10 bad habits that could hurt your contact lenses — and your eyes

10 bad habits that could hurt your contact lenses — and your eyes

From a dip in the pool to applying mascara, there’s a wide range of seemingly harmless daily activities that could compromise your contact lenses – and therefore your vision. We’ve got a list of 10 common behaviors for maintaining better lens and eye care.

Test different brands for lens solution. Buy fun cases. Even experiment with daily wear vs. monthly contacts. But please, when it comes to using your contact lenses, first wash your hands.

That’s one of many everyday acts that make a big difference when it comes to caring for contact lenses, and therefore your vision. They are sitting against one of the most sensitive organs in our bodies, after all.

Yet, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 40% to 90% of those who wear contact lens do not properly follow the care instructions.1
And those who don’t are more susceptible to irritation, blurry vision and infections, reports online contact lens retailer ContactsDirect.com.

Here are 10 tricks for taking the best care of your contacts – and your eyes.

  1. Clean them regularly. In addition to correcting your vision, your contact lenses act like windshields that protect your eyes from dust and air particles. Cleaning them regularly could save you from an infection — your eye doctor can provide guidelines. Also, be sure to dry out the contact lens case – because bacteria likes moisture.2
  2. But keep them out of water. It might seem harmless, but ContactsDirect advises against using tap water – which can include impurities and microorganisms that cause infections. Moreover, because tap water lacks salt it can be absorbed by the contact lenses, causing them to swell and changing their fit. Similarly, don’t wear your contact lenses while swimming unless you wear protective goggles — no matter how attractive the surroundings!2,3
  3. Wash (and dry) your hands first. Place your finger on a piece of clear tape and look at it — that’s what you’re putting on your contact lenses if you don’t wash up first. When washing, avoid scented or oily soaps, as their residue might stick to the surface. Similarly, avoid creams and lotions before putting in your contacts.4
  4. Avoid lip service – literally! Your mouth is full of bacteria, so resist the temptation to moisten your contact lenses with saliva. If you do, don’t rely on saline solution to resolve the issue; it does not disinfect. ContactsDirect.com suggests using a disinfecting solution.5
  5. Be sure the solution is fresh. Just as you shouldn’t eat food that’s beyond its expiration date, you should use disinfecting solution that is fresh. Follow the guidelines on how often to change it, even if you don’t wear your contacts daily. Don’t be tempted to top it off with a spot of fresh solution — the resulting concoction might not contain enough disinfectant to kill off organisms.6
  6. Apply before makeup, after hairspray: Beware of hairspray, which can adhere to the lenses. Keep your eyes closed during and a few seconds after spraying. As for making those eyes look their best — ContactsDirect.com recommends always applying cosmetics after your contacts are in. This will ensure your eyeliner is even and reduce chances of getting mascara or other irritants on the lenses. When removing makeup, opt for fragrance-free, water-based solutions.7
  7. Know they don’t last forever. You may know that you should replace your contact lenses regularly based on your eye doctor’s directions, but did you know you also should change your contact lens case as well? Microscopic dirt can linger, and a dirty case can lead to fungal eye infections. Change it every 3 months, the S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests.8
  8. Look dreamy, but don’t dream. More than half of Americans who wear contact lenses admit to sleeping or napping without removing them. Don’t. ContactsDirect advises that sleeping with your contact lenses on could lead to redness, soreness and infections. Further, it’s just a good idea to give your cornea a chance to breath.9, 10
  9. Know the signs of infection. No one’s judging here — environmental factors can lead to contact lens-related eye infections regardless of how clean you are. If you experience blurry vision, tearing or gooey discharge, increased light sensitivity or feel like something is in your eyes, call your eye doctor.11
  10. Get an annual eye exam. Whether you order contacts online or through your eye doctor, continue to get annual eye exams. After all, your vision could change and require an updated prescription just as it would with regular glasses. Also, a regular visit with your eye doctor is an opportunity to ask questions and detect other health problems from diabetes to cataracts.

Contact lenses can work so well that we might forget we’re wearing them. Let daily care be your rule of thumb – but just make sure the thumb is clean.

  1. “Focusing on Contacts Lens Safety,” FDA, Dec. 15, 2017, https://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm048893.htm
  2. “Can You Put Your Contact Lenses in Water?” June 15, 2017, ContactsDirtect.com https://www.contactsdirect.com/can-you-put-your-contact-lenses-in-water
  3. “Is it Safe to Swim in My Contacts?” March 7, 2016, ContactsDirect.com https://www.contactsdirect.com/is-it-safe-to-swim-in-my-contacts
  4. “Tips for Contact Lens Wearers,” By Liz Segre, August 2017, AllAboutVision.com, http://www.allaboutvision.com/contacts/contact-lens-tips.htm
  5. Do’s and Don’ts,” American Optometric Association, http://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/contact-lenses/dos-and-donts?sso=y
  6. Ibid.
  7. “Helpful Makeup Tips for Contact Lens Wearers,” Oct. 12, 2016, ContactsDirect, https://www.contactsdirect.com/helpful-makeup-tips-for-contact-lens-wearers
    “Contact Lenses and Cosmetics,” American Optometric Association, http://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/contact-lenses/contact-lenses-and-cosmetics?sso=y
  8. “Fungal Eye Infections Can Occur Even With Proper Contact Lens Care,” (sidebar to story, “Tips for Contact Lens Wearers”), AllAboutVision.com, http://www.allaboutvision.com/contacts/contact-lens-tips.htm
  9. “CDC to 40 Million Contact Lens Wearers: You’re Doing It Wrong,” by Maggie Fox, NBC News, Aug. 21, 2015, http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/cdc-says-40-million-contact-lens-wearers-are-doing-it-n413351
  10. “What Does Sleeping in Contact Lenses Do to Your Eyes?” Nov. 14, 2017, Cleveland Clinic, https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-does-sleeping-in-your-contacts-do-to-your-eyes/
  11. “Contact Lenses and Eye Infections,” Nov. 10, 2017, WebMD https://www.webmd.com/eye-health/contact-lenses-eye-infections#1