Refractive errors requiring some form of vision correction are quite common. In total, 75 percent of Americans use some form of corrective lens to improve their eyesight. The most common option is glasses. However, there are still 38 million contact lens wearers nationwide. With so many using this particular form of vision correction, it would seem safe to assume that most know how to wear and care for their lenses properly. Unfortunately, the opposite is often true.
In fact, there are several bad habits that contact lens users are guilty of, many of which can lead to eye infections with varying levels of severity. The most common of these eye infections is keratitis, an infection of the cornea. In cases of keratitis, symptoms can include eye redness, blurred vision, eye discharge, and sensitivity to light. In severe cases where medical attention is not sought, the infection can even lead to blindness. For this reason, it is not only imperative to immediately see your eye doctor with any concerns, but to also keep up with regular appointments, and avoid these common bad habits:
Not Washing Your Hands – This is the most important step in keeping lenses clean and eyes healthy. Yet, it is one which is often skipped. Our hands come into contact with countless germs throughout the day, and when hands are not washed, those germs can be directly transferred to the eye, leading to a painful infection. It’s imperative that hands be cleaned thoroughly before putting in or taking out contact lenses.
Not Cleaning Lenses Properly – Too often, when solution and drops are not available, contact wearers use water or even saliva to quickly clean a lens. Not only will these options not be able to hydrate your lenses appropriately, saliva contains about 60,000 bacteria per drop - not something you want in contact with your eye. Only use solutions and drops specifically produced for your type of lenses, keeping bottles handy at home, in your car, desk, purse, or anywhere else that you may need them.
Wearing Contacts for Too Long – Every pair of contact lenses will have a recommended amount of time for which they can be worn. However, 84 percent of participants in an Alcon survey reported wearing theirs for longer than that timeframe. Older lenses can quickly lead to problems included infections and irritation. It is important to always follow your doctor’s recommendations for how long to use a single pair of lenses.
Not Using the Right Solution – Many generic solutions do not offer the same protection as name brands. Additionally, not all solutions can be used with all types of contacts. For instance, hard lenses will require a different solution than soft varieties. Furthermore, for wearers who are more prone to eye infections or other conditions, some solutions may be more effective than others. Speak to your ophthalmologist to get a recommendation for a solution that is right for you.