The history of contact lenses dates back to 1508 and Leonardo da Vinci’s idea of “wearing a water-filled hemisphere over the eye,” first published in his book, Codex of the eye, Manual D. Since then, designs have evolved and the version of contact lens that is mostly similar to today’s lenses actually originated in 1949. In fact, President Lyndon B. Johnson was the first President to appear in public wearing contact lenses in 1964. Today, over 150 million people worldwide wear these thin lenses over their eyes for therapeutic, corrective, and cosmetic use. While contact lenses serve great purposes, they need special care. October is Contact Lens Safety month and the perfect time to refresh ourselves on the safety and importance of taking regular care of your contact lenses. Improper maintenance can lead to increased risks of eye infections. Most of the following tips are from the CDC and FDA.
- Clean and disinfect your lenses daily. There are many types of contact lens solutions available. Use a solution that works for you and follow the appropriate instructions. Most eye doctors suggest using a solution with hydrogen peroxide, which provides extra disinfecting. However, as a contact lens wearer myself, it is important to read the instructions for hydrogen peroxide solution, as you can’t wear your lenses for several hours while cleaning. For example, you can’t put them in the solution and place them in your eyes an hour later. Also, never reuse solution. Lastly, if you wear hard contact lenses, once you have taken them out, rub the lens carefully with the solution, and rinse well before placing them in the case.
- When removing and putting in your contacts, always wash your hands with soap and water beforehand. Dry completely. This practice erases the germs from your hands and avoids getting them in your eyes.
- No matter what solution you are using, replace your storage case at least every three months or as stated by your eye doctor or solution instructions. For me, every time I open a new bottle of solution, I change my case. This is due to the fact that I am using the hydrogen peroxide base.
- Don’t expose your contacts to water and always remove before swimming or showering.
This past summer, I read an article on the Today Show website about a man who developed a parasitic infection and lost sight in his right eye after showering with contact lenses. This is an extreme example, but still shows what can happen and serves as a warning.
- Unless told by your doctor, don’t wear your lenses overnight or while sleeping. The darkness of night causes extra stress on the cornea and reduces the amount of oxygen to your eye, drying them out and making them more susceptible to infection.
- If you start experiencing symptoms of irritation or infection, remove your contacts, and wear your glasses. If needed, call your eye doctor immediately. Symptoms to be on the lookout for include: excess tearing, discomfort, unusual sensitivity to light, itching, burning, blurred vision, pain, swelling, or redness. I often have dry eyelids that cause an urge to rub my eyes. When this happens, I choose glasses instead of contact lenses. Plus, it never hurts to have a pair of glasses available as a quick backup; just be sure they are also up to date with your prescription.
- Speaking of prescriptions, visit your eye doctor yearly to keep up with your eye health. This way, you won’t be wearing contacts or glasses with old prescriptions.
- Contact lenses are normally worn by adults. Children can use this type of eyewear but should take extra caution. Parents and guardians should play an important role in encouraging safety and health behaviors to maintain contact lenses.
I love my contact lenses and don them almost every day. However, I know, like most people, this wouldn’t be possible without practicing these tips. One easy way to remember to take care of your contact lenses is the CDC’s slogan: healthy habits = healthy eyes.