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45 million Americans use contact lenses, and with that many people wearing them daily it can be easy to forget that they come with risks. Contact lenses are medical devices and require care and proper usage. Since 2006 there have been three outbreaks in the U.S. of serious, potentially blinding eye infections that can be caused by contact lenses. Below we've provided some guidelines to wearing your lenses safely and hygienically.
We've touched on the importance of washing your hands before, and it's crucial for properly handling your contacts. Germs could easily be transferred from your hands to your lenses or lens case, which can then spread to your eyes. Wash your hands well with soap and water and dry them with a clean cloth before every time you handle contact lenses.
Don't sleep with your contact lenses in. This increases by 6 to 8 times the likelihood of a corneal infection called microbial keratitis. Even users of lenses designed for extended or overnight wear should consult with their doctors before sleeping while wearing lenses.
Lenses can cause irritation sometimes. Make sure to keep your eyes moist with high-quality eye drops, especially ones made for contact lens wearers.
Visit your optometrist or other eye doctor yearly, or more often if recommended. Call your doctor if you have any discomfort, blurred vision, or pain due to your lenses, and ask them for any advice you may need on caring for or using your lenses or other supplies.
It may seem counterintuitive considering how we rely on water for cleanliness, but water is a potential hazard for contact lens wearers:
It's important to remove your lenses before bathing, swimming, using a hot tub. Never rinse or store them in water, and throw away or disinfect any that touch water. If your lenses get wet while you're wearing them, take them out immediately.
Your lenses require regular care to ensure they're hygienic and safe. Here are some tips:
It's easy to remember to care for your lenses, but you might pay less attention to your lens case. But this too needs to be in the best possible state to ensure your lenses are germ-free: