Answers can be displayed by clicking once on the questions link.1: Should I be concerned about wearing my contact lenses on an airplane?
Commercial airline cabins expose passengers to reduced atmospheric pressure, reduced oxygen availability, reduced humidity and dry air.(1,2,3) These conditions can lead to discomfort with contact lens wear, especially on flights lasting longer than three hours.(4,5)
Instillation of lubricating eye drops approved for use with contact lenses may help relieve some eye dryness during your flight.6 Keep in mind that the United States Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration (TSA) limits the size of any liquid container carried on board an airplane to a 3.4 ounce (100ml) bottle or less, unless the liquids are medically necessary.(3,7) Contact lens solution is considered a medically necessary liquid, so full-size bottles must be declared separately at entry to the security checkpoint.7 The solution is then subject to further screening. Solution manufacturers do tend to sell 2 oz. travel size containers of solution for those still wary of TSA restrictions. In the absence of a smaller manufacturer-supplied container of solution, do not attempt to transfer contact lens solution to a smaller container. This allows for contamination of the solution during transfer, which can lead to serious eye infection.3
You may find your eyes are most comfortable wearing glasses when traveling by plane, particularly on longer flights.
Air blowing on your eyes, whether from a car vent or an open car window, can cause the eyes to feel dry. Contact lenses exposed to flowing air have been shown to become dry at a faster rate.1 This dryness can result in discomfort and/or blurry vision. Perhaps the most effective steps to take to keep your eyes comfortable in the car are to turn down the heat or air conditioning, direct air vents away from your eyes, and close the outside windows.
Some contact lens materials may perform better in windy environments.(1,2,3) Lubricating eye drops approved for use with contact lenses can also be helpful.4 Consult with your optometrist regarding the best contact lenses for your needs and the best drops to use with your brand of lenses. Do not attempt to instill any drops in the eyes while driving.
It is recommended not to shower while wearing contact lenses.(1,2) It would be preferable to apply your contact lenses after showering. The United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) has recommended that contact lenses not be exposed to any form of water.2 Although rare, a sight-threatening eye complication known as Acanthamoeba keratitis is caused by an organism present in all forms of impure water (i.e., swimming pools, tap water, saunas, wells, and showers).(3,4,5,6)
If lenses are being worn while showering, it is recommended to keep the eyes firmly closed.7 If lenses are accidentally exposed to water, instill a lubricating drop to help loosen the lens on the eye then remove the lens with clean, dry hands. Next, clean and disinfect the lens before re-inserting, or discard the lens. Never sleep in a lens that has been exposed to water without first cleaning and disinfecting it.8
It is recommended not to wear contact lenses while in a bathtub or hot tub.(1,2,3) The United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) has recommended that contact lenses not be exposed to any form of water.2 Although rare, a sight-threatening eye complication known as Acanthamoeba keratitis is caused by an organism present in all forms of impure water (i.e., swimming pools, tap water, saunas, wells, and showers).(4,5,6) Acanthamoeba and certain forms of bacteria present in water can become attached to contact lenses, resulting in potential infection.(7,8)
If lenses are worn while in the bathtub or hot tub, care should be taken to avoid water being splashed into the eyes. Recent studies have recommend use of tight-fitting swim goggles to limit eye exposure to water while swimming.(9,10) If lenses are accidentally exposed to water, instill a lubricating drop to help loosen the lens on the eye then remove the lens with clean, dry hands. Next, clean and disinfect the lens before re-inserting, or discard the lens. Never sleep in a lens that has been exposed to water without first cleaning and disinfecting it.11 If lenses were removed prior to getting in a bathtub or hot tub, they must be properly cleaned and disinfected before being re-inserted.3
It is recommended not to wear contact lenses while swimming.(1,2,3,4) The United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) has recommended that contact lenses not be exposed to any form of water.2 Although rare, a sight-threatening eye complication known as Acanthamoeba keratitis is caused by an organism present in all forms of impure water (i.e., swimming pools, tap water, saunas, wells, and showers).(5,6,7) Acanthamoeba and certain forms of bacteria present in water can become attached to contact lenses, increasing risk for infection and possible vision loss.(8,9) If contact lens wear while swimming cannot be avoided, it is strongly recommended to wear tight-fitting goggles over the lenses to prevent water exposure.(3,10,11) If accidentally exposed to water, instill a lubricating drop to help loosen the lens on the eye then remove the lens with clean, dry hands. Next, clean and disinfect the lens before re-inserting, or discard the lens. Never sleep in a lens that has been exposed to water without first cleaning and disinfecting it.12 If lenses are removed prior to swimming, they should be properly cleaned and disinfected before being re-inserted with clean, dry hands.3
Although pregnancy has been shown to result in many potential changes affecting the eye, contact lens wear during pregnancy is generally considered safe.(1,2) One subset of pregnant women, those who have acquired herpes simplex viral infection (HSV) of the eye, may have a mild increase in the risk of recurrence of the condition with contact lens wear.3
While contact lens wear is generally safe, hormonal changes in pregnancy may lead to an increase in nearsightedness causing blurred vision.4 In addition, decreased tolerance to contact lens wear has been reported during pregnancy.5 This may be related to a reported increase in dry eye experienced by pregnant women.6 Conflicting information exists regarding changes to the shape of the cornea during pregnancy.(7,8) Despite the variability in reports, there is reason to believe these changes may also contribute to contact lens discomfort during pregnancy.9
If you are pregnant and are experiencing vision fluctuations, it is best to visit your optometrist to determine if a change to your contact lenses is necessary and also to rule out other causes for the vision changes.
Contact lens wear has been shown to be a safe and effective method of vision correction in children.(1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9) Contact lens wear in young children and early teens has been shown to result in less contact lens related complications when compared to older teens and young adults.(6,7) In addition, children and young teens display better compliance with prescribed wearing schedules than their older counterparts.8 While parental supervision is important to healthy and successful lens wear, children as young as years old have been able to demonstrate an independent ability to care for daily disposable contact lenses.10
Not only are contact lenses safe for adolescents, they also result in better vision-related quality of life in children and teenagers.11 Contact lens wearing children report improvements in their perception of personal appearance, performance in recreational activities, and social acceptance.(11,12,13)
In the setting of certain vision related conditions, infants as young as a few months old can be fit with contact lenses.14 Contact lenses have also been used to manage diseases of the cornea and other surface tissues of the eye in affected children.15
Many factors such as maturity, personal hygiene and motivation should be considered when deciding if contact lenses are right for your child.16 Since these factors vary from child to child, there is not one specific age when all children can begin wearing contact lenses.
Wearing contact lenses that were not prescribed to you by a licensed eye care professional is strongly discouraged. This includes wearing contact lenses that belong to a friend or family member. Contact lenses are medical devices regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) and require a prescription from a health care provider.1 It is imperative that you receive your fitting, follow-up, and lens care instructions through a qualified eye care professional.(2,3)
When contact lenses are worn by someone other than the wearer for which they were prescribed, they might not fit appropriately, which can result in damage to the front surface of the eye.4 Additionally, you are placing yourself at increased risk of infection, even if the lenses are cleaned before wear. Numerous reports detail infections resulting in significant vision loss in individuals using contact lenses obtained from improper sources and used without medical supervision.(5,6,7) In addition, sharing contact lenses may result in an inappropriate vision correction causing you to experience blurred or strained vision.
Wearing contact lenses that were not prescribed to you by a licensed eye care professional is strongly discouraged. This includes wearing “circle” or other tinted or colored contact lenses.1 Contact lenses are medical devices regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) and require a prescription from a health care provider.2 It is imperative that you receive your fitting, follow-up, and lens care instructions through a qualified eye care professional.(3,4) There is no such thing as an “over-the-counter” contact lens.
When contact lenses do not fit appropriately, they can result in damage to the front surface of the eye.5 Bacteria are more easily able to attach to cosmetic contact lenses than traditional clear lenses placing wearers at an increased risk of infection.6 There are numerous reports detailing infections resulting in significant vision loss in individuals using cosmetic contact lenses obtained from improper sources without medical supervision.7,8,9,10) These infections include not only common infections and complications but also more rare sight threatening condition such as Acanthamoeba keratitis or rare bacterial infections.(11,12,13) There are many prescription cosmetic contact lenses available through your optometrist that have been shown to be safe when properly prescribed and monitored by an eye care professional.14 Consult your eye care provider to discuss healthy cosmetic contact lens options and to review the best strategies for care and handling of these lenses.
Computer use has been shown to cause feelings of eye strain, irritation, burning and dryness.1 Decreased blink rate and incomplete blinking have been observed in individuals viewing computer screens.(2,3) These factors likely contribute to end of day dryness reported by computer users.4
Individuals who wear contact lenses while using the computer report higher levels of dryness and irritation when compared to non-contact lens wearers.5 Discomfort may be most pronounced in those people who work at the computer for longer than four hours at a time.6
The use of lubricating eye drops designed for use with contact lenses has been shown to improve symptoms of dryness and improve tear stability.(7,8) It has also been demonstrated that individuals who properly replace their lenses as directed by their eye care provider report increased comfort versus those who wear their lenses longer than directed.9 These factors combined with general considerations such as taking frequent breaks while using the computer, maintaining a proper distance between yourself and the computer, and placing the computer screen below eye level may help you feel more comfortable while using the computer with and without your contact lenses.10
Although many brands of contact lenses are approved by the United Stated Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) for wearing overnight, sleeping in lenses does increase the risk of eye infection by approximately five times.(1,2,3,4
Although newer generation silicone hydrogel lenses, which allow more oxygen through the lens to the eye, have not been found to significantly reduce the risk of infection with overnight wear, they have been shown to reduce the risk of other complications, such as corneal swelling.5 There are no published rates of infection with overnight wear of gas permeable (GP) lenses; however, it is generally agreed that infection rates are lower with these more rigid materials.(4,6)
Some lenses on some patients may be safely worn for short naps. Ask your optometrist if it is appropriate for you and your lens type.
The eye needs oxygen from the atmosphere to stay healthy. How much oxygen is needed varies from person to person.1 Closing the eye, as when napping, reduces the amount of oxygen supplied to the eye, resulting in swelling of the cornea.(2,3) Additionally, contact lenses can further reduce this oxygen supply to the cornea, but some contact lens types are better than others at allowing oxygen through the lens to the eye.4
It is recommended that if you are a soft contact lens wearer, that you put on your lenses before applying your makeup. If you wear gas permeable (GP) lenses, you can put your makeup on first and then apply your lenses.1
Some mascaras, especially solvent based products, may lead to irritation of the skin around the eye.2 Avoid eyelash-extending mascara, which contains fibers that can irritate the eyes. Keep false eyelash cement, perfume and cologne away from contact lenses as they can cause damage to the lenses.1
Application of eyeliner along the inside rim of the eyelid, behind the eyelashes, can lead to migration of makeup into the tear film.(3,4) For this reason, eyeliner should always be placed below the lash line. Always remove your contact lenses before removing makeup.
Prescription allergy eye drops have been shown to improve contact lens wearing comfort during allergy season.1 How long to wait after instilling a drop before applying your contact lenses can vary, depending on the medication and preservatives in the drop. The consensus of the medical community suggests drops should be instilled 10 to 15 minutes before application of contact lenses or anytime after they are removed.(2,3,4)
Allergy tablets taken by mouth can also help relieve allergy symptoms, but may also lead to increased eye dryness.5 Studies have also found that applying a new lens each day helps promote comfortable contact lens wear during allergy season.6 You may wish to discuss whether these daily disposable lenses are an option for you when you visit your optometrist.
It is sometimes necessary to discontinue contact lens wear at the peak of allergy season, so it is always advisable to have a reliable pair of spectacles to wear in lieu of your contact lenses.
The industrial work environment may present several hazards to the eye including, but not limited to exposure to harmful agents and mechanical trauma from projectiles. Despite these risks, contact lenses can be worn safely and may offer some protective benefit.
When working around toxic chemicals or vapors, a major concern is trapping harmful material underneath the lens and the inability to easily remove the lens from the eye. Studies have shown however, that a contact lens may actually function as an additional barrier to the eye.(1,2) When exposed to a toxic agent, the eye’s blink reflex causes the contact lens to form a tight seal, which reduces the amount of contact with the cornea. The contact lens can then be flushed out of the eye with proper irrigation.3
Another popular concern is that a contact lens may fuse to the cornea when exposed to the ultraviolet (UV) radiation and thermal energy from arc welding. However, there have been no studies or case reports published in the literature that demonstrate a mechanism for this to be possible. Heat or thermal energy can cause a contact lens to partially dehydrate, but arc flashes do not reach levels high enough to completely evaporate the entire tear layer, which would be required for fusion.(1,4) Additionally, when wearing a welder’s shade number 10 tint, less than 0.0001% of ultraviolet radiation is transmitted, which further eliminates this risk.4
The general consensus of regulatory agencies and professional organizations, like the American Chemical Society and American Optometric Association, is that contact lenses alone cannot be considered protective equipment; however, when worn with approved safety eyewear they do not pose additional risk to the industrial worker.(2,4)