7 Dangerous Contact Lens Case Mistakes You Shouldn't Make
For a moment, imagine that wearing contact lenses is similar to playing football. Your contacts would naturally take the lead as a quarterback. On the other hand, your contact lens case would be more like the water person: an important part of the overall operation that is sometimes overlooked unfairly.
Proper use of your contact lenses, including the lens case, is critical for good eye health. According to the survey, wearing contact lenses already increases your risk of problems like dry eye. Dry eye occurs when your eyes either don't produce enough tears or the tears they do produce aren't moisturizing enough, and its symptoms are unpleasant, including dryness, stinging, burning, pain, and more.
Actually, in addition to the increased risk of dry eye that comes with wearing contacts, failing to clean, store, and otherwise handle your contact lens case properly can lead to additional problems, such as infections.
To help you avoid this, here are some contact lens case mistakes you may not even be aware of which could jeopardize your eye health.
1. You haven't washed your hands before touching the contact lens case.
If you want to win a gold medal for how to use your contact lens, you must keep everything related to your lenses as clean as possible. It's critical to wash your hands with soap and water before handling your contact lens case.
2. You haven't cleaned your lens case after each use (or at all).
Is there a solid buildup of unidentifiable gunk on your contact lens case, if you're being completely honest? Perhaps a light sprinkling of seemingly innocuous lint? Yeah, that's not good.
Your contact lens case is like a little petri dish. Bacteria can grow in there, and if you don't clean your case on a regular basis, you're simply reintroducing that back into your contacts when you put them in the case at night.
There is no official recommendation for how frequently you should clean your contact lens case, but the American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends that you follow the instructions provided by your solution manufacturer. Many people recommend cleaning out your case after each use. The AOA recommends emptying the old solution, rinsing the case with fresh solution, wiping it down with a clean tissue, and letting it air dry with the caps off.
3. Use tap water rather than contact lens solution when you wash your case.
When you think of how to wash something, your first thought might be to splash it with water. That's usually a good idea, but not with your contact lens case.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), exposing your contacts to tap water increases your risk of developing Acanthamoeba keratitis, a severe corneal infection that can result in permanent vision loss. It's a frightening and serious infection.
Acanthamoeba keratitis is caused by a microbe that can live in tap water (as well as distilled water), stick to your contacts, and cause an infection. According to the CDC, if this occurs, you may experience eye pain, redness, blurry vision, the sensation that something is in your eye, sensitivity to light, and excessive tearing.
Because improper contact lens use is a major risk factor for Acanthamoeba keratitis, it's critical to avoid allowing tap water to come into contact with anything related to your lenses, including your lens case.
4. You haven't replaced your contact lens case every three months.
Unless you've lost your contact lens case, purchasing a new one is probably not at the top of your to-do list. Even if your current case looks chef's kiss-level immaculate, the AOA recommends getting a new one every three months.
According to the AOA, bacteria and other microorganisms can produce a substance called biofilm, which can form in your case and help bacteria "hide" from the disinfectant in your contact lens solution. That's...interesting, because who doesn't enjoy scientific subterfuge, but the point is that it can be harmful to your eyes. Because you can't see this biofilm, it's best to replace your case every three months, whether or not it looks like it needs to be replaced.
5. Top off the old solution in your lens case instead of adding fresh liquid every time.
Your contact lens case is warm and moist when it is full of liquid. This is exactly the type of environment in which microorganisms like bacteria and fungi thrive. When you add more solutions to your case, you're pushing whatever was growing in there deeper down, where it can still glom onto your contacts. You just create an environment in which you're growing more bad stuff in your lens case, putting your lens into it, and then putting that in your eye finally.
Instead, make sure to remove all of the old solutions from your case each time, then proceed with washing it out before adding a new solution to store your contacts.
6. Store old contacts in your case with fresh solutions to try to extend the time you can use them.
Tossing some barely-useless lenses into your contact case with a new solution should help revitalize them, right? No, unfortunately. Contact lens solution does not extend the contact lens's recommended wear cycle.
For the record, whether or not you wear your contact lenses for the entire time period, you should discard them on time. For example, if you break out your 30-day contacts but end up wearing your glasses for 15 of those days, you should still stop using the contacts 30 days after you started using them.
7. Keep your case in the bathroom rather than in a less humid location.
Isn't being close to the bathroom sink a good thing, right? Especially since you're going to start cleaning your case as frequently as you should? The problem is that keeping your case in a humid environment, such as your bathroom, puts it at risk of becoming contaminated, according to the AOA.
Not only that, but when you flush, your toilet creates a "toilet plume," which can spray pathogens like E.coli and salmonella into the air, according to the AOA. If your case is lying out in the open, those little droplets can land on it and easily transfer into your eyes.
This does not mean that you will develop a severe eye infection simply because your contact lens case is in the bathroom. After all, thousands of people have done this for years without incident, and you could be one of them. If you're worried and want to keep your eyes as safe as possible, keep your contact lens case in a clean, low-humidity environment while your lenses are disinfecting.
If you wear contacts and are experiencing unusual eye symptoms, see your eye doctor and be honest to tell about your contact lens habits.
Many eye problems have symptoms that are similar, whether you have dry eye, pink eye, Acanthamoeba keratitis, or something else entirely. Instead of attempting to self-diagnose and solve the problem on your own, consult your doctor. That way, you'll know exactly what you're up against and can find the quickest path to recovery.
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