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Horrible Contact Lens Habits

Consider the Source – Your Friend May Have Very Dirty Habits
Six out of 10 people require vision correction.  With 7.4 billion as our current world population, that’s about 4 billion people in the world wearing glasses. Most people opt for eyeglasses. Refractive surgery, having been performed on over 1 million people,  and CRT (corneal retainer therapy) are popular, and a good investment. More than 30 million people in the United States wear contact lenses.  If we follow the 80/20 rule, 80% bad advice and 20% good advice – positively, there is way too much misinformation floating around.  For every optometrist in the United States, there are 6000 patients.  The eye health practitioners have lots of ground to cover, only so much time in the day and a plethora of “deaf ears”.  Our co-workers, neighbors and family members really think they have all the answers, too bad most of the time they are wrong answers.
In this article, we are going to examine some of the worst information and misconceptions about the proper care of contact lenses.  Even if you don’t wear contacts, read on. Be that one in a billion (yes, 20% of 7.4 billion is 1,480,000,000) who is spreading good information about eye health.  There’s nothing better than being right at that family function or office party. 
So, what are these horrible myths and what can happen if we turn a blind eye to the truth? Read on.
Horrible Advice #1
“You can totally wear your contacts longer than that!”
Um, no.  The lenses are specially designed to withstand only what they are designed to do.  A one day, daily lens is not built to stand up to repeated cleanings. A two week lens is built to last two weeks. A monthly, a month and so on. The lens begins to break down based upon it’s design and becomes highly susceptible to retaining harmful bacteria or visuses that are even smaller and highly contagious. Bacteria is not dirt, it’s live, wriggly creatures that live off of their host environment. A drop of water holds about 1 million bacteria cells.  Here’s what the bacteria looks like:
Adenovirus, responsible for upper respiratory infections, pink eye, and other generally mild ailments:

Or this lovely colony living on a dirty contact lens:


So, yuck. Change your lenses as prescribed.  Change your sheets, pillowcases, wash clothes while your at it.

Speaking of bedding, Horrible Advice #2:

“You can totally sleep in contacts! Heck, leave them in until they feel dirty. “

Again, no. No, no, no, no, no.  Not even a nap. But that’s not what your know-it-all friend is describing.  Your friend makes a month of contacts last an entire year and spends very little on cleaning solutions.  First of all, yuck. Bacteria thinks that’s a yummy idea. Second of all, the lens, unless it’s an overnight type of lens will probably begin to stick to your eye, it deprives your eye of much needed oxygen, it is a perfect, dark, warm, moist breeding ground for bacteria and viruses and when you go to remove it, you are damaging the beautiful surface of your cornea.  So, no, sorry – unless you want a microbe party in your eye – take them out!
It must be noted, in all seriousness, if enough damage is done, painful corneal ulcers, impaired vision or blindness can occur.
Let’s revisit the home of the bacteria. Looks like they are having a slumber party on this lens:

Scanning electron micrograph of Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilm  (false colored)
Before we move on, take a look at these brave souls who envisioned retiring on the money they saved by sleeping in contacts:
Naughty contact lens patients. You get the idea.

Horrible Advice #3

“Oh, I never clean my lenses with expensive solutions, I lick them with my saliva and pop them in!”

No kidding, I have actually heard someone say this. Ugh. Seriously?!  First of all, most eye doctors are more than happy to unload from the stockpiles of manufacturer solutions they receive. Guaranteed they have at least 5 or six cases waiting to be released. The same way a dentist has toothbrushes and toothpaste I suppose.

With very few exceptions, lenses must be cleaned daily, do it, daily. Always dump out the old solution and clean and air dry the case dry when not in use.  Fill with fresh storage solution when you remove and need to store the lenses.  Always, always, always wash your hands with non moisturizing, fragrance free soap and clean water before inserting and upon removing the lenses.  At night, wash your hands, take out your contacts, and let them soak in fresh (not used!) solution overnight. Not interested in proper hygene? Looks like your in for a dose of Keratitis. A serious problem not cured with saliva.

Can’t be clean? Whatever the reason, Dailies have proven to be a better idea. They may cost a little more upfront, but in the long run, healthy eyes are more important. Just be sure to toss them at the end of the day, don’t nap or shower or swim with them.  Be sure to have a clean case and correct solution in case of an emergency or need to temporarily remove them.

Here’s a case that looks like it has not been cleaned – ever.

  or this one: 

Not sure if they’d lick these too. YUCK!!

Red eyes from dirty lenses? Horrible advice #4:

“If your eyes get red, just splash some Visine in your eyes.”

Oh yeah, right, another brilliant suggestion – not!  Decongestant drops have got to be one of the worst ideas ever.  The only time I can see using them is on picture day or if you have a meeting with your boss after a hard night of booze.  Drops that, “get the red out” are vessel constrictors.  Picture a garden hose that you bend in half, cutting off the flow of water.  When you release the hose, the built up pressure shoots out of the hose.  The drops do the same thing, each time the blood is allowed to return through the vessels, the vessels stretch and enlarge only making matters worse, making you think you need to use more and more of the product.  Very clever of those corporate hounds!  In addition to these types of drops being absolutely horrible, they will mask any real problems, prolonging your visit to your primary eye care doctor.  Result? Only time will tell.

All drops are not created equal.  There are many good eye drops. Contact lens patients need to use drops that are safe to use with contact lenses (some drops will create a film over the contact lens), one that is preservative free and clinically proven.  I particularly like Similasan brand.  They have an array of different drops, from dry eye to pink eye, that are homeopathic.  Meaning, the more you use it, the less you need it.
Just look at those blood vessels!

So you don’t have drops or solution on hand? How about Horrible Advice #5

“Just use tap water, it’s probably safer than those chemicals in the bottle!”

Is this person even your friend? Didn’t they know that one drop of water contains 1 million cells of bacteria? You know that if you’ve been paying attention.  Under no circumstances is using water with contact lenses acceptable.  If you didn’t have lenses in, still not a great idea, but at least you natural tears will wash out the eye.  The problem with water and contacts harkins back to the idea that the lenses are designed to behave a certain way and when we divert from proper care the very thin, permeable material breaks down and sets the stage for a gazillion problems.  Remember, parasites breed in that water. If you aren’t drinking filtered water, you’re really taking chances, now your “friend” tells you to put it in your eyes?! You know better than that!

Horrible Advice #6

“You can’t wear glasses in the pool or shower, but you can wear your contacts.”

Actually, it’s a much better idea to swim and shower with your glasses on and your contacts out.  Since that pesky parasite acanthamoeba is found in many water sources, why in the world will you want that chance of infested water making itself comfortable on your warm contact lens? Water and contacts just do not mix at all. If you accidentally do come into contact with water – you are pushed in the pool or forgot, wash your hands and remove them.  Typically a good wash and overnight disinfection is enough to kill any bacteria.  If it’s a daily lens you wear, just toss them.

Good advice: Showering with super hot water is a bad idea for everyone, the cooler the better.

When in doubt, wear goggles.

Horrible Advice #7:

“Eyeliner on the water line of your eye to make you eyes extra big and attractive.”

Again, consider the source. Since when is running a crayon around the smooth, delicate skin around your eye a good idea? OK, once, on that special day where you were having a fashion shoot for Cosmo. Other than that, NO! That smooth rim around your eye has about 30 special, tiny, oil glands that help to disinfect and clean your eyes.  When you run that waxy crayon over the glands, you greatly increase the potential to clog those pores not to mention the cosmetic can rub off and seep into your eyes. It may start out as tiny bumps or redness, but continued in this fashion, you are sure to get a pretty nasty eye infection or difficult to treat dry eyes.

Her whites are so white! Photoshop does it again!
See that liner, bad, bad, bad for your eyes.
Image result for eye liner


and finally Horrible Advice #8

“I only go to the eye doctor when no one will refill my Rx”

There’s a reason no one will refill your Rx – IT’S TWO YEARS OLD!  You certainly don;t have to be dialated every year, but for goodness sake, have your contacts and eye health checked. The cornea changes shape over time, not to mention your vision, and contact lens companies are constantly making the products better and better. Don’t you want the best for your eyes? A yearly exam is a great time to talk to the doctor and address any comfort issues, light sensitivity, redness, dryness, itching or other options.  That itching may be our pesky amoeba creature, fungus or a simple case of allergies.  So go in, get your glasses updated and adjusted. Get free solution, a new case. Heck, you may even learn something new!

We hope this opened your eyes.  Now you can chat around the water cooler with amazing advice!

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