While contact lenses are safely used by millions of people every day, they do carry a risk of eye infection. Factors contributing to infection can include:
- Use of extended-wear lenses;
- Reduced tear exchange under the lens;
- Environmental factors;
- Poor hygiene.
The single best way to avoid eye infections is to follow proper lens care guidelines as prescribed by your eye care professional. In particular, including a “rub and rinse” step in the lens cleaning process, minimizing contact with water while wearing contact lenses and replacing the lens case frequently can help reduce the risk of infection.
Taking Care of Your Lenses
Risk of infection varies somewhat depending on the type of contact lens. Single-use daily disposable lenses are the safest type of soft contact lens, in terms of reducing the risk of infection. Rigid gas permeable lenses are a safer alternative than any type of soft contact lens. Your ophthalmologist can help you decide which type of lens is right for you.
Regardless of the type you decide on, proper care of the lenses is essential to eye health.
- Before handling contact lenses, wash your hands with soap and water, then rinse and dry them with a lint-free towel.
- Minimize contact with water, including removing lenses before going swimming or in a hot tub.
- Contact lenses should not be rinsed with or stored in water (tap or sterile water).
- Do not put your lenses in your mouth to wet them. Saliva is not a sterile solution.
- Do not use saline solution and rewetting drops to disinfect lenses. Neither is an effective or approved disinfectant.
- Wear and replace contact lenses according to the schedule prescribed by your eye care professional.
- Follow the specific contact lens cleaning and storage guidelines from your eye care professional and the solution manufacturer.
- During cleaning, rub your contact lenses with your fingers, then rinse the lenses with solution before soaking them. This “rub and rinse” method is considered by some experts to be a superior method of cleaning, even if the solution you are using is a “no-rub” variety.
- Rinse the contact lens case with fresh solution — not water. Then leave the empty case open to air dry.
- Keep the contact lens case clean and replace it regularly, at least every three months. Lens cases can be a source of contamination and infection. Do not use cracked or damaged lens cases.