10 Rules for How to Take Care of Your Contacts, Straight From Your Eye Doctor
Before you wear contact lenses for the first time, it’s important to know how to properly care for them. Improper wear of contact lenses can actually lead to complications—from not being able to wear contacts in the future to something as serious as permanent vision loss.
I know that sounds scary, but fortunately, taking care of your contacts correctly can help prevent any dangerous complications. This article will explain how to take care of your contacts and why contact care is so important.
How to Take Care of Your Contacts: Why It Matters
If you’re wondering why your eye doctor seems to be so intent on making sure you take good care of your contacts, it’s for a good reason: it’s because the cornea (the clear dome that tops the front of the eye) doesn’t receive oxygen from your blood like the rest of your body does. Why? Because if the cornea used blood to get oxygen, we wouldn’t be able to see because light could not pass through blood.
Instead, the cornea receives all of the oxygen it needs from the air when our eyes are open and from our eyelids when our eyes are closed. Fun fact: that’s why the back of our lids are pink-–they have extra blood vessels to help the cornea breathe when your eyes are shut.
So, when you wear contacts, the contact lens will sit directly on top of the cornea, which will cut down on the amount of oxygen your eye will receive. Contact lenses are made of different types of materials, with different levels of oxygen permeability. Therefore, some contact lens materials allow for higher oxygen levels to pass through them, but others allow for less oxygen transfer.
However you want to slice it and regardless of the oxygen absorptive value of the contact lens, the eye will breathe better without a contact lens in place. Overall, however, contacts limit the amount of oxygen that can transfer into the eye, and, therefore, make an eye more susceptible to infection and injury.
So, even if you follow all of the rules that I am about to number, your risk goes up as compared to not wearing them at all. Now, I explain this not to scare you away from contacts altogether, because contacts are a very safe form of vision correction, as long as you care for them and wear them properly. And just how do you care for them properly? This eye doctor has 10 rules for you to follow to take care of your contacts.
How to Take Care of Your Contacts: 10 Rules to Follow
Ready for the rules on how to take care of your contacts? Let’s dive in.
Rule #1: Always Wash Your Hands Before You Touch Your Contacts
Your hands are the biggest transmitter of infectious material to your eyes. Just wearing contacts increases your risk of infection and injury, you don’t want to be jamming a contact into your eye that is loaded with bacteria and viruses.
Additionally, you’ll want to avoid using lotion soap as the residue may stick to your contact lens and irritate your eye.
Rule #2: Only Use Fresh Contact Solution Designed for Your Contacts for Rinsing, Cleaning, Disinfecting, and Storage
If you can, always choose an FDA and eye doctor-approved contact solution that is specifically designed for your contact lens brand. Although contact lens solution might seem universal, contact lens manufacturers actually have solution brands that are more designed for their product’s maximal comfort.
Now, that doesn’t mean that you can’t use other brands of contact lens solutions, but for maximum performance, you may want to consider matching your contact lens with its corresponding solution.
There are many different brands of solutions, so your doctor can help you find the right one for you. However, just as not all contacts are for everybody, not all solutions are for everybody either.
Last, but not least, DO NOT USE HOMEMADE SOLUTIONS FOR CONTACT LENS CARE—this includes tap water or anything that is not specifically designed for your type of contact lens.
Rule #3: Know How to Clean and Store Your Contacts
As a best practice for how to take care of your contacts, always make sure to clean, rub, and rinse your contacts anytime they come in or out of your eyes. You should even follow those steps if your solution claims to be “No Rub.” That’s because rubbing and rinsing help keep those contacts cleaner than not rubbing, even if the solution states.
“Rubbing and rinsing your contacts helps keep them cleaner than not rubbing. ”
Rule #4: Don’t Forget Case Care
After you have placed your contacts in your eyes, empty the used storage solution from the case after each disinfection period, rinse the case with hot water and let the case air dry with the caps off. The cap treads should face upward and be exposed to the air in a clean, safe, and sterile environment.
A contact lens case is designed so that bacteria and viruses cannot grow on them. Therefore, just rinse the case with hot clean tap water and let it air dry. Don’t try to clean the case with soap or through it in the dishwasher, as residue may form within the contact lens case and cause eye irritation.
When a case gets dirty enough to the point that hot water rinsing and air drying no longer work, replace the case. As a matter of good practice, replace the case every month. They are the cheapest part of contact lens care, and usually come included in your solution purchase.
Rule #4: Throw Out Your Contacts at the Recommended Intervals
Waiting for a contact lens to bother you is bad practice. If you take care of them correctly, a contact should feel just as good on day one as it does on the final day of wear. You shouldn’t wait until a contact lens bothers you to throw them out. Contacts only have a set FDA-approved life span that the manufacturer agrees with.
When you first start wearing contacts, your eye will desensitize to the contact being in your eye. As build-up accrues on your contacts, your eye will continue to desensitize as the contact ages. If you are waiting for the contact to bother you, then you are waiting for the point that your eye finally says, “HEY! I can’t desensitize anymore; these things have way too much build-up!” Don’t wait that long. Throw them out on time.
Rule #6: Never Sleep, Nap, or Keep Your Eyes Closed for a Long Time with Contacts In
Only certain people with specific contact lenses and only under certain conditions with specific clarified guidance from certain doctors can sleep in contacts.
Sleeping in contacts is not for everyone (or even most people) and it should not be done without careful consideration. The reason stems back to our discussion on oxygen and the cornea–our corneas get a limited amount of oxygen by stealing it from the lids when our eyes are closed. How much oxygen can it steal with a contact lens in the way? Not as much, right?
So, unless you have specific contacts and careful guidance with approval from your eye doctor, DO NOT SLEEP in contacts. The added risk is not worth it. You’re not going to see your dreams any better with your contacts in.
Rule #7: Let Your Eyes Breathe as Much as Possible Without Contacts
Given that your eye doesn’t breathe as much with a contact lens covering your cornea or when you sleep, you should devote at least one hour in the morning and one hour at night without contacts in to make sure that your eye gets a round of maximal oxygen supply at least two hours of every day.
As a matter of fact, you should let your eyes go without your contacts even longer if you can for maximal health. And be aware, this reprieve is much less likely to happen if you do not have a good pair of glasses as well. You’re not likely to want to sacrifice vision during these times—so think of glasses and contacts as a package deal. You shouldn’t have contacts without the regular break that comes thanks to wearing glasses. Ironically, part of best practices for how to take care of your contacts include not wearing contacts now and then.
Rule #8: Don’t Wear Contacts if Your Health is Compromised
If you’re sick and your body is under the weather, then so are your eyes. Remember that contacts already decrease the health of your eye and increase your risk of infection and injury even when you’re healthy. If you’re sick, your risk goes up. Let your eyes breathe when you’re sick. Take the contacts out and leave them out (again, wear those glasses instead) until you’re healthy again.
Rule #9: When in Doubt, Take `Em Out
Anytime your eyes are red, have discharge, pain, discomfort, cloudy vision, or if you have any eye issues, take your contacts out. Put those glasses on (since you should always have them with you as a backup, just in case, right?). The longer you leave a contact in when problems begin, the more severe the damage will be. Don’t wait, take them out and when in doubt, take them out.
If you ever ask yourself the question, “Should I be wearing my contacts right now?” the answer is simple: when in doubt, take them out. And remember: if you have any questions about how to best take care of your contacts, be sure to ask your eye doctor for help.
Rule #10: Stick to a Schedule
If you are a first-time wearer or haven’t worn contacts in weeks, you may need to build up your wearing schedule slowly. For example, if you haven’t run in a long time or never ran before, is it good to go out and run four miles on day one? No—it’s best to ease into the mileage.
The same principle goes for contacts as your eyes may not be able to tolerate a full day of reduced oxygen levels and may swell and become painful in response. Ease your way into contacts slowly to keep it safe. A common method is the 4+2 method: start with four hours on day one, then add two hours of wear each day until you hit a 12-hour day. Your doctor will help you figure the best wearing schedule for you, your contacts, and the lifestyle that you live.
A Last Word on How to Take Care of Your Contacts
Overall, this is a simple guideline for contact lens care and how to take care of your contacts, but cannot be done without the assessment and direction from an eye care professional. If it’s been a while, be sure to schedule an eye exam so you can ensure your contact lens prescription is accurate and there are no complications with your eyes.
Keep these rules for how to take care of your contacts in mind, find a good eye doctor and follow their guidance, and you are likely to have long-term success with your contact lens wear.