Wearing contact lenses is an integral part of everyday life for many of us. Just like glasses, they address the refractive errors of the eye. In some ways, contact lenses are considered even better than spectacles since they rule out distortions on account of the frame of the spectacles. They are also a better option when one wants to engage in outdoor activities such as sports.

“However, wearing contact lenses certainly warrants a sense of responsibility. One has to exercise caution in many ways so that not only the lenses remain safe and usable but also the eyes are protected. In other words, there are safety rules that need to be followed while wearing contact lenses,” said Dr Tushar Grover, Medical Director, Vision Eye Centre, New Delhi.

Why should one be careful with contact lenses and what are some of the basic rules that must be adhered to? Dr Tushar answers!

*Opt for contact lenses only when recommended by an expert ophthalmologist. In fact, one should get lenses fitted only by a well-qualified and trained ophthalmologist or optometrist.

*When one wears contact lenses for the first time, one should wear them only for a few hours and not continuously for a day. Instead, the duration of wearing lenses should be increased gradually and not at once. While it is natural to feel discomfort the first time, if it continues for long, consult your doctor who may recommend a different type of lens for your eyes. These could range from soft contact lenses to rigid gas permeable (RGP) lenses to extended wear lenses to disposable lenses.

*It is very important to know and learn how to handle your contact lenses, especially when one is a beginner. Apart from keeping hands and fingernails clean and generally observing a high degree of hand hygiene, one should also learn how to put on and take off the lenses clearly. In fact, one should be able to demonstrate wearing them and taking them off independently in front of the doctor and acquire the required confidence before handling them on one’s own.

Some first-time users (and even old users) can’t tell whether the lens is inside out or not. If one is wearing lenses inside out, there would be discomfort and the eyes would feel watery. Among several ways to find out if the lenses are inside out or not, one is by holding the lens between the tips of the forefinger and thumb and pinching in the middle to form a taco shape. If the edge looks like a taco shell, the lens is correct side up; and if the edge looks like a soup spoon, it is inside out. Today, some lenses have laser markings to point this difference out.

*Never use contact lenses in the shower or when swimming. This can cause a serious eye infection called Acanthamoeba keratitis. Also, don’t forget to take your lenses off before sleeping.

*Related to hand hygiene is the concerns around eye infections and allergies. Infections could range from minor ones to those potentially threatening to a person’s vision itself. At the same time, an allergy could occur due to chronic irritation or discomfort, possibly also a result of dry eye. One could also develop an allergy to the lens cleaning solution. Therefore, besides maintaining impeccable hand hygiene, timely disinfecting of lenses, as well as storage cases, is critical.

One should clean his lenses regularly with proper lens cleaning solutions and not resort to tapping water or saliva or distilled water or even eye drops. Use the recommended sterile contact solution suitable for your lenses and always keep an eye on the expiry date. In fact, clean your contact lens case every day. Remember, one should not refill the old cleaning solution in the lens case with a fresh solution. First, the old solution should be discarded, the lens case cleaned, and then a fresh solution should be put. Also, one should not wear lenses for longer than what the doctor has advised and discard them when necessary.

*Since there is a high likelihood of most people wearing contact lenses having dry eye and even without symptoms, one should immediately consult a doctor on the slightest signs of discomfort such as persisting dryness, grittiness, redness, heavy watering and extra sensitivity to light.

Therefore, while contact lenses are a great source of comfort to our eyes as compared to glasses, using them also requires adequate caution and care.

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