Contact Lens Wearers: Preventing Eye Infections

Contact lenses are typically safe and easy to use.  However, it is possible to contract infections in your eye from improper use and care of your contact lenses.  The most common infection is an infection of the cornea, called keratitis.  Keratitis can cause pain in the eye, and may also be accompanied by a temporary loss of vision and tearing or discharge from the eye.  There are several types of keratitis that can affect contact lense wearers: bacterial, fungal, acanthamoeba and herpes keratitis. These infections can lead to blindness if not treated. 

Contact lens wearers should strive to prevent eye infections before they happen.  There are many ways to do this.:

  • Talk to an eye doctor like Glacier Eye Clinic about the different types of contact lens options there are.  There is a contact lens for just about every person's needs.  Once a lens is decided on, it's important to follow the directions that apply to that particular lens, and let your eye doctor know if you are using it correctly and have any problems.
  • Always keep your hands clean when putting your contacts in and taking them out.  Dirty hands can lead to bacteria exposure on the lens, which in turn can lead to an infection. Dry your hands on a clean towel, and keep your nails short to prevent scratches and rips.  If you wear makeup, apply it after your contacts are in your eyes. 
  • Take your contacts out before you go to sleep.  Some contacts allow you to sleep in them for up to a month, but it is still suggested to take them out once a week or so to minimize risk of infection. 
  • Always use clean solution when storing your contacts. Never use water to clean your contact lenses!  Clean your contact lens case after use. 
  • Try not to expose your contact lenses to water.  If you have to wear your lenses while swimming, wear goggles, and remove the lenses afterwards and clean them well. 
  • Replace contacts as instructed.  Do not try to stretch a three month pair of contacts into six months. 

In Australia, researchers are testing contact lenses coated in melamine on rabbits and humans.  Melamine is an antibacterial peptide and is said to reduce infection.  These trials have shown that contacts coated in melamine show no real difference in comfort to the wearer, but retained the qualities that fight against bacteria.  This product is not on the market yet, but could be another way to keep contact lens wearers eyes safe against infections in the future.