How to Prevent Eye Infections from Contact Lenses

You love your contacts and would never go back to wearing glasses. But wearing contacts requires taking a few extra steps each day to avoid painful eye infections.

While wearing contacts, you’re actually more vulnerable to a number of different eye infections, including an infection of your cornea called keratitis, which can be caused by a virus, bacteria, fungi, or a parasite. Keratitis can lead to serious complications, including recurring viral infections or even a temporary or permanent loss of some or all of your vision.

Contacts also make you more prone to catching conjunctivitis (pink eye), which can be caused by either a virus or bacteria. Staphylococcus bacteria often reside in the nose; if you rub your nose then touch your eye, you can also get a staph infection in the eye.

All of these infections require close monitoring and can persist for some time, so here are several tips to prevent these infections and keep your eyes healthy if you wear contact lenses.

Always wash your hands before handling your contacts

Eye doctors agree: hand washing is the most important thing you can do to prevent eye infections when wearing contacts.

Don’t simply put the soap on your hands then rinse it right off. The proper way to wash your hands is to soap up and scrub your hands together for about 18 seconds, or about as long as it takes to sing Happy Birthday. Then, rinse thoroughly and be sure to dry your hands completely with a lint-free towel.

Don’t sleep — or even nap — in your contacts

Oxygen keeps your corneas healthy, and contact lenses decrease the amount of oxygen to your corneas. When you close your eyes, they get very little oxygen as it is, let alone when you’ve got your contacts in.

Without sufficient oxygen, your corneas swell, creating openings between the cells on the surface of your eye that allow bacteria to creep in. You’re up to seven times more likely to get an eye infection when bacteria invade the eye this way.

You may think what’s the harm of a 15-minute nap with your contacts in, but your cornea starts swelling as soon as you close your eyes. Make it a hard rule to take out your contacts when napping or sleeping.  

Don’t top off old lens solution

You’re in a rush in the morning and it’s tempting to just add a dash of fresh contact lens solution to what was left from yesterday. The problem? That mixture of solution won’t disinfect your lenses, and mixing it renders it completely ineffective.

Use fresh solution every morning, and don’t skimp. Fill the entire bowl to the top to completely clean your lenses. You might even set your alarm 10 minutes earlier to avoid the rush. You’ll save time and money keeping your contacts clean; an eye infection means a trip to the doctor, prescription eye drops, and painful eyes.

Follow the directions

Always use products that are made for your particular type of contact lenses. And don’t be a bull in a china shop; use a gentle touch when cleaning, so you don’t scratch or otherwise damage the lens. Make sure your lens case is clean, and change cases every couple of months.

If you’re considering contact lenses and are looking for comprehensive, expert eye care, call Dr. Jacob West at West Vision in Tyler, Texas, or book an appointment online.

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