How can I prevent infections caused by contact lenses?

To prevent infections caused by contact lenses you need to take care of them. And although most people think they're wearing and caring for their lenses correctly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that between 40 percent and 90 percent of contact lens wearers do not follow the care instructions for their lenses. Following are tips for caring for contact lenses to prevent infections:

  • Avoid the water. Tap water, well water, hot tubs, pools, rivers, oceans, lakes and soil and sewage systems contain naturally occurring amoeba. These tiny, one-celled animals can infect your eyes, resulting in a condition called Acanthamoeba keratitis. It's treatable, but if ignored, it can lead to permanent vision loss. Avoid wearing contact lenses when you shower or bathe and when you swim. If you must wear them while swimming, make sure to wear airtight goggles over them. And never clean your lenses with tap water or saliva, neither of which is sterile.
  • Always rub, even if you're using a no-rub solution. When researchers studied cleaning contacts with and without rubbing, they found that rubbing was necessary to remove deposits on soft lenses, even if you rinse your lenses for a longer time. Never reuse or top off your solution. Instead, put fresh solution in your lens case every single day.
  • Don't sleep in your lenses. Contact lens wearers are more prone to infections due to an environment of dryness and less oxygen reaching the eye. When you sleep, because your eyes are closed, that sets up the perfect environment for infection, making your eyes more vulnerable to bacteria, pathogens and irritation. Even though some lenses are designated as extended wear (the material is thinner and more "breathable"), some people have trouble tolerating them for overnight use.
  • Always wash your hands before putting in or taking out your lenses. It's easy to transfer germs and bacteria from hands to eyes. Avoid heavy, oily soaps and make sure to dry your hands well with a lint-free towel.
  • Don't forget to clean—and replace—your storage case. To care for your case, always rinse with fresh solution (not water) and let the empty case air-dry. A good rule of thumb is to replace it every three months. Use it too long and you risk a build-up of dangerous pathogens, which can invade the eye.
  • Pay attention to how your eyes feel. If the lens hurts, there may be dust or dirt underneath. Rinse with rewetting drops or a non-peroxide solution.

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Contact lenses are great for vision correction if you don't like wearing eyeglasses, but it's important to take special care of them to reduce your risk of eye infections. Always wash your hands thoroughly before handling your contact lenses, and follow the instructions for cleaning, disinfecting and storing your contact lenses to reduce your risk of eye infections. Also, be sure to follow the recommended wearing schedule and replace contact lenses as appropriate.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.