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Published December 20, 2012, 11:35 PM

Five Things Friday: Five mistakes contact lens wearers make

FARGO – Like a dentist asking whether you floss, when you go to the optometrist, you hear, “Are you taking care of your contacts?” A study published last year in the journal Optometry and Vision Science shows that only 2 percent of contact lens wearers actually follow hygiene guidelines.

By: Meredith Holt, INFORUM

Editor’s note: “5 Things Friday” is a weekly feature in SheSays that runs on – you guessed it – Fridays. It focuses on quick tips, ideas, activities and more – all in bunches of five. If you have a “5 Things Friday” suggestion, contact us at shesays@forumcomm.com.

FARGO – Like a dentist asking whether you floss, when you go to the optometrist, you hear, “Are you taking care of your contacts?”

A study published last year in the journal Optometry and Vision Science shows that only 2 percent of contact lens wearers actually follow hygiene guidelines.

Contact lens misuse can lead to mild problems like conjunctivitis, more commonly known as “pink eye,” or more serious problems like Acanthamoeba or E. coli infections, both of which can lead to permanent visual impairment or blindness.

“I let everybody know that there is a risk involved when you wear them. You’re at a higher risk of infection, and you minimize that risk by following these rules,” says Dr. Jed Hillmer, of Hillmer Eye Clinic in Fargo.

The local optometrist – along with recommendations from the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the Contact Lens Association for Ophthalmologists, the Cornea Society, and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery – weighs in on the biggest mistakes contact lens wearers make.

  1. Wearing them too long. Hillmer says the problems he sees with contacts typically revolve around overwear.

    Contact lenses come with a recommended wear time for a reason, and unfortunately, many users try to extend their life, either because they forget to change them or because they want to save money.

    Whether they’re labeled as dailies, monthlies or something in between, Hillmer explains to patients, “This is a two-week lens. The FDA says it’s a two-week lens. You’ve been wearing it as one-month. You’ve been getting lucky so far.”

  2. Sleeping with them in. Though some contacts are “made” to sleep in, Hillmer says he sees more problems with extended-wear lenses than with other types of lenses. Take them out at night.

  3. Showering or swimming with them in. Try to avoid any contact between your lenses and water, which increases the risk of exposure to infection-causing pathogens. That includes rinsing or storing them in water.

    Hillmer explains that by wearing contact lenses repeatedly, you’re creating “a pathway for bugs to get into the eye,” and we all know bugs love moist, warm, dark environments.

    Contacts are a safe, effective way to correct your vision, but you have to tend to them properly in order to protect your eyes, and that means keeping them away from water.

  4. Neglecting the case. Case Care 101: Use fresh solution daily instead of “topping off” the solution already sitting in your contact lens case. Periodically rinse your case with solution instead of water and let it air-dry. And, most importantly, replace it at least every three months.

    “I think case cleanliness is a huge issue,” Hillmer says. “When they’re brown, that really grosses me out, personally.”

  5. Going without backup. Hillmer says some people continue to wear their contacts after their eyes become irritated because they’re not comfortable removing them or they don’t have glasses for backup, which can exacerbate the problem.

    “At least get a pair of glasses, too, because you never know when you’re going to want to take a break or need to take a break,” he says.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Meredith Holt at (701) 241-5590

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