We rightly try to reuse and recycle as many products as we can to cut down on waste around the planet. Yet in the case of soft contact lenses, the kind most wearers now prefer, the smartest thing to do may be just the opposite. If not properly cared for, contact lenses pose health risks to users. Single-use disposable contacts require the least amount of maintenance and are therefore the safest option. There are other safe options for those who prefer more traditional lenses as well. All in all, contact lens safety and preserving your eye health is the most important factor in choosing the right contact lens for yourself.
Single-use Disposable Contacts
Single-use disposable contacts have become the norm in the industry, not just for convenience but for safety. They significantly lessen the chance of serious eye infections, because wearers dispose of contaminated lenses daily instead of sleeping in them or trying to disinfect them at home. This minimizes biological film that builds up on contacts, which can cause not only infections but allergies.
But patients who prefer traditional lenses can be accommodated, too. For optimal contact lens safety, there are two primary options - rigid gas-permeable lenses (RGPs) and longer-use soft lenses.
The choice between RGPs and soft lenses depends on your degree of astigmatism, your comfort with each type, how often you expect to wear them – you should put RGPs in daily – and the amount of care you want to give. For instance, RGPs require special solutions to increase the lenses’ ability to stay wet. But because RGPs have no large pores, protein cannot enter the lens matrix, and there’s much less risk of infection.
Caring for RGPs and Longer-Use Soft Lenses
Standards of care for contact lens safety have changed over the years. Doctors once recommended heat to kill bacteria. But as lenses became more oxygen-permeable, they stopped. Heat made proteins lose their shape and function; when those were absorbed by the lens, it became opaque.
Cold disinfection for soft lenses comes mainly in hydrogen peroxide systems and chemical systems. Peroxide is preservative-free, so it won’t lead to allergies. It’s slightly more expensive, and lenses must soak at least six hours to neutralize the peroxide. (If non-neutralized solution gets into your eye, expect serious pain and redness for 24 hours but no permanent damage.)
Chemical systems use many different disinfecting substances, none of which is perfect or can guarantee total sterility. You can greatly minimize risks by never sleeping in your lenses and using new solution each day, instead of topping off the solution already in the case. Saline solutions do not reduce bacterial count and should never be used for contact lens storage.
The bottom line for soft lens wearers is this: The best solution is not to use a solution. Daily disposable lenses come sterilized from the manufacturer and remain safer than anything you might do to extend lens wear at home.
The Importance of Proper Care of Contact Lenses
At worst, careless treatment of contact lenses may lead to permanent vision loss. Several years ago, people who used a certain brand of solution and neglected to replace it faithfully every night suffered from an outbreak of fungal keratitis that blinded some of them.
Optical at Horizon
To schedule a consultation at Horizon Eye Care, use our Patient Portal or call 704-365-0555 Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. One of our optometrists or ophthalmologists will evaluate your eyes and recommend the best contact lens for you.