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Topics > Healthy Outlook > Practice Proper Contact Lens Use

Practice Proper Contact Lens Use

Published by Contra Costa Times
Posted on Wed, May 02, 2007

By Dr. Kevin A. Beadles

WHEN MOST of us sit down on a bench and feel something sharp, we immediately get up and check out the problem. Why is this so often not the case when it comes to our eyes and contact lenses?

As an eye specialist, I commonly see this in my office: contacts lens wearers report that their eye has been hurting for days, but they've kept wearing their lenses.

Because of this delay, what began as a mild irritation or scratch of the eye has become an infection causing blurred vision and pain. In more serious cases, a cornea ulcer can develop, which can lead to permanent vision loss.

Corneal ulcers are among the leading reasons for corneal transplants. (The cornea is the thin, transparent, dome-shaped window covering the front of the eye.)

Eye problems caused by contact lenses can be minimized and or even prevented by promptly addressing eye irritation and by the proper cleaning and use of contact lenses.

Proper contact lens use:

  • If your eye hurts or feels scratchy, remove your contact lenses from your eyes immediately. Always keep a pair of glasses as backup. Contact lenses can reduce the amount of oxygen that reaches the cornea and interfere with the healing process, turning a minor scratch that will normally heal itself, into a serious condition. If your eye isn't better by the next day, call your eye doctor.
  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions for your contact lenses. Don't wear contact lenses during sleep unless they are the extended wear type.
  • Change your contact lenses when needed. Lenses gradually degrade and deposits can form on them. This can cause "giant papillary conjunctivitis," an allergic reaction to proteins in the tear film that builds up on the lenses.

This can lead to ongoing weeping, mucus, itching and redness. To avoid this, replace the lenses more frequently, use lens enzyme treatments regularly or switch to daily wear, disposable lenses.

  • Use wetting drops that may help your eyes tolerate the lens better.
  • Give your eyes a break from your lenses occasionally. Wear glasses if needed. Excessive use of contact lenses can cause blurred vision and pain. Lenses can interfere with sufficient oxygen getting to the eye, causing the cornea to get swollen and cloudy.
  • Make sure you have well-fitting lenses and the correct type of lenses for your eyes. Consult with your doctor to find the right one for you.

Properly clean your contact lens:

  • Clean your lenses every time you remove them, before putting them back in your eyes. Only use store-bought contact lens solution. Don't use tap water.
  • Change your lenses after exposure to tap water, soaking in hot tubs, or swimming in fresh water. Exposure can occasionally cause a rare but serious infection called acanthamoeba.
  • Wash your hands before you handle your lenses.
  • Properly store your lenses.
  • Clean your storage cases every few months by boiling to remove bacteria and fungus that like to grow in moist environments.

Following these tips, consulting your doctor regarding unresolved eye pain, and following his or her instructions closely, will reduce your risk of permanent eye damage, including blindness.

Beadles is an ophthalmologist at Contra Costa Regional Medical Center and is an associate clinical professor at UC Davis.

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