Health & Wellness

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Contact lens care vital for eye health

Since the advent of contact lenses, individuals with impaired vision have had a convenient method for improving their eyesight. Contact lenses are available in more prescriptions and styles than ever before, making them quite attractive to those looking for an alternative to traditional eyeglasses.

Contact lenses are worn by millions of people every day. Although contact lenses appear to be a recent phenomenon, the concept of altering the optics of the human eye by placing an object directly over the cornea can be traced back to mathematician and inventor Leonardo da Vinci as early as 1508. Some reports say German glassblower F.A. Muller used methods initiated by English astronomer Sir John Herschel to produce the first glass contact lens in 1887. Others say the invention is attributed to Swiss physician Adolf E. Fick and French optician Edouard Kalt in 1888.

Regardless of their origins, contact lenses gradually evolved from glass to nonporous plastic to hydrophilic soft contact lenses, which were introduced in 1959. Today, All About Vision notes that more than 90 percent of contact lenses prescribed in the United States are soft lenses.

Because they're so convenient to use, contact lens are easily taken for granted. However, good contact lens care is essential to maintaining proper vision and eye health. When certain precautions regarding contact lenses are not taken, the risk of eye infection or more serious complications increases considerably.

The best way to avoid eye infections and further problems is to practice proper lens care. Contact lenses come in direct contact with the eye, and these lenses can easily transport bacteria and other microscopic material from the hands and elsewhere, putting sensitive eyes in constant jeopardy if precautions are not taken. Ophthalmologists help their patients decide which lenses are best for their particular eyes, and the condition being treated also helps determine the type of lens.

But whether a person is using  single-use disposable lenses or rigid gas-permeable lenses, the following tips can help ensure lenses stay clean.

*  Always wash hands with soap and water before handling contact lenses or any equipment. Choose a noncosmetic soap. Soaps with perfumes, lotions and the like can leave a film on your hands, and that film can then be transferred to the lenses. Once hands have been washed, dry them with a lint-free towel.

* Do not rinse or allow contact lenses to come into contact with water, even if the water is sterile. Remove lenses before washing your face or getting in a shower or pool. The lenses should not be stored in water; they should only be stored in a suitable contact lens solution.

* While there are a variety of contact solutions on the market, some of which advertise "no-rub" cleaning, many eye care professionals recommend that lenses be rubbed and rinsed regardless of any claims made on solution labels. This helps break up oil or other materials that can stick to the lenses.

* Always rinse lenses with fresh solution. When the lenses are in your eyes, leave the empty case open to air dry.

* Routinely rinse your storage case with solution. This cleans out any dust or material that falls into the case. Discard each case after three months.

* Keep the tip of the solution bottle away from any surfaces in the bathroom. Always replace the cap to keep the solution sterile. Use the solution from the sterile bottle, and do not transfer it to smaller travel bottles.

* Use care when handling the contact lenses. A small tear or nick in soft lenses can cause irritation in your eyes. Discard worn or torn lenses, and follow the recommendations of the lens manufacturer and your eye doctor as to when to replace each set of lenses.

* Your doctor may recommend a protein removal product if your lenses are prone to protein buildup. Eye drops can rewet the eyes if they are dry and irritated.

Contact lens care requires commitment. Though contact lenses are convenient, they require more maintenance than traditional eyeglasses.