How to care for contact lenses

Keep those contacts clean! Here's how to avoid common complications with your lenses.

Written by Dr Patrick Versace
Woman holding a contact lens. Macro studio shot.

Contact lenses bring comfort, freedom and confidence to many millions of people worldwide. They've been around for far longer than you might realise – the idea was initially proposed by Leonardo da Vinci in 1508, and the first successful set of contact lenses was fitted by German ophthalmologist Adolph Fick in 1888.

Even so, they didn’t become commercially available until the 1950s, and then they remained expensive and extremely fragile. Only in the late 1970s did contact lens technology develop to the point of being affordable and safe enough to be widely used.

Today, contact lenses can be a real enhancement. But if you’re a contact lens wearer, chances are at some stage you’ll experience an issue – infections, abrasions, trauma and even metabolic changes to the eye itself are all very real possibilities. The results can range from a very mild irritation to chronic conditions that can include vision loss.

What causes contact lens problems?

The main offenders that lead to eye problems are accumulation substance deposits found in the tears and eyelids, as well as exposing your eyes to bacteria and fungi, foreign objects and fingernails.

The majority of these conditions are preventable, yet the more you become used to wearing contact lenses, the easier it is to become lax in the hygiene and handling requirements of both the lenses and the cleaning solutions.

11 tips for contact lens care

Proper care and handling are a must. It’s worth taking a few minutes every day to save you from what could potentially be a lifetime of trouble.

  1. Wash your hands before handling the lenses. This means cleaning them thoroughly with soap and hot water, then rinsing well.
  2. Don’t dry your hands on a paper towel or fluffy hand towel – they can transfer fibres that can then be transferred to your lenses. A good shake is the best bet.
  3. If you wear soft lenses, make sure they’re not inside-out (it happens more often than you think).
  4. Watch your fingernails while handling contacts (they can rip soft lenses and scratch hard ones).
  5. Check for damage. Make sure the lens isn’t ripped or broken in any way.
  6. Keep eye drops handy. Don’t let your eyes dry out during the day.
  7. Don't rush removal. At night, take your time removing the lenses (a corneal abrasion is a nasty consequence of lack of attention during this process).
  8. Always use fresh solution. If your lenses require cleaning and storage, don’t re-use solution.
  9. Thoroughly clean the storage containers.
  10. Never sleep in your lenses unless advised by your practitioner.
  11. Never, ever, wear your lenses longer than the recommended time. You aren’t saving money – you’re risking permanent damage.

Long-term solutions

The simplest way to avoid problems with contact lenses is to use them exactly how they are prescribed. It’s really that easy. Every morning and every night, follow your routine to the letter.

If all of this sounds too onerous, there’s one permanent solution: laser eye surgery. The procedure actually reshapes the surface of the cornea, permanently correcting the vision. It doesn’t matter if you’re suffering from short-sightedness, long-sightedness or astigmatism – laser eye surgery is suitable for 99 per cent of people between the ages of 20 and 45.

In fact, many people who come to me for laser vision correction surgery are sick of the daily rigmarole involved with contact lenses. They tell me the freedom they feel once they’ve had laser vision correction surgery makes them wonder why they put up with all the fuss in the first place.

Written by Dr Patrick Versace

Dr Patrick Versace has performed thousands of refractive surgical procedures, including laser correction, cataract surgery and refractive lens exchange surgery.

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