Frequently asked questions about contacts

Frequently asked questions about contacts

There are several commonly asked questions from patients who wear soft disposable contact lenses. Below, we will address these questions and concerns with information to help you get the most out of your lenses.

1. Is it okay to sleep while wearing my contact lenses?

It’s risky due to bacterial infections. Although the latest generation of contacts provides very good oxygen transmissibility, the risk of bacterial infections is still significantly increased when sleeping with contacts. 

The lack of blinking while sleeping results in a stationary contact with very little tear flow beneath the lens, as well as a warm environment from a closed eyelid. Essentially, it becomes an ideal incubator for bacteria. 

Certainly, there are many people who have been able to sleep with contacts for years without any problem, but the risk still exists and is evident to those who have experienced an infection after sleeping with contacts. If you are able to remove the lenses at night, I would definitely recommend it.

Also, remember to wash your hands well before touching the contacts, change the contact lens solution in your case daily and clean the case between uses. Re-using solution in the case is another risk for bacterial, as well as fungal infections.

2. Is it bad to wear the contacts beyond the recommended disposal period?

Again, it’s risky, but because of allergic reactions. Wearing the contacts beyond the disposal date results in an increase in protein deposits on the lens surface, which aren’t removed completely by daily cleaning. As you blink, the inner eyelid surface rubs against those proteins and can develop little bumps, called papillae. 

The papillae can grow over months or years and eventually result in a chronic itchy, red and uncomfortable situation. If severe enough, the best way to treat it is by discontinuing contact lenses and using an antihistamine or even steroid medication for a period of time, often weeks to months.

3. My contacts seem to get torn easily, what is wrong?

Be careful when you remove the contacts from the case. Even with short fingernails, if you swipe the lenses against the side of the case, you could pinch and tear the lens. A good method is to put them in the case cup-side up (concave up) and make sure they are completely submerged in solution. 

In addition to preventing an air bubble that can dry out the lens, this allows you to easily dunk your finger straight in and out without swiping the side. If you do it slowly, the lens will gently grip your finger and come right out.

Also, be careful not to pinch the contacts with your fingernails when removing them from your eyes. When cleaning them, use a gentle back-and-forth motion as opposed to a circular motion, since the latter is more likely to tear the lens.

4. I’ve been wearing the same brand of contacts for years with no problems, so why should I switch to a newer lens?

If you are a full-time contact lens wearer in an older lens material, you may experience low-oxygen transmissibility, which can result in corneal hypoxia and neovascularization. 

This is a process by which blood vessels grow into the cornea (the front, clear surface of the eye) in response to low oxygen levels. The cornea is an avascular tissue, or free of blood vessels, and the addition of blood flow can result in an increased risk for inflammation in the cornea, leading to redness, pain, light sensitivity and even corneal scarring if severe.

In order to prevent this situation, contact lens wearers who show signs of corneal neovascularization can be switched into a contact made of a silicone hydrogel material, which is more oxygen permeable. 

An alternative would be to continue to use the existing contacts on a reduced wearing schedule, such as no more than eight to 10 hours per day as opposed to 12 to 14 hours per day.

5. I wear contacts full-time, so why do I need glasses?

If you require corrective lenses for driving, work or school, then you need at least one pair of glasses that works reasonably well. The reason is that if you get any irritation or an infection with contacts, you should remove them immediately to prevent the symptoms from getting worse. 

Too often, contact lens wearers with redness, irritation or pain will continue to wear their contacts if they don’t have glasses and turn a small problem into a big one. When it comes to contact lens complications: “If in doubt, take them out.”

Contacts can be a good convenience for vision correction, but they come with their own set of difficulties and require a great amount of responsibility. Be sure to ask your eye doctor if contacts are appropriate for you.

About this Angie’s List Expert: Alex Baker, OD is the co-owner of Helmus Optometry, providing eye care in Davis, Calif. Dr. Since 1986, Helmus Optometry has specialized in optometry, eyeglasses, contact lenses, retinal imaging and comprehensive eye exams. Dr. Baker is a board member of the UC Berkeley Optometry Alumni Association.

As of July 24, 2013, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.

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