«My name is Carol, I am 26 years old and I think I am about to lose my eye due to very poor use of contact lenses.» This is how a video shared on TikTok on August 31 begins. In the recording you can see the young woman with her eye covered, recounting how she came to this terrible situation.
Those popularly known as contact lenses are a common alternative to glasses. According to the White Paper on Visual Health in Spain, for example, 13% of the population of this country used them in 2021, being especially popular among women between 18 and 35 years old. Their main application is to correct common visual problems such as myopia, although they can also be used for cosmetic or therapeutic purposes or to improve vision in complex cases.
Although using contact lenses is considered very safe, misuse can cause complications of varying severity, from minor vision problems or loss of comfort to infections that can endanger our eyes. Even minor complications may require time off from contact lenses. The risk increases when users do not follow use and maintenance guidelines.
Unfortunately, incorrect use of contact lenses is relatively common. Among the main causes we can highlight poor communication between users and professionals. In fact, forgetting the instructions for using them is one of the most common justifications. Financial limitations, laziness, misunderstandings or following contradictory instructions from various sources are also factors to take into account. Interestingly, people who use daily disposable (single-use) contact lenses are more likely to follow the instructions, perhaps because they are simpler.
Tips to minimize risks
Many times, users are not aware of their bad habits and the danger to which they expose their eyes. To avoid this, the following precautions must be followed:
– Wash your hands well. More than half of users admit that they do not do it properly. Contact with dirty hands is a risk factor for both contact lenses and the ocular surface to become contaminated with pathogenic microbes. Washing and drying our hands properly with soap and water before handling contact lenses, whether putting them in or removing them, significantly reduces the likelihood of infection.
– Rub them to clean them. In order to eliminate microorganisms and residue, the contact lenses should be rubbed with the tip of a finger in the palm of the hand and then rinsed. This simple action reduces the chances of contracting infections.
– Do not reuse the cleaning and disinfection liquid. It is estimated that between 10 and 35% of users take advantage of the previous day’s liquid by adding more. We may think it is a good idea to save money, but it carries a significant increase in the risk of infections. Other inadvisable behaviors are using expired products or storing lenses in a saline solution. In either case, fill the case with enough new liquid to cover them completely.
– Do not wash them with tap water or shower or swim with them on. Water and contact lenses go poorly together, even for showering or swimming. Tap water contains many types of microorganisms, and among them, a particularly dangerous protozoan: Acanthamoeba. Keratitis caused by this pathogen is a rare but very serious type of eye infection that is usually very painful and difficult to treat. It can cause gradual loss of vision and even blindness. The vast majority of cases affect contact lens wearers; especially, those who shower or bathe with them. Fortunately, the incidence of contact lens-related Acanthamoeba keratitis is low: in Europe it ranges between 1 and 5 per million wearers.
– Do not sleep with them on. It is an oversight that increases the risk of suffering an infection, since most contact lenses available on the market are not suitable for use with closed eyes. We should never leave them on while we sleep, not even during a short nap. This behavior occurs most frequently when traveling, sleeping away from home or consuming alcoholic beverages. This should only be done if specified by a professional. It is also important not to exceed the recommended hours of use.
– Renew them within the indicated period. In a recent study of college students, 61% of participants admitted to not regularly meeting the recommended replacement. It is another classic of economic savings. However, contact lenses begin to deteriorate from the moment they are released, losing properties that are very important to guarantee safe use. This negligence can lead, among other complications, to corneal injuries.
– Clean and replace your contact lenses case. It is very common for users to forget to clean their case daily, which also increases the chances of contracting an infection. Of those who do, a high percentage uses water, one of the great enemies of contact lenses, as we have already seen. The most effective method to clean the case is to use the same liquid that we use with contact lenses, dry it with a clean tissue and let it dry face down. In addition, we must avoid storing it in humid environments such as bathrooms. These practices minimize possible microbial contamination. Finally, many users forget to replace it with a new one regularly, which aggravates the situation.
– Follow the instructions of your optician-optometrist. Use the products recommended and attend follow-up checkups. And if you notice any discomfort, red eyes and/or blurred vision, temporarily stop wearing contact lenses and consult a professional.
So, is it safe to wear contact lenses?
Of course, for both children and adults. They offer many advantages, ranging from increasing the user’s confidence to facilitating their participation in everyday activities. We don’t have to have problems with them: just follow some simple guidelines that our optician-optometrist will explain to us during your adaptation.
Despite the myths and misinformation that circulate around contact lenses, they are an ideal solution for those who do not want to wear glasses. The secret to success is to always follow the instructions and maintain impeccable hygiene.
This article has been published in ‘The conversation‘
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