instructions direct.
- Rinse your contacts again with solution. Rubbing will loosen buildup that collects on the lens – rinsing washes it away.
- If you wear lenses that are designed to be worn for longer than one day, always use fresh solution to clean and store your lenses. Don’t add new solution to yesterday’s solution. This is called “topping off”, and it’s not good.
- Water and contact lenses are not friends, so don’t clean or rinse your lenses with water.
- If you wear lenses than are designed to only be worn for one day, throw away the lens at the end of the day and open a new one the next time.
- And since you asked, we don’t recommend bathing dogs, cats, or other domestic or non-domestic animals of any size, even if you are an animal doctor, before taking out your contact lenses.
Do this enough times and your contact lens case will start to lose its brand new shine. Clean your contact lens case every two weeks by rubbing the inside with your clean fingers. Replace your lens case with a new one every three months. If you wear daily disposable lenses, you get a pass.
Contact lens solution
Which contact lens solution should you use? That depends on your eyes and the type of lenses you wear. Your eye doctor will help you determine what’s best for your eyes, but will probably recommend either a multi-purpose or a hydrogen peroxide solution.
Multi-purpose solutions let you rinse, clean, and disinfect your contact lenses with one product. Their ease of use make them a very popular choice, and you’ll have no trouble finding one that works for your eyes.
Hydrogen peroxide solution
Your doctor may recommend hydrogen peroxide solution if you have sensitive eyes or allergies. Hydrogen peroxide solution also cleans, rinses, and disinfects your contacts, but you have to complete a neutralizing step before you can put the lenses in your eyes. Rinsing your lenses and immediately putting them in your eyes without going through the neutralizing process will result in an extremely painful burning sensation.
After you take your lenses out, put them in the baskets and rinse them with solution for five seconds. Then fill the case with solution and put the lens baskets and lid on the case. The disk will neutralize the hydrogen peroxide into a saline solution.
Lens solution dos and don’ts
- Do use the brand of solution recommended by your eye doctor.
- Do use fresh solution every day.
- Do rub your lenses with the solution to break up proteins and debris.
- Avoid making your own saline solution. (Yes, we wrote “avoid” in a do/don’t list. We like to keep things interesting.)
- Don’t use expired solution.
- Don’t use somebody else’s solution.
- Don’t use tap or bottled water to clean or rinse lenses. Stick with solution.
- Don’t clean your lenses with saliva.
Follow the recommended wear schedule of your lenses
Most contact lenses come in three different modalities, or how long you can wear a lens before it needs to be replaced. Daily disposable lenses are meant to be worn for a single day and thrown away at night before you sleep. Bi-weekly, or two week contacts are designed for two weeks of wear time and have to be cleaned every night. Monthly lenses last for a month and also require nightly cleaning and disinfecting.
Over time, proteins from your tears, dust, pollen and other particles can accumulate on your contact lenses. They may begin to feel uncomfortable and your vision clarity will suffer. After the recommended wear time elapses, oxygen transmissibility (the ability of your contact lens to carry and pass oxygen to your eye) may begin to diminish. Sometimes a lens that is worn beyond the recommended wear schedule will feel just fine, but still increases the risk for complications.
Over-wearing your lenses, or “stretching”, may seem like a good way to get more value out of them. Contacts can be expensive, and sometimes you forget to re-order. However, the truth of the matter is that wearing your lenses longer than recommended can cause your eyes a lot of pain and discomfort.
Changing your lenses according to the recommended wear schedule helps to keep your eyes feeling vibrant and healthy, your lenses feeling fresh and your vision clear.
Sleeping in contacts
Some contact lenses are FDA approved for overnight wear, but the safest practice is to take them out every night before you sleep. Even if you wear “extended wear” lenses, your doctor will probably recommend that you take them out overnight at least once a week.
Wearing contacts and cosmetics
Lots of people choose to wear makeup and contact lenses together. If you are one of them, be sure to discuss your preferences and beauty routines with your eye doctor. Eye care professionals, like many dermatologists, tend to recommend hypoallergenic skin care products for those who wear contact lenses.
Be very careful applying makeup to your eyes and never allow makeup of any kind to come in contact with your lenses. Put in your lenses before you apply makeup and remove them before washing your face. Be sure your hands are clean when inserting or removing your contacts, especially if you have been applying makeup or touching your face. If you wear contacts, never apply makeup to your inner lids, along the inside of your lashes. This could cause irritation, swelling or other complications.
If you experience any discomfort or irritation, stop using your beauty products immediately and call your eye doctor.
Keep those lenses clean
Following these lens care steps will help ensure your lenses work properly and your eyes stay healthy! Remember, your eyes will only be as clean and healthy as the lenses you put in them!