Contact lens wearers have an increased risk for serious eye infections and injury to the cornea. Symptoms of possible problems with contacts include redness, pain or burning in the eye, drainage, blurred vision, or extreme sensitivity to light (photophobia). If you are having problems, remove your lenses and disinfect them. If symptoms persist longer than 2 to 3 hours after removing and cleaning your contacts, call your eye doctor.
Daily-wear soft lenses are removed and cleaned at night and reinserted in the morning. They take less time to get used to than hard lenses, but they are less durable.
Extended-wear lenses can be worn for up to a week at a time, day and night. They are then removed, cleaned, and reinserted. However, some people cannot tolerate the extended wear; their eyes become irritated if the contacts are not regularly removed and cleaned. Extended use may be uncomfortable and increases the risk of damaging the eye.
The recommended wearing time for extended-wear lenses has been shortened from 30 days to 7 days because of the increased risk of eye infections. Ideally, one should never sleep in contact lenses.
Rigid gas-permeable (RGP) lenses
Gas-permeable lenses cost more than conventional hard lenses and are somewhat less durable, but they are more comfortable than conventional hard lenses. Some gas-permeable lenses are designed for extended wear (overnight, up to 7 days), although many eye specialists advise against wearing them for the extended period.
Conventional hard lenses (PMMA)
Conventional hard contact lenses are made of a fairly stiff plastic (polymethyl methacrylate, or PMMA), which does not mold to the shape of the eye. They are inexpensive and durable, but they are the least comfortable type of contact lens. Because they reduce the amount of oxygen reaching the cornea, people who wear them are at risk of over wearing syndrome and other problems.
Avoiding contact lens problems
Contact lenses can cause eye problems, such as damage to the cornea or eye infections. It is important to follow the directions for cleaning and wearing these lenses to avoid eye problems.
- Follow the cleaning instructions for your lenses. Keep your lenses and anything that touches them—hands, storage containers, solution bottles, and makeup—very clean. Wash your hands before handling your contacts.
- Use a commercial saline solution. (Generic brands are just as good as name brands.) Homemade solution is easily contaminated with bacteria.
- If your contact lens cleaning solution becomes contaminated, throw it away and buy new solution.
- Do not wet your contact lenses in your mouth.
- Insert your contacts before applying eye makeup. Do not apply makeup to the inner rim of the eyelid. Replace eye makeup supplies every 3 to 6 months to reduce the risk of contamination.
- When worn for long periods of time, extended-wear lenses are more likely to cause severe eye infections. If you choose to wear them, follow the wearing and cleaning schedule your doctor recommends.
- Visit your eye care professional once a year to check the condition of your lenses and the health of your eyes.
- Contact lenses, especially soft lenses, may absorb eyedrops. If you use eye medications, leave your lenses out for about 30 minutes after using the eyedrops to avoid problems.