Millions of Americans wear contact lenses, yet proper safety precautions are not often discussed. Monday marked the beginning of Contact Lens Health Week, which is organized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to promote healthy contact lens wear.
We asked Dr. Deepinder K. Dhaliwal, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and director of refractive surgery and cornea service at the UPMC Eye Center, about safety precautions when using contact lenses.
Why shouldn’t you sleep in contact lenses?
A. Wearing contact lenses to bed is extremely hazardous because it limits oxygen from getting to the eyes. Research has showed that sleeping in contacts increases infection rate by six to eight times, and in extreme cases, can result in vision loss. Those who wish to wake up and see right away may wish to consider LASIK surgery as a safer alternative to sleeping in contact lenses.
Are there any lenses we should avoid?
A. Daily disposable contacts are the safest type of lenses. Avoid cosmetic lenses as they aren’t regulated and can be harmful to the eyes. If you are interested in colored contacts, consult a doctor for a proper prescription. Always refrain from over the counter contact lenses, and never share contact lenses with someone else.
How do you properly take care of contact lenses?
A. You should never swim or shower in contact lenses. Additionally, never clean contact lenses with saliva or tap water – always use a proper lens cleaning solution. Although its purified, tap water is not sterile and contains microbles that are harmful to the eye and can cause infection. I recommend storing contact cases away from the sink to reduce risk of tap water contamination.