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How can I prevent infections caused by contact lenses?

You can prevent infections caused by contact lenses by cleaning your contacts as recommended. This may vary depending on the type of contacts you wear. Regardless of the type of contacts you wear, it is important to wash your hands with soap and water and dry them with a lint-free towel prior to handling your contacts or inserting them. You should never use water or saliva to clean or insert your contacts. Avoid reusing cleaning solutions. Replace and wear your contacts as directed by your provider. Make sure you clean your contact storage container and replace it at least every three months.

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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Following are ways you can prevent infections caused by contact lenses:
  • Before you even touch the lens, make sure that you wash your hands with soap and water. Then dry your hands with a lint-free towel so that you don't deposit any fibers onto the lens itself, which then can get under the lens and scratch your eye.
  • Know your contact lenses. How often should you dispose of them? Is it a daily lens? Is it a two-week lens? Is it a monthly lens?
  • Inspect every new lens to see if there are any imperfections, cuts, scratches or manufacturing defects.
  • Do not share your contact lenses with anyone else.
  • Minimize the contact lens' contact with water. Remove your lenses before you swim or go into a hot tub. Never store your lenses in any type of water, whether it's tap, sterile or distilled water.
  • Do not use saliva as a re-wetting agent. If you put the lens in your mouth and then put it into your eye, you're taking the bacteria that live in your mouth and transmitting them to the eye. There are many more bacteria in the mouth than in the eye naturally.
  • Clean and disinfect your lenses. Look at what your solution does. Even if it's a no-rub solution, you do need to rub the lenses.
  • Don't contaminate your solution. Make sure you're not touching the tip of the solution bottle to anything else, and don't change the vessel of your solution. If you're going on a trip and you need a smaller bottle of solution, buy a smaller bottle of solution. If you pour contact lens solution from the regular bottle into another bottle, you run the risk of contaminating it during that process.
  • Don't forget about your case, where you store your contacts for maybe eight or more hours a day. If your case is contaminated, that contamination is going to be transmitted to your contact lenses. After you take your contacts out in the morning, rinse out the contact case with your saline solution and then leave it open to dry during the day. Replace it at least every three months.

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.

This content originally appeared on HealthyWomen.org.

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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.