Contact Lens Care and Cleaning

Baltimore Washington Eye Center, Maryland

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Contact Lens-Critical Care and Cleaning

It happened again. One of our contact lens patients came in for an emergency visit with an uncomfortable red eye that was sensitive to even moderate light.  The patient had developed a corneal ulcer, a painful, possibly infectious condition that required aggressive therapy with drops, frequent follow up and ... Discontinuation of contact lens wear! No one who loves the convenience of their contact lenses ever wants to hear that.  So what can you do to decrease the chances of having a similar problem?

Do not sleep in your contact lenses. Even the new generation of silicone hydrogel lenses, which let an enormous amount of oxygen in them, have an increased risk of corneal infection with extended wear contact lenses.

Wash hands thoroughly and dry completely before handling contact lenses. We all know that many germs are spread through hand to hand contact, so good hand washing greatly reduces the risk of introducing these pathogens to the eye. What most people do not realize is that some pretty nasty germs can live in tap water and completely drying your hands is critical to protecting your eyes and contact lenses.

For the same reason, never shower or swim in contact lenses. Acanthamoeba a Protozoa found in tap water and standing water like lakes can cause a severe infection that is very difficult to treat and may result in permanent scarring requiring corneal transplant.

Always rub your lenses gently with your disinfecting solution before rinsing and soaking. Debris left on lenses creates places for germs to cling and hide making it much harder for the disinfecting solution to do its job. A recent study showed a significant decrease in debris after rubbing contact lenses even when using “No Rub" cleaning systems.

When infections related to contact lens wear do develop, the offending organism is very often cultured from the patient's contact lens case. Cleaning contact lens cases thoroughly and replacing them often can help eliminate this potential source of infection.

Remember, even with every precaution problems may still occur. A contact lens wearer with a red eye should seek care for their eye care practitioner within 24 hrs of developing symptoms.

Guest Blogger: Shari Strier, O.D., Optometrist with the Baltimore Washington Eye Center