More than 80% of contact lens wearers surveyed prior to an eye exam believed they followed good lens wear and care practices, but just 2% actually complied with most recommended lens hygiene steps.
And less than 1% were found to be fully compliant with recommendations such as washing their hands before handling lenses, using fresh lens solution every time instead of topping off old solution, and replacing lens cases frequently.
What Eye Problems Look Like
Contact Lens Awareness
The new survey included patients undergoing eye exams in private practice or university-affiliated optometry settings.
Overall, 85% of the patients perceived themselves as compliant with all lens-wearing practices, but only 0.4% was considered fully compliant.
The study also showed that while most of the contact wearers knew what they needed to do to avoid complications, few actually followed all the recommendations. The researchers concluded that patient awareness was not the problem.
The most frequent complications reported by the surveyed contact lens wearers were discomfort (72%) and infection (47%).
In their analysis published in the December issue of the journal Optometry and Vision Science, researchers Danielle M. Robertson, OD, PhD, and H. Dwight Cavanagh, MD, PhD, of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center called for new strategies to improve compliance with safe contact lens use.
Dos and Don’ts of Contact Lens Wear
American Optometric Association (AOA) spokesman Randall Fuerst, OD, says one of the most common causes of contact lens-related complications is failure to replace contacts as recommended.
“This is particularly common with lenses approved for two-week use,” he tells WebMD. “People often use them for three weeks or even a month, which can cause problems.”
When wearers use lenses longer than recommended or don’t follow proper handling and storage practices, there is a greater likelihood of deposit buildup that can lead to chronic eye redness or infection.
Wash Hands, Replace Case, Don’t Top Off
Among the other AOA recommendations:
Always wash and dry your hands before handling contact lenses.
Clean lenses often, as recommended by your eye doctor. Rub the lenses with your fingers and rinse thoroughly before soaking lenses overnight in sufficient multi-purpose solution to completely cover the lenses.
Use only fresh solution every time to clean and store contacts. Never top off old solution with new because the active ingredient in some solutions can break down over time. This is also why contact lens solutions should never be used after the discard date on the bottle has passed.
Never use tap water in any area of lens care, including rinsing the lens and lens case. Tap water may contain microorganisms that can cause eye infection.
Store lenses in the proper lens storage case and replace your case at least every three months. Clean the case after each use and keep it open and dry between cleaning.
Never swim in lenses or wear them in a hot tub.
Extended Wearers Need to ‘Listen to Their Eyes’
Fuerst also recommends that people who choose to sleep in their contact lenses use a wetting drop made for contact wearers before going to bed at night and upon waking in the morning.
Most lenses sold today are approved for a seven-day continuous use, but some newer lenses have been approved for 30-day use.
Fuerst says people who do not take their contacts out for extended periods need to be especially vigilant about “listening to their eyes.”
“If your eyes are feeling gritty, sandy, or irritated, or if they are more red than normal, take your contacts out and don’t wear them when you sleep for a while,” he says.