(Press Release) In recognition of Contact Lens Health Week, Aug. 22-26, Dr. Andrea Thau, president of the American Optometric Association, shares her top tips for patients on how to safely wear contacts and offers her assurance that, no matter what you have heard, you cannot get a lens stuck behind your eye.
"While patients -- especially younger patients -- are really excited about being fitted with contact lenses, I stress to them that contact lenses are medical devices that have to be properly fitted, evaluated and that they must adhere to proper contact lens care," says Dr. Thau. "If they don't follow my guidance, they can end up with serious eye problems."
A 2014 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that evaluated contact lens hygiene-related risk behaviors showed that 99 percent of contact wearers reported at least one behavior that put them at risk for eye infections.
- Visit Your Eye Doctor Every Year
Not only do annual in-person comprehensive eye examinations with a doctor of optometry determine whether or not your prescription changed, they evaluate your eye and overall health. An in-person exam with your optometrist can diagnose eye diseases (such as glaucoma), systemic diseases (like diabetes), neurological issues (such as strokes, brain tumors, aneurysms and multiple sclerosis), peripheral vision issues and colorblindness. You and your optometrist will work together to find the right brand and fit that best suits your eyes to provide clear vision and ensure that your eyes stay healthy. Better yet, your optometrist will also be around to answer any questions you may have about contacts or contacts care.
- Buy Your Contact Lenses From a Trusted Source
Contact lenses and lens care products are medical devices regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, yet some people think it is easier to buy them from third-party vendors. Some online retailers sell contact lenses without prescriptions or ship contact lenses of the wrong prescription. Regardless of where you purchase your contact lenses from, you should receive the accurate brand according to your valid prescription. Poorly fitted contact lenses can cause significant damage to the eye's function, which could lead to irreversible sight loss.
- Always Check Your Prescription BEFORE Wearing Your Contacts
Inserting a contact lens that is not your correct prescription can be uncomfortable and lead to eye damage. It is important to match your eye doctor-verified prescription to the contacts you receive, especially if an order is placed online or by phone.
- Do Not Panic If Your Lens is "Lost" in Your Eye
Sometimes rubbing your eyes can cause a contact to move around, but it is not possible for it to get lost behind your eye due to a membrane -- the conjunctiva -- that covers the eye and the inside of the eyelids. If the lens has moved and is not visible, stay calm and instill a few drops of saline solution to moisten the eye, look away from where you feel the lens and lift your eyelid. When you see the lens, use the tip of your finger to remove the lens. If this happens repeatedly, make an appointment with your eye doctor to check the fit of your lenses.
- You Can Have the Eye Color You Always Wanted
Colored contacts are an easy way to change your appearance and are often used by actors when playing a role. All contact lenses are medical devices that require a proper fitting and prescription. As with all contact lens prescriptions, your doctor of optometry should perform a comprehensive examination and a contact lens fitting to determine which lens is right for your eyes before wearing colored lenses.
- When it Comes to Your Contacts, Say No to Sharing
Sharing contacts is a big no-no. When you share contacts, you share a lot more than just a lens, you share germs and bacteria that increase the risk of infection and complications. To make matters worse, the contacts of a friend may not be the right size or fit for your eyes, leading to serious problems.
- Clean and Rinse Lenses with Proper Solutions, Not Tap Water
Contact solutions remove mucus, secretions, films or deposits that can build up during wearing and lead to bacterial growth if not removed properly. Use the disinfecting solution that your doctor prescribed each night to keep contacts clean and safe. When you find yourself at a last-minute overnight stay and don't have your solution, don't rely on tap water as it contains bacteria and other microorganisms that have been proven to cause serious eye infections.
- Keep Your Lens Case Clean
After you insert your reusable, disinfected contact lenses, rinse your case with solution, and store it upside down and open to dry fully. Every three months, toss your old case and replace it with a fresh new one.
- No Matter How Tired You Are, Do Not Sleep in Your Contacts
While some lenses are approved for continuous overnight use, sleeping in lenses does increase the risk of an eye infection. Your eyes need time to breathe without lenses and sleep provides that opportunity. If you fall asleep with your lenses in, talk to your optometrist during your next appointment about extended wear contact lenses.
- Don't Over Wear Your Lenses
Fifty-nine percent of those interviewed for the American Optometric Association's 2015 American Eye-Q consumer survey admit to wearing disposable contact lenses longer than the suggested duration. This bad habit can cause permanent eye damage from bacterial infections and oxygen deprivation. If you're coming close to running out of contacts, visit aoa.org to find a doctor of optometry near you and schedule an appointment for a comprehensive eye examination. Prescriptions change over time, so make sure your prescription is accurate to ensure safe and comfortable contact lens wear.