10 Mistakes Contact Lens Wearers Make

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Contact lenses offer sharp periphaeral vision and freedom from wearing glasses all day. They have certain care and use rules that help those wearing them reduce risk of injury and increase comfort.

Avoid these mistakes when wearing contact lenses:

1. Sleeping with lenses in.

“I try to discourage this,” said Mark Deeley, a primary care optometrist for Rochester Regional Health. “Naps are OK—people have to live—but I don’t like patients to make it a habit. The lid closure at night makes the eye suffocated for oxygen. It can cause visual changes. Although there are FDA-approved options to wear lenses on an extended basis, it doesn’t mean they’re not at risk for inflammation that can be damaging.”

2. Swimming while wearing contacts.

“Especially if patients are wearing lens that they do not replace every day, this can cause problems,” Deeley said. “The microbes and bacteria in a pool, hot tub, lake and fresh water can cause an infectious ulcer. If you have your head submerged, the bacteria and microbes stick to the lens. Sometimes, multipurpose solutions can eradicate those from the lens. It would be better with a daily disposable. Or you could wear goggles.

3. Skipping check-ups.

“Just because patients are seeing well and are comfortable in their lenses doesn’t mean the lenses are fitting appropriately,” Deeley said. “People should go in for their eye exams to make sure their eyes are truly healthy.”

4. Wearing lenses beyond their disposal schedule.

“By over-wearing them, you get deposits on the lenses that can cause infections,” said Therese Farugia, optometrist with UR Medicine’s Flaum Eye Institute. “It can be a drier lens and can cause the cornea to dry out and it can distort the cornea. We recommend that the patient doesn’t wear their lenses at that point. For some, it increases their astigmatism, and we may have to fit them with a different lens. I ask patients what they’ve been doing if they haven’t been here for a year and a half and I gave them a year’s supply of lenses last time.”

5. Reusing disinfecting solution.

“Every day, you should dump out the solution, rinse out the case with tap water or lens solution if you’re not going to put them in again right away and let it air dry,” Farugia said. “This abuse is a lot less than it used to be because of the dailies.”

6. Switching disinfecting solution brands.

“Stay with the same lens solution,” Farugia said. “They can have different preservatives in the solution. To avoid allergies to that solution, stay with the same one and don’t mix them.”

7. Using saliva to clean a lens.

“I’ve had patients say they put a lens in their mouth to remove debris,” Farugia said. “There are bacteria in their mouths. It does not belong in the eyes.”

8. Using eye drops for cleaning contacts.

“The problem with Visine for redness is it can dilate your pupil and it’s absorbed into the lens,” Farugia said. “Saline is made just to rinse your lenses. It’s not made to disinfect your contacts. You have to use some form of a disinfecting solution or you’re not killing the bacteria. If you don’t care for the lens well, bacteria are covering the lens and you’re putting it in your eye. If you fall asleep in your lens and you wake up and they’re dry, put some saline in to moisten the lens so you don’t cause a corneal abrasion, also known as a scratch on your cornea. Leave them out for the day. If you end up with a severe infection, you may never be able to wear contacts again.”

9. Wearing lenses the entire day.

“Most patients can wear them for a full day as long as their vision is clear and they’re comfortable, but they should take them out an hour before they go to bed so they get oxygen,” Farugia said.

“Most lenses are still permeable but it’s still good to get that full oxygen before bed.”

10. Neglecting to prepare for a vision emergency.

“Bring an extra pair of lenses in your bag,” Farugia said. “And bring your glasses wherever you go if you’re leaving home.”