Answers can be displayed by clicking once on the questions link.1: What is the best contact lens care system?
Contact lens care systems are highly important to the success of your contact lens wear and also the reduction of risk for infections. Your contact lens care system has been carefully selected for you by your optometrist in order to be compatible with the lens and lens materials you are using as well as the way you wear your lenses.
There are many different types of contact lens care systems but the basic two types are multipurpose care solutions and hydrogen peroxide care solutions. For gas permeable (GP) lenses, your solutions may contain either a one-step (multipurpose) solution or a two-step (cleaning and soaking) solution or you may also use a hydrogen peroxide solution. These types of solutions all have different recommendations for use depending on the manufacturer. Consult the package insert or your optometrist for the best practices regarding use of your lens care system.
Lens materials and contact lens solutions can interact, which can also affect the disinfection process.1 Generic (or store brand) contact lens solutions may have been formulated for older lens materials; new lens materials have different chemical compositions and may not be compatible with generic solutions.2 If you wish to change your contact lens care system, contact your optometrist first to make sure it is safe for the particular type of contact lenses that you wear.
Yes, if you are using a multipurpose solution with soft contact lenses (there are currently no recommended “no rub” multipurpose contact lens solution regimens). Rubbing the contact lens for between two and 20 seconds, depending on your contact lens care solution, removes deposits1 and micro-organisms and reduces complications.(2,3) You follow the rub step with a thorough rinse with solution for the time specified by the manufacturer (usually between five and 10 seconds). Recent evidence conclusively demonstrated that rubbing and rinsing the lens after wear provides the safest lens wear for all contact lenses and care systems currently on the market.4
Some hydrogen peroxide systems contain a rinse step prior to soaking the lenses overnight. Gas permeable (GP) lenses also contain a rub step with hydrogen peroxide systems prior to this rinse step. If you are unsure how to care for your lenses, please refer to the manufacturer’s instructions provided with your care system or contact your optometrist.
Contact lens solutions should never be used after the expiration date listed on the packaging. The United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) has also recommended that solution manufacturers begin labeling solution bottles with a discard date, in addition to the usual expiration date.(1,2,3) The discard date is the date the solution should be thrown out after opening (typically within 90 days, but varies depending on the manufacturer and solution type).(4,5,6) Refer to the solution’s package insert for directions and the discard dates and be sure to ask your optometrist if you are unsure of how to use your prescribed care solutions.
It should be noted that preservative free contact lens solutions (such as unit-dose single vial saline) should be discarded within 24 hours after opening. Saline that is packaged in aerosol containers typically has a longer discard date. Refer to the solution’s package insert for more information or contact your optometrist.
Any eye drops not approved for contact lens wear can cause damage to both the contact lens and the eye.1 Stay away from drops that claim to “get the red out,” as they typically contain chemicals that may be detrimental to your long-term eye health.1 Preservative free eye drops, in general, are very safe to use with contact lenses.2 Eye drops that contain preservatives can have a toxic effect on the eye and should be avoided.2 Consult your optometrist about which drops are best for your eyes and contact lens materials.
Care systems for contact lenses are all very different, and it is important to note how long contact lenses can be safely stored in solution long term before the solution needs to be replaced. Some solutions are only good for 24 hours of storage while others can store lenses for up to one month.
Some soft contact lens multipurpose solutions allow for long-term storage of up to one month in a tightly closed contact lens case.(1,2,3) For GP lenses, some GP lens solutions also allow for one month of long-term storage. Some hydrogen peroxide-based systems allow for seven days of long-term storage before the lenses need to be re-disinfected but others are as short as 24 hours of storage time.(4,5) The night before you are ready to wear your lenses again, it is a good idea to inspect the lens and then re-clean and disinfect it according to the solution manufacturer’s instructions. Check the manufacturer’s recommended storage times on the package insert or contact your optometrist for further guidance, if needed.
If you only wear lenses on occasion, a daily disposable contact lens may be an option for you. Daily disposable lenses are great for part-time wearers to keep costs down and ensure a safe contact lens wear experience. You don’t need to worry about how long your lenses have been sitting in solution or whether your solution is past its discard date. Daily disposable lenses are also highly portable and convenient. In addition, daily disposable lens wearers experience fewer contact lens complications like infections when compared to other lens replacement schedules.6
Contact lenses are all taken care of differently; this is a sample of how most soft contact lenses are cared for after removal in conjunction with a multipurpose solution (rub and rinse times may vary depending on solution manufacturer). Hydrogen peroxide care systems are different from below. Keep in mind that daily disposable contact lenses are removed each night and thrown away so no cleaning is required.
- Always wash and dry your hands thoroughly before handling your contact lenses.1
- Always work with the same lens first (example: always remove your right lens first or your left lens first).
- Remove one lens and place it in the palm of your hand.
- Apply multipurpose contact lens solution and rub the lens for about 20 seconds on each side (actual rub time depends on the solution manufacturer’s instructions).(2,3,4)
- Rinse the contact lens with the multipurpose solution for about 10 seconds on each side (actual rinse time depends on the solution manufacturer’s instructions).(2,3,4) Never use tap water to rinse your lenses as it has been shown to significantly increase the risk of severe ocular infections.5
- Place the contact lens into a clean, dry lens case and then completely fill the well of the case with multipurpose solution.
- Repeat steps three through six with the other eye’s lens.
- Soak the lenses according to the manufacturer’s recommended soaking time. This time will vary with depending on the brand of solution, but is usually between four and eight hours.(3,4,5)
- Read the solution packaging thoroughly for instructions about lens cleaning and always follow the manufacturer recommended procedure.
- Dispose of your contact lens case every one to three months. Overuse of a case can result in significant eye infections due to bacterial contamination.(6,7) A new case is typically provided with each new bottle of solution purchased.
- Always rinse your case with fresh solution and allow it to air dry in the morning before reusing it. Never “top off” your solution - doing so increases your chances of a contact lens related complication.8
It is not enough simply to rinse off the contaminants and dust particles from the floor. Bathroom floors and other such surfaces may harbor significantly high numbers of microorganisms.(1,2) While the tear film and corneal surface provide a remarkable barrier to infection, one never knows when the barrier may break down.
The only sure way to guarantee safety is to apply a new contact lens. This can be easily accomplished if you are wearing disposable soft contact lenses. The next best thing is to wear your back-up glasses while you clean the lens through the entire disinfection cycle as recommended by your care system's manufacturer. Every contact lens wearer should have a pair of glasses to wear as needed in cases like these when their lenses cannot be worn.
No. Tap water contains micro-organisms which can lead to serious eye infections and loss of vision.(1,2) One of the more well-known water-borne infections is caused by Acanthamoeba, a microscopic, free-living amoeba (single-celled organism). Acanthamoeba can cause an infection of the cornea, the transparent outer covering of the eye where a contact lens sits. These organisms are very common in nature and can be found in bodies of water (for example, lakes and oceans), hence the recommendation to avoid use of water with lenses.
You should never use tap water in any area of your lens care, including rinsing the lenses and the lens case. Do not attempt to make your own homemade saline or contact lens solutions. Also, make sure your hands are completely dry before handling your lenses.