As an experienced bespectacled man and lens-bearer with 20 years of experience, I responsibly declare: the eye is a terribly delicate organ. More precisely, there are usually two of them, both very complex, important, gentle, and vulnerable. And the trauma of “soul mirrors” increases at times when some use unwashed little fingers, pushing a transparent piece of plastic onto the defenseless delicate cornea to improve vision or just show off.
It is clear that until the trouble happens, no one really cares – but what could be more imprudent than risking the ability to see normally? Contact lenses are in use today by one and a half hundred million people, and only a few of this army remember the rules for their use (if they even bothered to familiarize themselves with them). On the other hand, many are frightened by the deep myths about the dangers associated with wearing lenses, which also does not fit the consumers of the 21st century.
Want to figure out what can actually harm the eye when wearing contact lenses, and what is not? What will happen, say, if you do not change the solution in the case, sleep in the lenses, drop one of them on the floor, and then quickly return (oh no!) Back to your eye? Below are answers to pressing questions from Stephanie Mariono, Corneal Specialist and Clinical Representative of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Is it true that a contact lens can slide over the cornea and get lost somewhere behind the eye? And in general, what does it hold on to?
A properly selected contact lens will not move anywhere, will not cause discomfort and will not be felt under the eyelid at all. These are all myths and horror stories. The surface of the eye delimits a physical barrier — the conjunctiva, the thin tissue that covers the outside of the eye and the back of the eyelids; and the lens sits tightly on the cornea – the anterior slightly convex part of the eyeball, being held by surface tension on a thin layer of tear fluid.
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Can lenses be worn after the expiration date? If they are, for example, two weeks, but are used for a couple of months?
Modern lenses are usually limited to three months of wear, but the one-day format is most often used – such lenses are more expensive, but they simplify hygiene, eliminating unnecessary care. In addition, “ephemeral” contain more moisture and better oxygen permeability, which is comfortable for the eyes.
Lenses used longer than the specified period first of all change their shape – they shrink, become tight, which increases the risk of corneal abrasion, any injury that can lead to visual impairment. Changing the fit of the lens also affects its optical parameters – it will simply be worse in correcting vision. It is wise and hygienic to change lenses on time so as not to increase the risk of infections.
And if you prefer your lenses for one day use, you shouldn’t extend their lifespan by a day or two. It’s like eating expired food – chances of getting lucky or not. No, seriously, do you really care about your eyesight and health? Respect your eyes and do not skimp on them – you have only one pair at your disposal. You can be very sorry if you don’t take good care of them.
What is the best way to clean your lenses, if necessary? Can I use the solution in the case for several days?
A categorical “no”. However, do not try, this is a disaster! Even if you do not wear your lenses often and they soak in solution for a week, ophthalmologists recommend changing it every day. Do not forget that the environment in which contact lenses remain functional – moist, warm, dark – is very popular with germs and bacteria. On your hands, regardless of your love of cleanliness, there are billions of them, and by putting the lenses in the case, you move bacteria there from your fingers. This does not mean that keeping the lenses in the solution longer will kill more germs. Some of them will be destroyed, but many will survive as the activity of the cleansing fluid diminishes over time.
It is worth knowing that tap water is not a lens wearer’s best friend. Never wash your lenses and case under a tap, because there are many unpleasant creatures living in plain water, and in particular acanthamoeba, which can, having hit the eye, comfortably live and multiply under the lens, causing acanthamoeba keratitis, fraught with irreversible visual impairment. And before touching the lenses, when you wash your hands, dry them with a disposable tissue or paper towel so as not to drag the harmful amoeba into the case or onto the lens.
And, of course, everyone who wears lenses must comply with additional safety rules on the water. That is why it is more convenient to use “one-day” during the holidays. Beware of showering, bathing, or splashing around in the hot tub while wearing your lenses. If you are into water sports such as swimming or surfing, it is highly recommended to use special goggles.
If you suddenly need to take out the lenses – at night or for a while – and you don’t have a special solution with you, what can you use instead?
First, I highly recommend removing your lenses at night, whatever their advanced performance promises. During sleep, due to the closed eyelid, less oxygen is supplied to the eye, and even less if the eye is wearing a contact lens. In addition, in a dream we do not blink, which means that little tear fluid is released for irrigation and natural cleansing of the eye.
Special solutions are now sold in any pharmacy, in any packaging and volume. Ordinary sterile saline can be used as a temporary alternative. Remember only that such a solution does not clean the lenses, but only prevents them from drying out. Whatever one may say, it is much more convenient and safer to have a pair of disposable lenses in a cosmetic bag in order to put them on the next morning after an unscheduled overnight stay.
What else should you fear if you wear lenses?
There is nothing to be afraid of, just keep in mind the fact that the eyes are easily injured. If they suddenly turn red, inflamed, ache, something got under the eyelid – wash your hands, wipe dry with a disposable handkerchief and immediately remove the lens. Do not tolerate in any case. If you have really poor eyesight, always carry glasses with you – just in case. Tolerate discomfort in the eyes is the worst thing you can do, because it can miss the development of a serious infection with consequences.
The most common complication of lens wear is dry eye syndrome. The problem is compounded by the fact that we look at screens and monitors for a long time, which adds dryness and discomfort to our eyes. They turn red, get tired quickly, there is a feeling as if sand has got under the eyelids. To overcome dehydration, allow your eyes to rest, remove your lenses at home, avoid prolonged hovering in front of monitors, moisturize the cornea with special drops, but strictly as prescribed by your doctor.
This, by the way, is the most important thing – to find an ophthalmologist and entrust him with the care of vision in order to correctly choose glasses and contact lenses, if you need them. Key words: annual inspection and careful fitting. Do not go on about advertising, ordering contact lenses at random online – the consequences cannot be avoided if the lens is tight / large and uncomfortable to wear. Do not overuse decorative lenses – after all, there is no need for the eyes to be unnecessarily, and as we remember, we have only two of them.