CARING FOR CONTACT LENSES
By Dr. Battani
- Always wash your hands with soap and water prior to handling your lenses.
- Clean and disinfect your lenses as soon as you take them out.
- Solution is made for one-time use only.
- Clean your solution case regularly.
- It is important to follow your doctorâ€™s instructions regarding lens replacement and wearing schedules.
- Try to stick with brand name solutions.
- Take the time and make the investment to obtain regular eye health check-ups.
The normal flora and fauna (microscopic bacterial population) that lives on your skin is not a health risk to you systemically, but is a common source of infection in the eyes. Be sure to completely dry your hands or rinse your hands with your all purpose solution before touching your contact lenses. Tap water contains some live organisms, particularly Acanthoemeba, which can attack the perfectly healthy, in tact cornea, causing the complete destruction of the cornea within 48 hours if untreated. Drinking this water is in no way harmful since your digestive system is equipped to handle these organisms. They simply pass through your digestive system without any consequence. For this reason, never place a contact lens in tap water and then directly into your eyes. Also, you should never place a contact lens in your mouth and then directly into your eyes. If it is necessary to store a lens in tap water to keep it from drying out, you should then place it in your disinfecting solution over night to kill the bacteria that may have entered the lens as a result. The general rule of thumb is better safe than sorry. For added information, Acanthoemeba is the same organism that lives in lake water and causes a few cases of devastating eye infection every summer. For this reason, it is not recommended that you swim in lake water while wearing contact lenses.
This applies more to soft systems with more than one step and rigid gas permeable systems with a cleaner and disinfecting solution. You should never allow your lenses to sit over night before cleaning them. It is best to clean and disinfect your lenses while they are still moist and just removed from your daily wearing cycle. Allowing them to sit can allow the protein to complex into the lens matrix and make it easier for bacteria to gain a permanent footing on the lens surface. Immediate cleaning and disinfecting is always the best option for good hygiene.
A big mistake wearers make is reusing contact lens solution for more than one night. Solutions are designed for single use and should be discarded and replaced with fresh solution each night. The preservative that kills the bacteria does not stay in solution for very long after contact with the lens surface. When you open the case, the preservative evaporates and is no longer effective for a second usage. For this reason, you should always re-cap your solution bottle directly after using it. A solution bottle left uncapped over night will most likely no longer be an effective disinfectant, since the preservative will have probably evaporated. You should discard this bottle and start with a freshly sealed bottle to be certain it will still be effective against bacteria.
You contact lens case requires close attention to hygiene. You should rinse it daily with the same type of cleansing solution that you store your lenses in. You should do this immediately after removing your lenses from their overnight storage and disinfecting routine. Rinse the lens case and then turn both the case and caps upside down on a paper towel for air-drying. Another tip is to clean the case every so often with soap and water and an old toothbrush to eliminate any bio-film or buildup that may harbor bacteria. After allowing the case to completely air dry, place the case and lens caps (without the lenses of course) in the microwave oven for thirty seconds. This is a very simple and effective method to completely disinfect and reclaim old cases that you think might be suspect.
If your doctor tells you to toss your disposable lenses after one month, do it. There is a reason the lenses are prescribed this way. Contact lens companies take great pains to investigate and research modes of wear and must go through exhaustive twelve-year studies to obtain FDA approval before their products reach the market place. Each mode of wear is painstakingly studied before arriving at the optimal wearing schedule. Lenses begin to break down and decompose after a certain period of wearing time. Also, the longer you wear a particular pair of lenses, the more bio-film that builds up on the lens surface. Since bio-film (protein) is the food source for bacteria, the longer you wear the lenses, the higher your risk for infection. Extending the wearing schedule beyond what has been recommended can also block the lens pores from bio-film buildup and reduce the flow of oxygen to the cornea. Reducing the flow of oxygen to the cornea over an extended period can cause abnormal blood vessel growth into the normally avascular cornea, and result in the need for a corneal transplant. Since these modes of wear are arrived at through exhaustive scientific methods, you should rely on the judgment of these qualified professionals. Youâ€™ll just have to trust that they have studied the options and know what is best for your long-term health and success. Be assured that there is no conspiracy to get you to replace your lenses more frequently for some underlying sinister plot for monetary gain. Happy, healthy, infection free, long term successful patients are the goal for most reputable practitioners.
By sticking with brand names, you assure that you will always be receiving the same solution in your bottle. Store brands and generic brands are placed up for biding to the manufacturers every three to five years. This means you may not be getting the same solution after one company makes a better offer to the store brand. Some people have allergies or are irritated by certain preservatives. This means altering what you are used to may cause you to have problems you might not have experienced previously with the solution you are using. Buying a name brand such as Alconâ€™s OptiFree w/Replenish, Allerganâ€™s Complete Multipurpose, or Bausch & Lombâ€™s original Renu Multipurpose solution (the MoistureLoc product has been removed from the shelves since the new moisture molecule inactivated the preservative and caused fungal infections) will guarantee consistent quality product for you to rely on.
It is worth your time and money to allow your doctor to evaluate your corneal health on a yearly basis. Regular yearly check-ups allow your doctor to detect problems before they have gone too far. Be proactive in assuring your successful, long-term health and contact lens wearing experience.