October is “Contact Lens Safety Awareness Month” and I would like to take the time today to educate you on the best way to care for your contact lenses to help prevent any complications. According to the CDC, there are 45 million contact lens wearers in the United States, which is about 15% of the population.
Are Contact Lenses Safe?
When worn responsibly and taken care of appropriately, contacts are considered very safe medical devices. But, if you don’t care for them properly, you are putting yourself at risk for very serious infections from bacteria and fungi that could leave you with severe scarring and even blindness. Not to mention, it is very painful, and the eye drops to treat these infections can be very expensive. These infections affect 1 out of every 500 contact lens users per year. According to the CDC, approximately 99% of respondents reported at least one contact lens hygiene behavior previously associated with an increased risk of eye infections or inflammation.
Here are some precautions you can take to lower your risk for infections:
- Never sleep in your contacts. This will decrease the amount of oxygen that gets to your eye and leaves you more vulnerable to infections.
- Wash your hands with soap and water and dry with a lint-free towel before handling your lenses.
- Avoid contact with water- do not shower or swim in contact lenses. All water is a breeding ground for bacteria called acanthamoeba which is responsible for sight-threatening eye infections.
- Follow the proper replacement schedule.
- Use fresh solution each time you store your lenses- do not top solution off each night. Once your contact lens solution is used once, the disinfecting capability is gone.
- Clean your contact lens case with solution not water.
- Do not used cracked or damaged contact lens cases. These need to be replaced every 3 months.
- Do not lick your lenses. Your mouth is full of germs.
- Purchase lenses with a valid prescription from an eyecare professional. The FDA states that contact lenses are not over-the-counter devices and companies that sell them as such are misbranding the device and violating FTC regulations. If the lens does not have the proper fit, they can damage your eyes.
- Never use someone else’s contacts, especially if they are used!
If your eyes become red, dry, or irritated when using your contacts, take them out immediately and call your eye doctor. This is a quick article about some simple contact lens safety tips and tricks.