Contact lenses are approved as safe by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) but only when used according to your doctor’s instructions. Ignoring proper contact lens care precautions puts you at risk for a wide range of eye complications that can cause irreversible vision loss.
According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health, though 85 percent of patients surveyed believed they followed the doctor’s instructions, only 2 percent actually did so. The rest were unknowingly putting themselves at risk for serious eye problems.
Wearing Contacts for Too Many Hours
While some contacts are designed to be worn all day or even overnight, many contact lenses should be worn for a maximum of eight hours per day. After this point, patients are more likely to experience uncomfortable dry eye. The primary reason for limiting your wearing time, however, is that contact lenses block the cornea from getting oxygen. Long-term oxygen deprivation can have severe negative effects on the eye, including increased risk of infection and other sight-threatening conditions.
Not Replacing Contacts Often Enough
One of the most common forms of poor contact lens care is using lenses for a longer time period than recommended. Daily disposable lenses are not designed to be cleaned; when using them for more than one day, either the lens is not cleaned at all, increasing the risk of bacterial infection, or the lens is often torn or scratched while cleaning. Torn or scratched lenses can scratch the cornea, which also increases the risk of infection and other complications.
For nondaily lenses, similar problems occur over longer periods. Microbes and proteins build up, and lenses deteriorate. Several studies have demonstrated that failure to replace lenses on the recommended schedule is associated with higher risk of complications that damage vision.
Washing Hands, Cleaning Lenses, and Replacing Lens Cases
All of the above risks are greatly increased when you ignore the doctor’s guidelines on how to keep lenses clean. Contact lenses can pick up microbes that cause infection if you handle them without cleaning your hands or don’t clean the lenses properly.
The lens case and saline solution are surprisingly important as well; the solution should be replaced every time you put the lenses in the case, and the case itself should be replaced regularly. Swimming while wearing contacts or exposing lenses to tap water (or any liquid not created to be used with contact lenses) also increase the risk of infection.
These risks are frightening, but they are all associated with poor contact lens care. If you follow the doctor’s guidelines, wearing contacts is a safe way to correct vision.
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