One of the most important and commonly ignored steps in a contact lens fitting is the care instructions and wearing regimen. The trip to your eye care professional is exciting, nervous, and anxious all at the same time. Do I get my lenses today? Will I feel them? How hard is it to get them in? Through all the confusion, sometimes we may overlook the tips our doctors and opticians give us. Not to worry, I will provide you with the rundown on what to do and what not to do with those new eyes of yours.
Step 1 – Solutions and cleaning
The first thing you will want to learn about is the cleaning solution your doctor has recommended. The newer solutions on the market are almost foolproof, but there are some things you need to know about using them. Most of the multi-purpose solutions on the market today are no-rub solutions, so for cleaning, you just have to take the lenses out and rinse them, then store them in the solution. Then, when you are going to put the contact lenses in, you just rinse them again and place them in your eyes. These no-rub solutions are the most commonly prescribed cleaning solutions today and are very effective in removing debris and bacteria from the surface of the contact lens.
Tips to remember:
- Remember to rinse the contact lens before inserting – this will ensure that any debris is washed away from the surface
- If the tip of the solution touches the contact lens or your eye, the whole bottle may be contaminated
- Clean the case at least once a week with warm water and soap, using a new toothbrush to scrub the case out. Let the case air dry, and every 2-3 months, throw the case away.
Step 2 – Soft lens Preparation
Before you rush to put those lenses in, you have to ask yourself one question: have I washed my hands? As obvious as this may sound, it is still a common fumble when it comes to inserting contact lenses. Keep in mind that we are trying to maintain a sterile and healthy environment for our eyes. After washing your hands, we open the lenses and check to see if they are inverted or not. I bet you didn’t know that contact lenses will go on your eye whether they are inside out or not. Its true that the lenses will fit right on your eye inside out, but they may feel uncomfortable or pop out quickly. This can and does happen. To prevent the lens from going inside out, we are going to learn three methods to test the lens on the correct side.
- The Taco Test – This technique is accomplished by placing the lens in the crease of your hand towards the outside of the palm. As you close the palm of your hand, you should notice the lens rolls in the shape of a taco, if done correctly. If the lens is inside out, you will notice that the edges will flare out and the middle of the lens will fold against itself.
- The Bowl – This method consists of scrutinizing the contact lens on the tip of your finger to see if it forms the shape of a bowl. If the lens is inside out, you will notice that the edges flair out. Sometimes you will have to flip it and check it both ways just to be sure.
- The Code Word – For those of you with good near vision, some of the manufacturers engrave letters or numbers on the lens to help you tell which side is right. If the letters are backwards, then they are inside out.
Tips to remember:
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
- If you wear makeup, eye creams, or hand lotion, put them on after getting the lens in. This should help the lenses stay cleaner and wetter.
Step 3 – Insertion
There are a number of different ways to put contact lenses in, so don’t feel like this is the end-all-be all of inserting lenses. This is just the most commonly taught way of doing it; if you feel you have a better way, try it a few times to see if it works. First, place the contact lens on the index finger of the hand you write with. With that same hand, you take the middle finger and hold down the bottom lid by the lid margin. Now the free hand should reach over the head and hold the top lid by the lid margin. You should have created a large enough opening for the contact lens to go in without touching anything other than the eye. Bring the finger closer to the eye, and when all the edges of the lens touch your eye, the contact will release from your finger and attach to your cornea. Release your hands and slowly close your eye, patting your eye through the lid gently. I find that patting it a little helps to get out any air that has been trapped under the lens. Repeat for the other eye.
Tips to remember:
- Hold the lids as close to the eyelashes as possible to prevent them from blinking.
- After every 3-4 tries, place a drop or two of solution on the lens to prevent the lens from drying out.
- Gazing upward will help to keep the upper lid open a little better.
- Staring at a mirror in front of you instead of the lens helps.
- Start with the same eye every time, from start to finish, to prevent mixing up the contacts.
Step 4 – Removal
There are two main ways to remove the contact lenses. We will start with the short fingernail technique. Pull the contact lens down onto the sclera or the white of your eye with your index finger. Now, using your thumb and index finger, gently pinch the lens out. Remember to never pinch the lens straight from the cornea; you could possibly do damage that way. The second technique is the long fingernail technique. Take the middle knuckle of your index finger and place it on the lens, and in a “J” motion, sweep the lens down and to the side, using your whole finger in the process. The lens will roll up into the side of your eye for you to take out.
Tips to remember:
- Your contact lens cannot roll into the back of your eye.
- Don’t pinch straight off the cornea.
Step 5 – Wearing Schedule
This is one of the most important parts to listen to and remember. The first day, you should wear your lens for 4 hours. Then add 2 more hours every day until you have reached your prescribed lens wearing time. It is also important to keep in mind that lenses should not be worn for longer than prescribed; an 8–10-hour lens should be just that. If they are disposable lenses, throw them away at the proper time. Don’t, and I repeat, don’t try to make them last longer. The FDA determines the life of the lens and the wearing times allowed through vigorous testing. Any questions you have in this area are best handled by the doctor.
Symptoms – Adaptive / Abnormal / Emergencies
They come clear or in colors, but don’t be fooled—contact lenses are a medical device. As such, they can have side effects and complications. It is important to know what they are, so you will be well prepared should any of these situations present themselves to you.
These are normal symptoms that most lens wearers will notice until they are fully adapted to wearing contact lenses.
- Tearing up when you first insert the lens
- Feeling scratchy or like something is in the eye
- Mild photophobia or light sensitivity
- Slight headaches for higher prescriptions
These symptoms usually go away after getting used to a full day of wear, but it could take longer. Expect some of the symptoms to reappear when being fitted for new brands or material lenses.
Abnormal and Emergencies
If any of these symptoms occur during contact lens wear, remove the lens and call your eye care practitioner.
- Persistent pain
- Burning and tearing
- Redness that won’t clear up
- Hazy vision that remains an hour or more after removal
- Sensitivity to light (photophobia)
If any of these symptoms occur, it is important to remove the lenses and contact your eye care professional or nearest emergency room for advice.
Tips to remember:
If you happen to fall asleep wearing lenses, don’t rip them out upon waking. Make sure the lens moves freely, then lubricate and remove it. Your eyes may feel a little scratchy and irritated afterwards; discontinue contact lens wear for at least twenty-four hours.
The proper care and handling of soft contact lenses are crucial for maintaining eye health and ensuring a comfortable wearing experience. This involves understanding the appropriate cleaning solutions, ensuring hand hygiene before insertion and removal, and following a specific wearing schedule. Recognizing the difference between normal adaptation symptoms and potential emergencies is vital. It’s essential to heed the advice of eye care professionals and to be vigilant about any discomfort or unusual symptoms while wearing lenses. Above all, prioritize eye health over extending the life of the lenses or overlooking crucial care steps.