Many people choose contact lenses because they improve your vision without altering your appearance the way glasses might. Contacts are also often a better solution for athletes and people who exercise regularly. Wearing contacts means you don’t have to worry about your glasses falling off while you’re out for a morning run, lifting weights at the gym, or playing basketball with your buddies. Most of the time, contacts are very safe, but if you don’t use them correctly, you risk causing serious damage to your eyes and your health—here’s what you should know.
Common Mistakes When Wearing Contacts
Most of the problems associated with wearing contacts are the result of little mistakes. Some of the most common mistakes people make include:
- Wearing them for too long—Always follow the directions from your optometrist precisely. Even extended wear contacts can damage your eyes if you keep them in longer than recommended.
- Not cleaning them properly—It is important to clean your contacts with the solution your eye doctor provides. Don’t use tap water, or expired solution.
- Touching them without washing your hands—Have you ever thought about how many things you touch during the day? Never touch your eyes or your contacts without first washing your hands. You don’t want to transfer the germs from the bathroom doorknob, kitchen sink, or laptop keyboard into your eyes.
- Forgetting about the case—Putting clean contacts in a dirty case won’t do you any good. Clean the case for your contact lenses every day and replace it every three months.
- Not having a back up plan—It is smart to keep a pair of prescription eyeglasses handy in case of unexpected problems. You’ll be less tempted to clean your contacts without the right solution or leave them in for too long if you know you have a backup pair of glasses nearby.
Most of the mistakes listed above are little things, but these little mistakes can have big consequences.
Using your contacts incorrectly can deprive your eyes of oxygen, which leads to serious problems, and potential vision loss. Most modern contact lenses are designed to be porous, so that oxygen can get through the contacts and reach your eyes. Your eyes need oxygen to stay healthy, just like the rest of your body. If you leave your contacts in for too long, or don’t clean them properly, the contacts will collect dust and other pollutants. When this happens, oxygen can no longer get through the contact lens to your eye, and bacteria cannot get out. Without oxygen, the cells on the cornea become swollen and damaged, and bacteria gets trapped in your eyes. If nothing is done, the bacteria can eventually get into the cornea, and then into the rest of the eye causing permanent vision loss.
Wearing your contacts too long, or wearing contacts that haven’t been cleaned properly, can also lead to eye infections, including keratitis (which is infection of the cornea). Eye infections cause pain, swelling, scaring that interferes with vision, and in severe cases, blindness. Most of these problems can be avoided simply by using your contacts properly. For example, leaving your contacts in overnight drastically increases your risk for keratitis.
Caring For Your Contacts
You don’t have to give up wearing contacts to avoid eye infections or vision loss—you just have to use your contacts properly. Use the following tips to avoid problems.
- Always replace your contacts on schedule. Even if you always clean your contacts, they can wear out and accumulate dust over time.
- Never leave your contacts in for longer than your eye doctor recommends.
- Always wash your hands with soap and water before handling your contacts.
- Keep your contacts away from makeup, hairspray, soap, lotion, and other beauty products.
- Always clean your contacts with disinfecting solution when you remove them. Don’t use tap water—it could damage your contacts and irritate your eyes.
- Clean your contact case regularly with contact solution, and let it air dry upside down with the caps off.
- Always use fresh contact lens solution. Bacteria can build up in old solution if you reuse it.
- Don’t wear your contacts while you’re sleeping, showering or swimming.
- Wear glasses if you know you’ll be somewhere with irritating fumes, dust, or other allergens that bother your eyes.
- Visit your eye doctor immediately if you notice any problems.
Contacts improve your vision and make physical activity more convenient—just be sure you aren’t making any costly mistakes that could harm your eyes. For more information about the importance of vision health, visit vspdirect.com or contact your local optometrist.