You know you need to be careful while wearing your contact lenses, but you've seen your friends do some things with their lenses that seem a little risky. Should you wear your lenses for several days in a row? Can you rinse the lenses with tap water? Is it safe to use saline to store the lenses? Before you go messing around with your eyes, make sure you're being safe. Your eyes are worth it.
How To Store Lenses
Contact lenses are pretty robust, but they do need to be cleaned and disinfected now and then. The cleaning schedule really depends on the type of contacts you have and your doctor's recommendations for your specific eyes. Some eyes are more sensitive than others and cannot tolerate multi-day wearings. Some lenses just aren't designed to be worn more than a day without cleaning either.
When storing lenses, always use a recommended cleaning and storage solution kit. Each manufacturer has one that they've designed their lenses to be compatible with. Use that as a guide. Companies like Next Day Lenses sell a wide range of solutions so you shouldn't have trouble finding an online retailer to sell you solutions at discounted prices - you'll need a lot of this stuff so try to get the best deal you can find.
How To Clean Lenses
Cleaning lenses can be easy or laborious, depending on the type of lens you have. Most soft contacts are simple to clean. There's typically a "rub and rise" step, followed by a disinfection step lasting several hours. Discard and replace the solution each time you take your lenses out to be cleaned and disinfected.
Clean the lens case with solution to remove any debris and prevent contamination. Finally, while it's tempting to hang onto expired solutions, this is a bad idea. Toss it, and make sure you use all solutions by the expiry date.
Which Solutions To Use
Many lenses allow you to get away with a multipurpose solution for cleaning, storage, and disinfection. This is typical with soft contacts. However, some lenses require a special solution, like a hydrogen peroxide solution. These solutions seriously irritate the eye, so they also come with a neutralising tab or disc that must be placed in the solution before you rinse them and put them in.
Hard contacts often require special drops or tabs. Oddly, hard contacts are the easiest to clean. Simply drop the lens into the solution and drop a tab in with the lens. The tab does all the work.
Under no circumstance should you wet your lenses with your own saliva, re-use solution (even for storage), wear lenses that you've left in your case for more than seven days without cleaning and re-disinfecting them, or use any eye drops not compatible with your specific lenses. Doing so may injure your eye or damage the lens.
Using Tap Water
Tap water is commonly used to rinse lenses, even though this practice is highly unsafe. Why? Because tap water often contains a common amoeba that can infect the eye. Once it's in there, it multiplies, causing irritation. Water also contains chlorine and chloramines which are meant to disinfect the water, making it safe from pathogens. The chlorine, however, can seriously irritate the eye. Only use approved saline solution for rinsing.
Richard Phillips is a optometrist in a small rural township. When he's not helping his patients see better, he's sharing his insights with others by posting on various Internet websites.