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Contact Lens Care

Why is it important to clean contact lenses?

During normal wear, dirt, protein particles, and germs can get on contacts. Germs can cause serious eye infections that may lead to blindness. Proper cleaning of your contact lenses kills these germs. Cleaning also protects your eyes from irritation and removes substances that may shorten the life of the lens.

When is it done?

Contacts must be disinfected every time you take them out. If you have daily-wear or extended-wear soft contacts, clean and disinfect them every night. (Eye care providers recommend that all contacts be taken out before sleeping, even those called extended wear contacts.) Disposable contacts should be thrown away and not cleaned and reused.

How is it done?

You will need separate solutions for cleaning, disinfecting, and rinsing. You will also need a contact lens case.

To clean and disinfect your lenses properly, follow the instructions of your cleaning system carefully. Always handle your lenses gently (soft contacts can tear). Be sure to keep track of which is the right lens and which is the left. It may help if you always handle the right lens first.

Make sure that your solutions are clearly marked so that you do not confuse the different bottles. Some solutions can be irritating or harmful if they are put directly in the eye.

In general, you will be instructed to follow these steps:

  • Always wash your hands with soap and water before you handle your lenses.
  • Remove the right lens and put it in the palm of your hand so that it curves up (like a bowl). Pour a few drops of daily cleaner over the lens. Using one finger, rub the lens back and forth for about 30 seconds. The daily cleaner helps dissolve dirt and oils.
  • Either cradle the lens in your fingertips or leave it in your palm, and rinse it thoroughly using the sterile saline rinsing solution.
  • If you have gas permeable lenses, put them in a clean, dry case with a few drops of conditioning or soaking solution. Never store your lenses in tap water or a homemade solution.
  • If you have soft contact lenses, you also need to disinfect them. To do this, fill the lens case with disinfecting solution. Put the lens in the correct side of the case. Repeat these steps with the left lens. With most disinfection solutions, the lenses must soak for several hours. It is best to let them soak overnight, but they must soak for at least the minimum time given in the product instructions.

Wash your hands with plain soap before you put your lenses in your eyes. Remove one lens from the case, rinse it thoroughly with the sterile saline rinsing solution, and then put it in. Repeat with the other lens. Rinse the case with tap water every day, and either dry it with a lint-free cloth or let it air dry.

Is any other kind of cleaning needed?

To help remove protein deposits, your eye care provider may recommend enzyme cleaning. Enzyme cleaning is usually done once per week. Using the enzyme cleaner on the same day each week may help you to remember when enzyme cleaning is needed.

Most enzyme cleaners come in tablet form. Follow the directions on the package of enzyme cleaner. Then clean, disinfect, and rinse your lenses before putting them in your eyes.

What solutions should I use?

Many contact lens care products are sold today. Your eye care provider will advise certain products based on what is best for your contacts and safest for your eyes. Other products might work just as well. However, using different solutions may irritate your eyes or discolor your lenses. Always check with your eye care provider before you switch contact lens solutions. Always read the instructions that come with your products.

What else should I do to prevent infection?

  • Wash your hands before you put in or take out your lenses.
  • Do not use homemade or nonsterile saline solutions.
  • Never store contact lenses in tap water.
  • Do not wear your lenses while swimming.
  • Do not sleep with your lenses in your eyes unless you have extended wear lenses and your eye doctor approves.
  • Use aerosol sprays, such as deodorant and hair spray BEFORE you put in your lenses, and
  • Put in your contact lenses BEFORE you put makeup on. Eyeliner applied between the lashes and the eyes may permanently discolor soft lenses.
Reviewed for medical accuracy by faculty at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins. Web site: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/wilmer/
Developed by RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-11-03
Last reviewed: 2010-09-07
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2011 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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