Venturing into the world of contact lenses is an exciting yet challenging experience. The liberation from frames and the crystal-clear vision they provided by contacts is unparalleled. Yet, this liberation demands accountability. Ensuring meticulous lens care and adhering to recommended usage is crucial for preserving eye health. Beyond just a beginner's guide to contacts, it's vital to be aware of the pitfalls that often ensnare new wearers. This article sheds light on these common missteps and provides insights on how to navigate around them.
Not Following Proper Hand Hygiene
One of the most overlooked yet crucial steps in lens care is hand hygiene. Improper or lack of handwashing resulting in dirty hands introduces bacteria to the lenses, which can lead to infections. Always ensure your hands are thoroughly washed with soap, fully rinsed, and dried with a lint-free towel before touching your lenses. This simple step can safeguard against potential eye complications.
Moreover, it's not just about washing hands, but also about technique. Ensure that you scrub all parts of your hands, including between fingers and under the nails, for at least 20 seconds. Using warm water can further aid in eliminating germs. It's also advisable to keep your fingernails short and clean, as long nails can harbor more dirt and bacteria, increasing the risk of contaminating your lenses. If you have acrylic or long nails, be sure to use a nail scrubber to reach underneath the nails fully where bacteria and germs hide.
Skipping the Cleaning Routine
New wearers often underestimate the importance of a regular cleaning routine. Lenses act as sponges, absorbing particles and pollutants from the environment. Neglecting to clean them can introduce these irritants directly to the eye. Always use the recommended cleaning solution, rubbing the lenses gently between your fingers, and storing them in fresh solution overnight. This not only cleans the lens but also disinfects it.
Furthermore, it's essential to replace the solution daily and never "top off" or add a new solution to an old one. This can dilute the disinfecting properties of the solution, making it less effective. Also, remember to clean the lens case with the solution, never water, and let it air dry. This helps in preventing bacterial growth in the case.
The allure of clear vision can tempt new wearers to keep their lenses in longer than advised. However, overwearing can lead to reduced oxygen supply to the eyes, causing complications like redness, discomfort, or even infections. Therefore, it is important to adhere to the wear schedule recommended by your optometrist, giving your eyes a break and allowing them to breathe. The cornea, the clear front surface of the eye, requires oxygen from the atmosphere as it doesn't have its own blood supply.
When you overwear your lenses, especially overnight, it deprives the cornea of this essential oxygen, leading to complications. It's also worth noting that while some lenses are designed for extended wear, not all lenses fall into this category. Always follow the guidelines provided for your specific lens type. If your eyes feel tired or irritated, it's a sign to give them a break.
Sleeping in Lenses Not Designed for Overnight Wear
While there are lenses designed for extended or overnight wear, not all lenses fall into this category. Sleeping in daily lenses can deprive the cornea of oxygen, leading to potential issues. Always ensure you're aware of the type of lens you're wearing and follow the guidelines associated with them. The cornea, which is the clear front surface of the eye, relies on oxygen from the environment to function correctly.
When you sleep with contact lenses not designed for overnight use, it can cause a condition called hypoxia, where the cornea gets swollen due to lack of oxygen. This can lead to blurred vision, discomfort, and in severe cases, corneal ulcers. It's essential to be diligent and remove your lenses before sleeping unless they're explicitly designed for extended wear.
Using Tap Water to Clean or Store Lenses
A common misconception is that tap water is safe for cleaning or storing lenses. However, tap water contains microorganisms that can adhere to the lens surface, increasing the risk of eye infections. Always use the prescribed lens solution for cleaning and storage. Tap water, even if it's filtered or treated, can contain a dangerous amoeba called Acanthamoeba, which can cause a severe eye infection known as Acanthamoeba keratitis. This infection can be challenging to treat and, in extreme cases, can lead to blindness. It's also worth noting that saline solutions or rewetting drops are not alternatives to proper disinfecting solutions, as they don't have the necessary properties to clean or disinfect lenses.
Ignoring Discomfort or Signs of Infection
New wearers might dismiss initial discomfort as part of the adjustment process. While minor irritation can be expected, persistent redness, itching, or pain should never be ignored. These could be signs of an underlying issue or infection. If you experience any of these symptoms, remove your lenses and consult an eye care professional immediately.
The eyes are delicate organs, and any prolonged discomfort can indicate something more serious. Infections, if not treated promptly, can escalate, leading to more severe complications, including vision loss. It's always better to err on the side of caution. Remember, contact lenses are medical devices, and any changes in how they feel or how your eyes look should be taken seriously.
Not Regularly Replacing Contact Lens Case
The lens case, though small, plays a pivotal role in lens care. Over time, it can become a breeding ground for bacteria. To avoid this, ensure you're replacing the solution in it daily and the case itself every three months or sooner if it shows signs of wear and tear. A contaminated lens case can transfer bacteria to the contact lenses, which then come in direct contact with the eyes, increasing the risk of infections.
Cleaning the case after each use by rinsing it with fresh contact solution (never water) and letting it air dry with the caps off can also help reduce the risk of contamination. It's a small investment in terms of time and money but can make a significant difference in maintaining eye health.
Using Expired Solutions or Lenses
Just like any other product, contact lenses and solutions have expiration dates. Using the past this date can compromise their efficacy and safety. Always check expiration dates and ensure you're using products within their recommended usage period. Expired solutions may not effectively disinfect lenses, and expired lenses might not maintain their shape or integrity, leading to discomfort or vision issues. Manufacturers set expiration dates to ensure the products maintain their quality and safety standards. Ignoring these dates can jeopardize the health of your eyes.
Not Scheduling Regular Eye Exams
Transitioning to contact lenses doesn't mean bidding farewell to your optometrist. Regular eye exams are crucial. These appointments not only ensure your prescription is up-to-date but also allow the optometrist to check the health of your eyes, ensuring that the lenses aren't causing any harm. These exams can catch potential issues early on related to a faulty contact lens, from changes in vision to signs of infections or other complications.
Remember: The fit of your contact lenses can change over time due to various factors, including the natural aging process, eye surgeries, or even pregnancy. Regular check-ups ensure that you're always wearing lenses that are best suited for your eyes.
Guarding the Gateway to Clear Vision
Embarking on the journey of wearing contact lenses can feel like unlocking a new level of freedom. The crispness and convenience they bring to daily life can be transformative. Yet, with this newfound liberty comes responsibility. As newcomers to this realm, it's easy to fall into avoidable traps, but with knowledge and diligence, these pitfalls can be avoided.
Regular check-ups, proper hygiene, and adhering to guidelines are not just recommendations; they're the foundation of maintaining optimal eye health. As we see the world through our rejuvenated vision, let's remember that safeguarding our vision is in our hands. The world looks brighter with clear vision, so let's ensure it stays that way.