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In the United States an estimated 28-38 million people use contact lenses for vision correction purposes. Because contact lenses are so convenient and lightweight, more people favor them over using standard eye glasses.

Knowing how to properly take care of contact lenses is an important part of owning and wearing contact lenses, and will protect the lenses and the vision of the wearer.

Different Types of Contact Lenses

There are generally two types of contact lenses, soft and gas permeable and both lenses require a prescription from a licensed Optometrist.  The following table explains the various different forms of contact lenses and how each one differs:

Soft contact lenses: composed of a soft, flexible plastic that allows oxygen to pass through to the cornea.  The lenses are easily adjustable and more comfortable than gas permeable lenses, which are more rigid.   

Rigid gas permeable lenses: these lenses are more durable than soft contact lenses and more resistant to protein build-up, giving wearers clearer vision.  

Toric contact lenses: are used to correct a moderate astigmatism (distorted vision) and are available in both rigid and soft forms.

Extended wear contact lenses: are made for wearing overnight or continuous wear for a period of one to six nights or up to thirty days.  Usually made of flexible plastic, extended wear lenses allow oxygen to pass through to the cornea.

Disposable (replacement) contact lenses: a large majority of people who wear soft contact lenses may be prescribed a frequent replacement schedule.  “Disposable” lenses mean the contacts are to be used once and then discarded and a brand new pair is used daily.

Who Should or Should Not Wear Contact Lenses?

Just because someone can get a prescription for contact lenses, does not mean everyone can comfortably wear them.  Prior to purchasing contact lenses, there are certain conditions that may effect the ability to wear them, please note the following conditions:

  • If a person suffers from frequent eye infections
  • If a person has severe eye allergies
  • Has chronic dry eye condition (improper tear film)
  • If a person works in an environment that is dusty or dirty
  • A person who is unable to properly handle and care for contact lenses

If a person does not suffer from any of the above mentioned conditions, chances are contact lenses are a viable vision correction option for those who might otherwise wear eye glasses.

How to Properly Insert Contact Lenses

For a person to be able to successfully wear contact lenses, it is important to first know how to insert them correctly.  The following is a list of guidelines that explains to a new wearer how to properly insert contact lenses:

  • Select an area to work and properly sanitize, wipe down with a bleach solution or antibacterial cleaner and allow to air dry.  Arrange the solutions and contact lens case within easy reach.
  • If wearing long sleeves, roll them up and wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water, drying with a clean towel.  
  • Open up the contact case and remove one lens with the index finger and apply a couple of drops of rinsing/saline solution.
  • While balancing the lens on the index finger, carefully inspect the edges.  Make sure the edges are pointing upward, if not, the lens is inside out and needs to be flipped over.
  • While controlling eye blinking, raise and hold the upper eye lid and with the other finger holding the contact lens, use the middle finger next to it and gently pull down the lower eye lid.
  • Looking directly into the contact lens, carefully put it on the center of the eye surface.  An alternative method, some people find looking upward to be helpful.  Lightly touch the contact lens to the white of the eye and close the eye lid.
  • Gently massage the eye lid and the lens should move into place under the closed eye lid.
  • Removing the fingertip, gently let go of the lower eyelid and follow with the upper eye lid. Counting to five, if the contact lens feels dry, add a few drops of rewetting solution.  
  • Insert the other contact lens using the same method.
  • After finished inserting contact lenses, wash the case out and allow to air dry.
  • Never place a contact lens in the mouth or use saliva or tap water to wet a contact lens.  Doing so can spread germs and result in an eye infection.
  • Only use products approved for the eyes and never share contact lenses with anyone else.

All of these guidelines are important for the health and safety of the contact lens wearer and must be strictly observed to avoid damaging contact lenses or the eyesight.

How to Properly Take Care of Contact Lenses After Removal

It is just as important to know how to properly insert contact lenses as it is to remove and store them after wearing.  The following guidelines are designed to assist new contact lens wearers about how to properly remove and care for contact lenses:

  • Wash hands completely with soap and warm water, drying with a clean towel.
  • It is important to remember to always work from left to right to avoid confusion.
  • Looking upward, pull down the lower eyelid.
  • Using the index finger, touch the lower edge of the contact lens and slide it downward to the lower part of the eye.
  • Squeezing the lens gently between the thumb and index finger, carefully remove it.
  • If the lens appears to be sticking to the eye surface, apply a few drops of lubricating solution and wait until the lens moves back into proper position before attempting to remove it again.
  • Once the lens has been removed, rinse with saline solution and place into the appropriate cell of the contact lens case.
  • Add some additional rewetting/saline solution to the case and close the lid securely, making sure the edges of the lens is not touching the side of the case, if so, it may cause damage to the lens when trying to close the case.
  • Repeat the same procedure with the right contact lens as well.

Proper disinfection and storage of contact lenses is imperative for the removal of germs and to prevent the risk of infection.  Do not use any type of solution that is not approved for contact lenses, do not try to disinfect disposable lenses, do not mix different types of solutions and use only the brand of solution recommended by a licensed Optometrist.

What is the Proper Amount of Time to Wear Contact Lenses?

With the introduction of “extended wear,” and “disposable” contact lenses, many first time users find it confusing when trying to determine how long they can safely wear contact lenses.  Below is an explanation of the different types of contact lenses and appropriate wearing time for each:

  • Daily wear: lenses must be removed on a nightly basis.
  • Extended wear: these lenses may be worn overnight and can usually be worn for a period of seven consecutive days without being removed.
  • Continuous wear: is a term used to describe lenses that can be worn for thirty consecutive nights.
  • Daily disposable: lenses must be replaced daily.
  • Disposable (used for daytime wear only): need to be replaced every day.
  • Disposable (used for overnight wear only): need to be replaced weekly.
  • Planned replacement: need to be replaced monthly or less frequently.

Why You Need to Use Rewetting Solution with Contact Lenses

The eye drops used for keeping contact lenses moist are called “rewetting drops.”  The purpose of rewetting drops is to lubricate the eye and provide hydration for contact lenses, making lens wearing more comfortable.  The drops are purposely labeled “for use with soft contact lenses,” and can be purchased from any drug or retail merchandise store.

It is recommended by eye care professionals that wearers frequently use rewetting drops, to both remove debris from underneath lenses and to improve the comfort of wearing contact lenses.  Make certain to dispose of any type of cleaning, rewetting or lubricating solutions if past the expiration date on the bottle. 

Be careful never to touch the tip of the bottle to the surface of the eye, fingertips or any other surface, doing so could result in bacterial contamination of the product and cause infections of the eye.   For proper cleaning and storage of contact lenses, it is important to follow the instructions of an eye care professional and use products only approved for contact lenses.

How Improper Use of Contact Lenses Can Be Disastrous

It is very important for contact lens users to remember that improper usage can damage eyesight and even cause blindness.  Always use products that have the approval of the Food and Drug Administration and are manufactured by a reputable company. 

If any type of allergic reaction or irritation occurs during normal wear, it is crucial to remove the lenses and contact an eye care professional immediately.  Always remember that eyesight is irreplaceable and taking the extra precautions to protect the eyes is worth the effort, so always follow strict sanitation, cleanliness and proper handling techniques when using contact lenses.