For people who hate eyeglasses or play sports, contact lenses are godsend. They don’t fog up or distort your peripheral vision. And today, there is a lens for almost everyone – even people who need bifocals.
But contact lenses can cause eye damage if you’re not careful. The riskiest are extended-wear lenses. These require little maintenance because they can be worn for seven days straight – day and night. Many doctors advise against them, however, because the less often lenses are cleaned, the greater the risk of irritation and infection. Moreover, wearing contact lenses while sleeping is a potential hazard because the eyes are deprived of oxygen. In fact, those who use extended-wear lenses are up to 10 times more likely to develop corneal ulcers than other contact lens wearers.
Here are some tips when buying contact lenses:
1) Daily-wear lenses, which are removed and cleaned at night, are much safer than extended-wear lenses.
2) People who don’t want the bother of cleaning their lenses can buy daily-wear disposable lenses, which are used once and thrown away. Unlike other lenses, disposables never have the chance to accumulate irritating protein deposits. But they don’t come cheap.
3) Another type – rigid gas-permeable (RGP) lenses – last longer, offer crisper vision, and correct more vision problems (including severe astigmatism) than soft lenses and may even slow the progression of near-sightedness. But they require a longer break-in period.
4) A proper fit is crucial when buying contacts. Make sure you see an experienced eye-care specialist who allows unlimited follow-up visits because you may need to try several brands before finding one that is comfortable.
5) Avoid discount stores; they tend to sell poor-quality lenses and seldom offer comprehensive follow-up care.
6) Inquire about contacts with ultraviolet (UV) protection. They absorb and neutralize UV rays, which can contribute to the formation of cataracts.
The key to wearing lenses safely is keeping them clean. Follow these precautions:
– Wash your hands before touching lenses.
– Keep the case clean and replace it often.
– Use only the prescribed cleaning solutions.
– Never clean contacts with distilled water, homemade saline solution, tap water, or saliva. Organisms in these media can cause serious infection or even blindness.
– Don’t overwear your lenses. Wearing the lenses too long deprives the cornea of oxygen and may impair your vision.
– Unless you have extended-wear lenses, never wear your contacts while sleeping.
If you experience pain, redness, blurry vision, sticky secretions, or light sensitivity, stop wearing the lenses and see your eye-care specialist immediately. Your eyesight may be damaged permanently if you delay.