Contact lenses offer a solution for poor vision without the inconvenience of glasses. When properly worn and cared for, contacts are a great vision option with few accidents or problems. However, every contact wearer should know which behaviors are most likely to lead contact malfunctions. Here is what you need to know about avoiding contact lens problems and how to respond if they occur.
Most problems with contacts come from mistakes with care and wear. Here are common things that contact wearers do that can lead to larger injury or illness:
- touching your contacts without washing your hands. You might wash before you put your contacts in, but if you touch your eye or take them out without washing, the germs on your hands have a vehicle to stay in prolonged contact with your eye. It's best to really scrub with soap before you handle your contacts -- a fast rinse under the tap is not enough.
- using the same contact solution over and over. Your contact case is meant to clean your contacts when you're not wearing them, including killing off bacteria and viruses that can collect on your contacts as your wear them. The cleaning power of your contact solution diminishes after the first use, and failing to replace it means your contacts really aren't getting clean.
- Licking your contact when you don't have solution. Don't use saliva in place of contact solution -- the human mouth has a plethora of bacteria that can lead to eye infections.
Signs of infection include redness, swelling, prickling, and increased pain in the eyelid or in the eye itself. Wearing your contacts will also cause pain, and your eyes could be more sensitive to light if they are infected. Respond to infections by resting your eyes, removing your contacts, and gently washing the area with a warm, clean cloth and rinsing with water. You should see your doctor immediately if you notice these symptoms, especially if they are accompanied by a fever, because you might need antibiotics to fight the infection.
Another common source of injury for those with contacts comes from a contact tearing, breaking, scratching, or trapping other substances in the eye. These scenarios usually occur in the following instances:
- wearing one pair for too long. Contacts, unless they are rigid, are generally disposable. Don't extend the use of a single-wear set of contacts, and if you have ones that are meant to last a few weeks, don't wear them for months. This can save you money, but it also makes you vulnerable for eye injuries. Your contacts can weaken and tear, making them more likely to split while in your eye.
- using a damaged lens. You should never try to wear a lens that has been dropped on the floor, accidentally shut in the lid of your case, or any other kind of trauma. Even if the lens looks okay, it could have dirt that scratches the delicate surface of your eye, or it could be weakened, which means it could tear when you wear it.
- wearing contacts backwards. This is uncomfortable, but some people genuinely might not notice. Wearing a contact backwards can cause stress to the eye surface, leading to redness. The contact can also roll up or flip back into shape while in the eye, which is very dangerous.
If you do have a contact lens that tears or splits while in your eye, do not panic. Instead, carefully try to remove the pieces from your eye. If you can't, keep your eye closed and seek medical help to prevent further damage to your eye.
For more information about contact lens safety, go to websites of local eye doctors or contact lens retailers.