Long story short, contact lenses and lack of knowledge.
Now for the long story.
I started wearing contacts while in high school. My mom took me to the eye doctor and he examined my eyes and set me up with my first pair of contact lenses. I would wear them each day and at night, take them out, place them in the storage case, put the storage case into the heater and boil the heck out of them all night.
At some point, I switched to a non-heating form of cleaning. The contacts would soak in a bubbly liquid (now I realize it was a peroxide based cleaner) and then I would neutralize them and put them back in.
As cleaners progressed, it became even easier and soon I was using a simple multipurpose solution.
But, at no time was I ever told, by any doctor (and I had many due to moving and insurance changes), any contract lens supplier, or even another contact lens wearer that I should never, ever allow my contacts to come in contact with water.
Yes, letting your contacts come in contact with water is THIS dangerous!
I have learned a lot in the last few years about taking care of your eyes and unfortunately, learned too late all the things I should have know about taking care of contact lenses. I know that there are 24 million contact lens wearers in the United States and my hope is that the following information gets out to as many of them as possible!
- Never let water come in contact with your lenses. This means any and all water. Don't shower with them in, swim with them in and do not go in a hot tub with them in. And please, do not use water to rinse them, EVER!
- Always wash your hands and then dry them, before handling your contacts.
- Wash your lens case out with your cleaning solution, or saline, NOT tap water!
- Throw out your lens case EVERY SINGLE month. These are a hot bed of bacteria!
- Do not sleep in your contacts. Sleeping in your contacts, even those that are designed to stay in overnight, create a 4 times greater risk of getting an infection.
- Never use expired cleaning solutions.
- Keep the cap on your cleaning solutions. The tip of the bottle is easily contaminated. Gross alert ahead! Most people keep their solutions in the bathroom. Every time the shower runs, all the yucky germs found in bathrooms vaporize and can land on anything and everything. Do you really want microscopic amounts of poop to land on the tip of the cleaning solution? Put that cap on!
- Never top off your cleaning solution. When you put your contacts in, dump all the solution out of the case and then refill it when you take them out.
- Don't just rinse your contacts. Rub them with the cleaning solution.
- Consider a peroxide based cleaner. These have proven to be more effective in destroying potentially blinding microbes (Shoff et al, July 2008) (Johnson et al, July 2009).
- Consider using daily throw aways. Nothing ensures a clean lens each day better than a new lens each day.
- Do not wear your lenses longer than recommended. You increase the likelihood of scratching your cornea and giving fungus, bacteria and microbes an entrance to your eye.
- If your eye becomes red, remove the contact lenses. If the eye does not improve within a few hours, go to the doctors. Never wait more than 48 hours.
- If you are being treated for pink eye, you should see improvement within a day or two of treatment. If you don't, you should ask to be tested for microbes and herpes.
- The makeup industry is not trying to get you to buy more product when they suggest you throw eye makeup out every 3 months. Eye make up, particularly mascara, is a great medium for fungus. I sat next to a girl who got a fungal infection from her makeup. Her eye looked awful. Check out this link and see the pictures of eyes with fungal infections http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1194167-overview#a0101. Trust me, you will spend the $7 every 90 days once you see this.
- If you have any STD, it can get in your eyes. So, use extra precautions and wash your hands very well before touching your contacts and eyes. If you are prone to cold sores, or live in a home with someone who is, you can get herpes in your eye and this can lead to blindness (I'm guessing this is where a certain wives tale came from!)
- Don't convince yourself it is worth saving money to put your eyes at risk. Spend the money on new contacts. Spend the money on fresh solution. Spend the money on new contact lens cases. Spend the money on new make up. My eye infection cost my husband and I $35,000 OUT OF POCKET! And it cost my insurance company over HALF A MILLION!! Sure makes the few bucks you'll spend seem like chump change, doesn't it?
Following two major out breaks of eye infections in 2006 and 2007, the FDA was advised by experts that consumers needed to be better educated regarding the hazards associated with wearing contact lenses. From talking to people who still wear contacts, it seems this advice was never made policy. And while Congress did pass regulations making it harder for online businesses to provide contact lenses without confirming prescriptions, there are no regulations for cosmetic lenses and anyone can purchase these and use them.
Please feel free to add any additional tips in the comments section - I know some of you who may read this work in the eye industry and some of you may have met me through the support group losteye.com and can add to the above hints. Also, please share with anyone who wears contacts.