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How to Care for Your Contact Lenses

Contact lenses must be properly cleaned and stored to prevent infection and irritation of the eyes. Proper handling will also prevent damage to the contact lens.

These instructions are for soft contact lenses, the most common kind used.

What You Will Need

  • A container for the lenses
  • Buffered saline solution to keep the lenses from drying out
  • Cleaning solution that can break down proteins that build up on the lens

Steps to Take

Certain substances can build up on contact lenses which causes damage to the lens and irritates the eye. Avoid aerosols, powder-type make-up, or other substances that might get on the lens and cause irritation. If you do use these materials, use them before placing your contacts in.

Wash your hands before handling your contacts or touching your eyes.

To properly disinfect the lenses:

  • Follow the lens cleaning recommendations of the manufacturer.
  • Use disinfectant solution. Saline solution does not disinfect the lens.
  • To help clean the lens, put the cleaning solution on the lens and rub the contact with your finger. Rub even if the cleaning solution says no rub. Then soak in cleaning solution as instructed.
  • Once cleaning is done, rinse the container with saline solution and let it air dry.
  • Do not allow the tip of the solution bottle to come in contact with the solution or the contact.

Saline solution has a special balance of electrolytes that match the fluid in the eye. Regular water can change the balance in the lens and irritate the eye. Do not use water cleaning or storing contact lenses. Avoid wearing contacts in pools or hot tubs. Do not use saliva to re-wet your contacts. Saliva is not sterile.

Maintenance and storage of lenses:

  • Replace the lens on schedule with your doctor's recommendations.
  • Replace storage containers at least every 3 months or as recommended. Immediately replace any cracked or damaged cases.
  • Check the expiration date on cleaning and storage solutions.
  • Make sure there is an adequate amount of fluid for storage.
    • Do not use old solution, or top off solution in the case. Remove old solution and use new fluid.
    • Do not transfer solution from one case to another. Use fresh solution in new case.
  • If the lenses have been stored for a long period of time make sure to clean them well before wearing the contacts.

Contacts can become dry or become dirty while wearing. If the contacts are irritating, use re-wetting drops or saline to rinse your lenses. If the contacts continue to irritate your eyes, remove the contacts and let your eyes rest.

Common Questions

Q. Are multipurpose lens care solutions better than single purpose solutions?

A. Not necessarily. The type of lens care products you use depends on the type of lenses you have and what your doctor advises. Be sure to follow the product directions exactly.

Q. I recently switched from hard contacts to soft. Can I continue to use the same lens care solutions for the soft contacts that I have been using for the hard?

A. No. The chemicals used to clean and sterilize hard contacts are different from those used for soft contacts. If you use your hard contact solutions to care for your soft contacts, you will damage the soft lens.

Q. Should I consider a hydrogen peroxide based cleaner?

A. Some cleaner chemicals can cause irritation in the eye. Your doctor may recommend a hydrogen peroxide solution, it tends to cause less irritation. However, you have to use care with this solution because it is a weakened form of hydrogen peroxide. You cannot put the lens in your eye immediately after the lens is in contact with the solution. The solution should not be used to rinse the lens. It needs to be used in a special container that converts the hydrogen peroxide solution to a harmless solution. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer.

Call Your Doctor

Contact your doctor if you:

  • Have redness or itching in your eye
  • Have blurred vision or pain while wearing your contacts
  • Difficulty placing your contacts in your eye or taking them out

Possible mishaps to watch out for include:

  • Damage to the eye—see your doctor about eye irritation and redness associated with your contacts
  • Infection
RESOURCES:

American Academy of Ophthalmology
https://www.aao.org

Kellogg Eye Center—University of Michigan Health System
http://kellogg.umich.edu

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Association of Optometrists
https://opto.ca

Canadian Ophthalmological Society
http://www.cos-sco.ca

REFERENCES:

Pinna A, Usai D, Zanetti S, Carta F. Contact lens disinfectants. Ophthalmology. 2007;114(9):1789-1790.

Proper care of contact lenses. American Academy of Ophthalmology website. Available at: http://www.aao.org/eye-health/glasses-contacts/contact-lens-care. Accessed November 7, 2016.

What You Need to Know About Contact Lens Hygiene & Compliance. American Optometric Association. Available at: http://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/contact-lenses/what-you-need-to-know-about-contact-lens-hygiene-and-compliance?sso=y . Accessed November 7, 2016.

Last reviewed November 2016 by Michael Woods, MD  Last Updated: 4/07/2017