Do you wear contacts? Don’t wear them to soak or sauna
October 10, 2017 – Do you wear contact lenses? You’re not alone. It’s estimated that 1 in 6 adults in our country do too. That’s more than 40 million people! For the most part contact lenses are a safe and effective way to correct our vision. But, we risk infection if we fail to wear, clean, disinfect, and store our contact lenses as directed.
Failure to practice proper contact lens care leaves us vulnerable to contamination by bacteria, fungi, and free-living protozoa called Acanthamoeba. This can lead to scarring and potential blindness.
These far-ranging single-celled organisms are found in just about everything that contains moisture, from vegetables, to tap water and—yes—to hot tubs. They can attach themselves to new or worn contact lenses, and the result can be a painful and progressive corneal infection called Acanthamoeba Keratitis. These bacteria can take up residence between the lens and the eye and cause corneal ulcers. Even if the water is clean enough to swim, bathe, or soak in, or drink, these bad boys still could be alive and thriving.
Acanthamoeba Keratitis can affect anyone, but an estimated 85% of the cases occur in contact lens users. Here’s are 6 tips that will help limit your risk of developing an eye infection:
- Remove them! Never, ever wear you contacts when you swim, bathe, take a sauna, or soak in a hot tub.
- Wash those hands. Don’t touch your contacts without first washing your hands. Ever!
- Don’t leave them in too long. Remove gas permeable and daily-wear soft contact lenses before you go to bed. And take out your extended-wear lenses on a regular schedule
- See your doc. Schedule regular exams with your eye care professional to refit and/or replace your contact lenses.
- Keep your lenses clean. Every time you remove your contacts, clean and disinfect them by using an FDA approved care system, and follow the procedures recommended by the manufacturer.
- Rotate your cases and solutions too! Cases can get old and funky so make sure to replace them once in a while. Use a cleaning solution to clean your lenses and cases. Periodically boil or microwave your cases. (Remember to take out your lenses). Saliva, tap water, and non-sterile solutions are not suitable for moistening your contacts before you put them in.
How do you know if you have Acanthamoeba Keratitis? Here are the symptoms:
- Severe eye pain
- Increased redness not alleviated with regular eye drops
- Cloudy vision
- Increased sensitivity/pain when inserting contact lenses (this would be due to enlarged or inflamed corneal nerves)
Always remember this acronym “RSVP”. These are the warning signs of contact lens infection.
R = Redness, SV = Sudden visual loss, and P = Pain
If you experience any of these signs or symptoms remove your contacts at once! Don’t patch the eye. That might actually accelerate the infection. This is a “real” emergency. Time is crucial. Get immediate help from an eye care professional.
Please be safe. Don’t even soak, swim, bathe or sauna while you’re wearing your contacts.
Excerpts from an article by Dr. Jay Pepose, Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology at Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri and founder of the Peopose Vision Institute in St Louis