You might think that rinsing your contacts out in tap water or leaving them in when you take a nap or even overnight isn’t a big deal, but you’d be wrong. Just a few months ago, a student in Taiwan permanently lost her vision when amoebas burrowed through her corneas. What caused this amoebic infection? The student did not take out her contacts — which were disposable and only made to be worn for 1 month — for 6 months straight.
Now, this is an extreme case. Very few people leave their contacts in for this long. Most of us take them out at night most of the time, and we usually take them out when we go swimming, too. However, you shouldn’t brush this shocking story off and think, “That could never happen to me.” You might be guilty of some poor hygiene habits that could result in an eye infection or vision loss.
LET YOUR EYES BREATHE
First of all, while you can sleep in soft lens contacts without major discomfort, your eye doctor will usually recommend that you take your contacts out at night. When you wear contacts, the lens creates a seal over your cornea, trapping fluid in and making it impossible for oxygen to reach your eye in that area. This creates an anaerobic environment that’s perfect for bacteria and amoeba to grow and multiply. It also isolates this part of your cornea from getting lubrication and nourishment from your tears and your eyes’ gelatinous fluids. Basically, the longer you leave your contacts in, the more likely you are to get an eye infection.
CLEAN CONTACTS PREVENT BACTERIA FROM BREEDING
If you can, try to avoid rinsing or soaking your contact lenses in tap water. Contact lens cleaning solution is made to be an unfriendly environment for bacteria and other infecting agents, if it is used properly. If, for example, you take your contacts out without first washing your hands, you’ve probably introduced some bacteria to the lenses.
Then, if you soak the lenses in tap water overnight, that bacteria has ample time and space to grow and breed, with nothing in its environment to discourage it. Old contact lens solution can be a breeding ground for bacteria as well, but if you use new cleaning solution every night, you should have no issues with bacterial infections, especially if you wash your hands before touching your eyes or your contacts.
Developing good hygiene habits when you put in and take out your contacts could save you from a nasty infection or even total blindness. Talk to your eye doctor about recommended contact cleaning solutions and tips for keeping your contacts bacteria-free.