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A lot of people choose to swap their spectacles for less intrusive contact lenses. While contacts are a great alternative to glasses, there are some things that contact wearers need to know to keep their eyes (and vision) healthy. We spoke with VSP network doctor, Gabriela Olivares, OD, at The Eye Center in Pembroke Pines, Fla., to get the lowdown on contact lens care.
Wash your hands often.
We've all gotten into the habit of washing our hands frequently over the past few years, which Dr. Olivares says is an especially important routine to keep up, especially immediately before handling contacts. "This will also help keep the lens free of unwelcome particles, like skin oils, dust, and harmful bacteria," she says. "It's recommended that you wash your hands carefully and thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and then dry your hands with an unused paper towel every time you insert and remove your lenses."
Use fresh solution daily.
You should never reuse contact lens solution, according to Dr. Olivares, who says you should be using fresh solution each night. "And while it may be tempting to wash your eyes with your solution, its primary usage is to clean lenses, and it should not be used on your eyes," she says, adding that artificial tear drops, or lubricating eye drops specifically for contact lens wearers, are the way to go if your eyes need a little TLC. "Additionally, you should throw out your daily disposable lenses each evening, or regularly disinfect your monthly and two-week lenses according to instructions from your optometrist."
Give your eyes a break at night.
Unless you're wearing contacts that are specifically designed for overnight wear, Dr. Olivares says you should take your contacts out and soak them at night so that they're properly cleansed and disinfected. "A morning routine for wearers should include a solution rinse before putting them back in."
Mind your nails.
Dr. Olivares says that only your fingertips should touch contacts because the nails can easily rip the delicate lens material. "If you wear your nails long, the tip of a medicine dropper works well once cleaned and disinfected."
Avoid fumes and beauty products.
You should opt to wear your glasses if you're going to be around noxious or toxic fumes. "For example, wear your glasses when you dye your hair or clean the oven," Dr. Olivares says. "Additionally, keep your contacts away from soaps, lotions, cosmetics, perfumes, and other like products."
Double check your prescriptions.
Typically, medications won't interfere with your ability to wear contacts, however, some prescriptions could cause some less-than-pleasant symptoms. "Certain medications, like birth control, antihistamines, and some hypertensive medications, for example, can cause dry eye, which can lead to ocular irritation, visual blurring, and contact lens intolerance," Dr. Olivares says. "For these patients, lubrication of the eyes and a daily disposable contact lens option is best."
Use your glasses while you're under the weather.
Speaking of medications, if you've been sick—especially with cold or flu symptoms—Dr. Olivares says you're better off wearing your glasses until you've recovered.
Check in with your optometrist.
It's important to note that you should visit your optometrist or ophthalmologist annually for an eye exam to understand your eye and overall health, says Dr. Olivares. "However, if you feel any eye discomfort, or have blurry vision or other concerns after wearing contact lenses, remove them and make an appointment with your optometrist, who can best diagnose the issue."