Contact lenses on a glass surface

Five golden rules for safe contact lens use

  • Over four million people in the UK wear contact lenses.
  • What affects the risk of infection?
  • If you experience blurred vision or sore, red or swollen eyes then you should see an eye doctor straight away.

It’s estimated that more than four million people in the UK wear contact lenses to correct their vision, with many viewing them as a convenient alternative to glasses. However, bad contact lens habits and poor hand hygiene can lead to infection and, in some cases, serious eye damage. Follow these five golden rules for safe contact lens use to keep your eyes healthy and reduce the risk of picking up infections.

(Most users have broken one of them at least once…)

1. Never swim in contact lenses

Wearing contact lenses while swimming or doing water sports increases your risk of eye infection, as both swimming pools and beaches are full of bugs, chemicals and other harmful substances – so be sure to remove them before doing any of these activities. Also, avoid wearing contact lenses in the shower or hot tub.

2. Never sleep while wearing contact lenses

Sleeping without first removing contact lenses increases the risk of infection, and can lead to serious eye problems. This habit can cause ulcers to form on the front part of the eye as it deprives the cornea of oxygen - which then increases the risks of developing an infection. Although the risk is higher with soft contact lens users, this can occur with all types of contact lenses so it is important to avoid sleeping with your lenses.

3. Always use lens solution to clean contact lenses

Contact lens solutions, as advised by your eye care practitioner, should always be used for cleaning and disinfecting your lenses if you use re-usable soft lenses such as bi-weekly or monthly disposables. Tap water may be safe to drink, but it is not sterile and therefore not suitable for cleaning or storing your contact lenses - so it is important not to expose your lenses to tap water. Note that sterile saline should not be used as a disinfecting or long term storage solution as it will not prevent bacterial growth. If you need to remove a lens unexpectedly, because of dust or irritation, avoid using saliva to clean it, as this exposes the eye to bacteria found in saliva. If you wear daily disposable soft lenses, it is important that you dispose of the lenses every day and do not reuse them.

4. Follow the usage advice for your contact lenses

Don’t wear lenses beyond the time limit recommended by your eye care practitioner. Wearing contact lenses for prolonged periods may cause your eyes to become red, sore and more prone to infection.

5. Don’t ignore warning signs

If you experience blurred vision or sore, red or swollen eyes then you should see an eye doctor straight away. A white or yellow spot visible in the coloured part of the eye should also be immediately checked as this is often an early sign of infection. Seek medical advice if your lenses look or feel wrong. It is important that you attend regular contact lens check-ups with your eye care practitioner, even if you aren’t having problems.

Written in association with

Mr Scott Hau

Senior Optometrist

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