So, you’ve ditched your glasses and you’re ready to rock those new contact lenses when you head back to school?
You’re going to look great! Unless you get a gross, potentially blinding eye infection, of course.
That’s the word from Dr. James Banta, an ophthalmologist with Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, part of the University of Miami Health System. Don’t freak out – just follow Dr. Banta’s advice and you’ll be good.
Replace the case: Toss your contact lens case every three months (into the recycling bin please, it deserves a new life as a toothbrush) and get a fresh one.
Nerdy fact: Waiting six months to replace your case increases your risk of getting an eye infection nearly 5.5 times.*
Hold the water: Sorry to ruin your pool party, but water and contacts don’t mix. Blame it on a nasty parasite that can literally invade your eye, causing a serious infection and yes—even blindness. This is not Sci-Fi – just Google “Acanthamoeba keratitis.”
“Although it’s easy to avoid, close to one million people get keratitis every year,” Dr. Banta says. So, wearing contacts in the shower, hot tub or bath? Just don’t. Rinsing or soaking contacts or cases in water (or spit)? Equally out.
Sleep smart: Snoozing in contacts (even extended wear) increases your chance of an eye infection by 6.5 times.
Why? “Contact lenses restrict oxygen to your cornea (the outer surface of the eye). When that happens, it changes the structure of your cornea and makes it easier for bacteria from contact lenses to cause an infection,” says Dr. Banta.
Bottom line: Don’t catch an infection while you’re catching Zzzz’s. Take a second and take out your contacts.
Keep ‘em clean: Not to get all preachy, but wash your hands before you handle your contacts. Rinse and rub the contacts with disinfecting solution after wearing and replace as often as your eye doctor recommends. Disposable lenses take the hassle out of hygiene. Some are even recyclable.
If you wear makeup, here’s your plan of action: put it on after putting your lenses in. Take your lenses out before cleaning off makeup.
Tip: Ready to make a fashion statement with specialty contact lenses? Read this first.
No gain from pain: That redness, pain, stinging, blurriness or light sensitivity? It might not be from your Netflix binge. Get checked out by an eye doctor. If you have an eye infection, getting it treated early could save your sight.
*According to a study in the journal Ophthalmology.
Nancy Moreland is a contributing writer for the UMiami Health News blog. She has written for several major health care systems and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Her writing also appears in the Chicago Tribune.