To My Fellow Contact Lens Wearers:

For those of us who wear contact lenses on a routine basis, do you recall the steps for removing your lenses correctly?

“Start by washing your hands with soap and water, and dry them with a clean, lint-free towel. Then remove your contact from your eye, hold it in your palm and rub the lens with solution to remove any debris. After the lens is clean, take your clean, dry case and fill it with fresh solution before putting the lens into the case and screwing the lid on tight.”

To those of you who have followed that routine to the letter and have never bent the rules, excellent work! Chances are you don’t have any of the following bad habits and you can go about your day. However if, like me, you’ve been guilty of reusing a towel, not letting your contact case dry out fully, saving the last of your solution by not rinsing the lens before putting it away, or any other seemingly small deviation from your hygiene routine, this post is for you.

Why does this matter to me, you ask?

I first started wearing contact lenses in middle school, and was guilty of wearing my contacts without a break. Frankly, I didn’t see a problem with wearing them for days at a time: If they didn’t bother me, it wasn’t a problem, right? I did this until one day, right before a volleyball match, my eye started to swell and burn. With or without my contacts in, it was next to impossible to keep my eye open without painful tears streaming down my face. After the match, my mom took me to the eye doctor. He told me that my over-use of the contact lenses led to a protein coating my lens, which had caused my inner eyelid to become infected. In short, I had a noncontagious form of pink eye and couldn’t wear my contacts for months.
Since that time I’ve been more cautious and I’ve become better versed in contact lens hygiene and best practices. Some people don’t get a “wake-up call,” and end up with more serious conditions like corneal infections, which can lead to vision loss.

To avoid pink eye and other more serious conditions, here’s what you should do.

  1. Replace your contacts regularly. You should follow your eye doctor’s recommended replacement schedule, but if your vision is blurry and contacts are causing pain or discomfort, take them out and get a new pair.
  2. Give your eyes a rest. Even if you have extended-wear contacts, keep in mind that your eyes need oxygen, and even the best contacts stifle your eye’s ability to “breathe.”
  3. Use fresh solution every time you store your contacts. Re-using solution prevents your lenses from getting clean: The bacteria on your lenses comes off in the solution, and re-use can cause bacterial infections.
  4. Replace and clean your contact case. Your case should be replaced every three months and washed after every use for the same reason you use fresh solution; you don’t want your contacts sitting in bacteria pools.
  5. Keep your contacts clean. This means washing your hands, removing eye make-up before putting in your contacts, and not supplementing with saliva or water when you’re out of solution.
  6. Honor your routine eye exam. Even if you haven’t run out of contacts, don’t need a new prescription or think everything is going just fine, it’s important to see your eye doctor for your routine eye exam so he or she can make sure your eyes are healthy.

When it comes to your vision health, it’s always best to follow your eye doctor’s advice. But following these tips can help you keep your visits to the eye doctor routine (not emergency) and your eyes healthy.

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