Whether you are brand new to contact lenses, or have been wearing them for years, here's an overview of how to best care for and wear your contact lenses:
1. Abide by the Replacement Schedule
Daily disposable contact lenses are used for one day and thrown away nightly. Frequent or planned replacement contact lenses are removed nightly and re-worn for multiple days. Replacement schedules for these contact lenses can vary from seven to 30 days.
Even if you do not wear your contact lenses every day, opened lenses should be should be discarded after the indicated time period has elapsed. Remember that "skipping" a day of wear still counts as one day of use. Think of your contact lenses like a perishable food item: once you break the seal and expose it to environmental bacteria, it starts to decay. Wearing your contact lenses longer than directed can increase your risk of developing an eye infection.
For some simple and helpful ways to remind you to replace your contact lenses, read here.
2. Stop Sleeping In Your Lenses
Sleeping in your contact lenses is a dangerous habit that can increase your risk for eye infections and vision loss. While some contact lenses are approved for extended wear, this does not automatically mean that it is okay to sleep in them. Only specific lenses are approved for overnight wear.
Oxygen normally diffuses into the cornea (the clear tissue on the front of the eye) directly from the air. Contact lenses create a barrier between the air and the cornea, thereby limiting the amount of oxygen your eye receives; when you close your eyes or fall asleep wearing your lenses, the supply lessens even more.
Frequently sleeping in your contact lenses can cause corneal hypoxia (a lack of oxygen) and fine, blood vessels to grow on your cornea (a condition known as neovascularization). Make it a habit to remove your contact lenses before napping and every night before you go to sleep.
3. Solutions Should Be "So Fresh and So Clean, Clean"
Contact lens care systems and solutions are products you use to clean, disinfect, and store your contact lenses. The solution in your case needs to be changed daily due to the bacteria that is accumulating inside. Do not top off or add new solution to old solution in a contact lens case, as it does not provide the necessary antimicrobial properties. Never use tap water to clean your lenses or contact lens case, as microorganisms found in water can cause serious eye infections.
4. Don't Mix with Water
The CDC recommends that contact lenses should not be exposed to any kind of water, including tap water and water in swimming pools, oceans, lakes, hot tubs, and showers. Despite being purified, tap water can still contain bacteria and other microorganisms that can cause serious eye infections.
You should remove your contact lenses before showering, swimming, or any water sports. If you believe it is necessary to wear your contact lenses during these activities, please discuss with your eye doctor the option of daily disposable contact lenses, as you will need to discard your lenses after swimming.
5. Be Prepared for Issues
Even with proper care, you may encounter minor issues with your contact lenses. If you develop any irritation, redness, or blurry vision you should discontinue wearing contact lenses until you consult with your eye doctor. It is important to have a pair of back-up glasses with an updated prescription to wear instead of contact lenses, should any of these problems arise.
Wearing contact lenses may increase sensitivity to light, especially sunlight. Be sure to wear high-quality sunglasses that have 99-100% of both UV-A and UV-B protection while outdoors.
6. No Prescription, BIG Problem
To put it simply: contact lenses are medical devices regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They are not over-the-counter cosmetics or merchandise.
If you aren't required to show proof of a valid contact lens prescription from a licensed eye doctor, then the contact lenses are being sold to you illegally.
The most common example of this is the sale of Halloween (i.e., fashion, cosmetic, or costume) contact lenses by online merchants, novelty shops, or convenience stores. Contact lenses labeled as "non-prescription" or "non-corrective" only means that they don't correct for your refractive error to allow you to see; it does not mean that you don't need a doctor's prescription to wear them. This ambiguity can be confusing, often leaving both customers and sellers unaware that they're breaking the law.
According to the FDA, "Sale of contact lenses - corrective or plano - without prescription is prohibited in the United States under the federal law. Both the federal Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act (FCLCA) and the FTC Contact Lens Rule, which sets down the terms of enforcement for the FCLCA, specifically require non-corrective plano contact lenses, used solely for cosmetic purposes, to be treated as corrective lenses and sold only by prescription."
If you find a distributor you think is selling contact lenses in a manner that violates the law, you should report it to FDA.
7. Have Your Eyes Examined Annually
Speaking of prescriptions, your contact lens prescription is valid for 12 months due to FDA regulations. Your eye doctor will need to re-evaluate your eye health and your contact lens prescription every year. This is to ensure that the contact lenses aren't causing any discomfort or damage to your eyes.
If you're having trouble understanding your prescription, read Decoding Your Contact Lens Prescription.
Following your eye doctor’s recommended wear and care schedule is the best way to ensure the most enjoyable contact lens wearing experience and maintain good health of your eyes. If you have any questions or concerns about your contact lenses, please contact your local eye care professional.
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