If you’re one of the 36 million contact lens wearers in the U.S., chances are you went through a mini-course in hygiene when you first got your prescription. You know the drill: First wash your hands with soap and water before drying them with a clean, lint-free cloth or paper towel. Then, carefully take the contact lens out of your eye before gently “massaging” it in your hand with some solution to get the debris off. Pop the contact in a case that’s filled with fresh solution before screwing the lid on.
But if you’re being honest, how often do you actually follow all of these steps every single time you remove your contacts (which are technically medical devices)? And how often do you do things your optometrist or ophthalmologist warns you against — like sleeping or swimming in your contacts, or wearing your monthlies for longer than a month — figuring, “Eh, nothing bad has happened to me yet”?
We enlisted two eye-care experts — Andrea Thau, O.D., an associate clinical professor at the SUNY College of Optometry and a spokesperson for the American Optometric Association, as well as Rebecca Taylor, M.D., an ophthalmologist in private practice in Nashville, Tenn., and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology — to guide us through the common mistakes soft contact lens wearers make, what should be done instead, and the worst that can happen with poor hygiene. You might be convinced to change your bad habits for good.