Are You Wearing Your Contact Lenses Properly?  

Shandra Martinez

| 3 min read

Looking at life through a lens
If you wear contact lenses, you probably love the ease that allows you to slip these soft devices over your eyes for prescription-level, crisp vision. Contact lenses allow you to avoid the weight and feel of your regular glasses. They are convenient and, in most cases, disposable. But there are still some safety measures you need to adhere to in order to protect your vision. Wearing contact lenses the wrong way and not caring for them properly can hurt your eyes.
In the United States, about 45 million people wear contact lenses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 90% of these people pick soft contact lenses as their preferred type, and the majority of lens wearers are women. Most soft contact lenses prescribed these days are disposable, which means they are meant to be worn once, then thrown away. There are also soft contact lenses that are extended wear, and they are meant to be taken out and cleaned each night. They can be kept for up to a week or a month, depending on the brand.

What to know about eye infections

Contact lenses are considered medical devices, and not following good eye health practices can lead to problems. Up to 90% of contact lens wearers are not properly following the instructions they’re given to care for their contact lenses, according to the CDC. This is a big number, especially considering that not taking care of your lenses or wearing them improperly can lead to eye inflammation or even serious eye infections. In fact, infections that can cause blindness affect up to 1 out of every 500 contact lens wearers each year.
People who wear their contact lenses improperly – leaving them in while they sleep, for example – can develop a painful eye infection called Keratitis. More than one million people see their doctor each year for this kind of inflammation or infection in their corneas. The symptoms include:
  • Eye pain.
  • Eye redness.
  • A feeling that something is stuck in your eye.
  • Discharge or excessive tears in your eye.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Sensitivity to light.

Tips for caring for your contacts

Taking care of your contact lenses does not take much time, but you do need to set aside just a few minutes each day to cut down your risk of eye inflammation and infection. Here are some tips from the CDC and the American Academy of Ophthalmology:
  • Take your contact lenses out before you go to sleep. Take them out each night, even if you’re tired and think sleeping in them for one night won’t hurt anything. People who sleep in their lenses have a risk of eye infection up to eight times greater than those who don’t.
  • Always wash your hands. Then dry them on a clean towel before putting in your contact lenses.
  • Don’t wear contact lenses while swimming or showering. Water can bring germs into the eyes through the lenses.
  • Don’t wear contacts longer than you are supposed to. If you have daily disposable lenses, don’t store them overnight and use them again. If you have extended wear contacts, make sure you are replacing them on the correct schedule.
  • Replace your contact storage case. Use a new one every three months if you have extended wear contacts. Clean the case regularly, but not with water. Use your contact lens disinfecting solution, then wipe it dry.
Photo credit: Getty Images

A Healthier Michigan is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
No Personal Healthcare Advice or Other Advice
This Web site provides general educational information on health-related issues and provides access to health-related resources for the convenience of our users. This site and its health-related information and resources are not a substitute for professional medical advice or for the care that patients receive from their physicians or other health care providers.
This site and its health-related information resources are not meant to be the practice of medicine, the practice of nursing, or to carry out any professional health care advice or service in the state where you live. Nothing in this Web site is to be used for medical or nursing diagnosis or professional treatment.
Always seek the advice of your physician or other licensed health care provider. Always consult your health care provider before beginning any new treatment, or if you have any questions regarding a health condition. You should not disregard medical advice, or delay seeking medical advice, because of something you read in this site.