If you’re a contact lens wearer, there’s a 4 out of 10 chance that you haven’t been changing your contacts on time.
Almost half of us aren’t sure when we’re supposed to move on to a fresh pair. But it’s worth it to find out. Replacing your contact lenses on schedule is a big part of keeping your eyes healthy throughout your life.
We replace our coffee filter every time we brew a fresh pot. We change the oil in our cars to make them run better and farther. We throw out food that’s past its expiration date. If these things are important, taking care of your one and only set of eyes is even more important. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration considers them medical devices and regulates them through the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
But it can be confusing to know what’s right for your particular type of contacts, especially since there are so many types of lenses on the market:
- Daily wear disposables
- Extended wear lenses
- Rigid gas permeable (RGP) contacts
- Monovision lenses
- Bifocal or multifocal contact lenses (Yes, there is such a thing, and they are getting more and more common these days as baby boomers age.)
- Toric contacts
- Spherical lenses
- Color-tinted contacts, available both with and without refractive correction
Of all the types of lenses, 90 percent of Americans wear soft contacts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They also point out that “not following proper contact lens care instructions has been linked to outbreaks of serious eye infections.” Some of these infections can lead to blindness. An estimated 1 out of 500 lens wearers get infections like these every year. Make sure that you don’t experience this kind of complication by switching to fresh contacts on schedule. Listen to your eye doctor and follow the directions for your lenses.
In addition, pay attention to these three signs that it may be time to change your lenses.
- CLOUDY LENSES can be a sign that bacteria are present. Always use fresh solution when you put your contacts away. Never add a new solution to top off the container with yesterday’s solution. Doing so increases the chances of bacteria spreading quickly. And always remember to wash your hands before handling your lenses. A full 99 percent of contact lens wearers report forgetting this step at least on occasion.
- NICKS, TEARS, OR DAMAGE to any part of the lens, even if tiny, can allow germs or impurities to reach the surface of the eye below and scratch at or infect the cornea. Keratitis can result in painful eye disease that requires doctor visits. Examine your lenses to make sure the surface is smooth.
- DISCOMFORT OR IRRITATION can be a sign that something is wrong. As with pain elsewhere in the body, pain in eyes can result from the presence of germs or irritants that should not be there. Besides changing your contact lenses themselves and the solution they are stored in overnight, also make sure you are replacing your case every three months.
Whether your lenses are meant to be changed daily, weekly, biweekly, monthly, or less frequently, you can increase your chances for a lifetime of healthy eyes by following your doctor’s advice and monitoring your eyes for these three things.