Contacts are supposed to make life easier. They're generally more convenient than glasses, but that convenience comes with a cost: The fact that it's almost too easy to make common contact lens mistakes that could be hurting your eyes. And that's kind of scary to think about. After all, how can something so small, something that you can't even feel, and something that is supposed to help you potentially cause so much damage? Well, for the most part, it comes down to proper care.
Despite having worn contacts for over a decade now, I know there are probably some mistakes that I still make. And honestly, any mistakes I do make likely come from laziness. Because sometimes it's just so much easier to take shortcuts than to actually care for your lenses the way you should. But once you know the potential harm that those shortcuts could cause, it might make you think twice. To find out some of the consequences of common contact lens mistakes, I emailed with Dr. Weslie Hamada, OD, associate director of Professional Affairs at Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc. She let me in on these 10 mistakes many of us contact-wearers make whether knowingly or not, and what we should do instead to keep our eyes healthy.
1. Not Properly Cleaning Your Lenses
According to Dr. Hamada, it's extremely important to handle your lenses with care. To make sure everything stays as sanitary as possible, always wash your hands before handling your contacts. She also recommends cleaning each lens with your solution before storing them in their case with fresh solution.
2. Re-Using Solution
Just because solution left in your case looks clean, doesn't mean it is. Dr. Hamada stresses to never re-use solution, likening it to wearing a pair of dirty underwear the next day.
3. Skipping Yearly Check-Ups
Even though it can be a pain to keep up with those yearly check-ups (especially if you're not out of contacts yet), Dr. Hamada explains that these appointments are "important for preventative healthcare and vital to vision health and safety of contact lens patients." Because your health and lifestyle could always change, it's key to have an updated type of lens, fit, and prescription.
4. Not Replacing Lenses On Time
Tacking an extra few days on a pair of bi-weekly lenses doesn't seem like that big of a deal. But according to Dr. Hamada, "Patients who don't wear their contact lenses as guided by their doctor run an increased possibility of complications and are at a higher risk of eye irritation or eye infections." Simply put, don't risk your eye health to prolong the use of a pair of contacts. It's not worth it.
5. Sleeping In Your Contacts
Just like you shouldn't wear your contacts for more days than their prescribed length, you also shouldn't wear them for more hours in a day than recommended. And you especially shouldn't sleep in them (unless you have the type that are specifically meant to be worn while you sleep). Because even if you snooze in your contacts for just one night, it "increases the risk of complications that can permanently impact your vision," says Dr. Hamada.
6. Wearing Contacts While Sick
I had to learn this the hard way, but one of the times you should never wear your contacts is while you're sick. As Dr. Hamada explains, because your immune system is depressed while battling an illness, you run a higher risk of contracting an eye infection. So even if you just have a slight cold, switch to glasses until you feel 100 again.
7. Swimming With Your Contacts
Although it can be difficult to consign yourself to blurry vision at the pool or beach, Dr. Hamada stresses to not wear your contacts in any type of water condition. She explains that there is a lot of bacteria in water, whether you're swimming, in a hot tub, or just hopping in the shower. And because your contacts can trap bacteria against your eyes, wearing them makes you more prone to getting an eye infection if you're exposed to bacteria in the water.
8. Tightlining & Using Fiber Mascara
Although they can complete an eye-look, contact-wearers should be wary of applying eyeliner on the waterline or using mascaras with lash-extending fibers. This is because the liner could easily rub off, the fibers could easily fall off, and if either gets on your lenses, it could cause irritation and even affect your vision, explains Dr. Hamada.
9. Dealing With Contacts After Makeup
While it may seem arbitrary, the order in which you address your contacts and makeup could actually affect the health of your eyes. To prevent makeup residue entering the eyes and causing irritation, Dr. Hamada says to always put your contacts in before applying makeup, and always remove your contacts before removing your makeup.
10. Re-Wetting Lenses With Substances Other Than Contact Solution
In a pinch, you may have tried to re-wet your contacts with something other than solution whether it be tap water or even your saliva. However, Dr. Hamada explains that this is a big mistake as both carry tons of bacteria that could cause a severe infection. So you don't find yourself in a bind, try to always carry contact-friendly eye drops or a travel-sized contact lens solution with you.
All of the things that could happen to your eyes due to mistakes you might make with your contacts are pretty scary. But knowing how to care for your lenses and when to remove them will help you continue to see clearly.