There are somewhere between 20 and 30 million contact lens wearers in the United States. Contact lenses are available in two main designs, rigid gas permeable (hard contact lenses) and soft contact lenses. Soft contact lenses come in a variety of designs and wear schedules, such as conventional yearly, quarterly, monthly, bi-weekly and daily wear contacts. Rigid Gas Permeable Lens (RGP) can be worn quarterly, monthly or bi-weekly, depending upon your Optometrist’s recommendation. All of these devices are in immediate proximity of the eye, resting on the cornea. It is of the utmost importance that you keep your lenses clean and free of bacterial build up. There are a number of products available in your local grocer or pharmacy to clean and disinfect your contact lenses. If you find a disinfectant that works well for you, stay with it because different solutions have preservatives that may work fine for one person but not another. To clean lenses properly, no matter which disinfectant you use, it is best to mechanically rub the lenses gently with your finger and on your palm for 15-20 seconds, using the contact lens disinfectant. This will help remove protein build up and physically remove unwanted debris and germs. If you wear contacts on occasion and switch back and forth to glasses, pay attention to the bacterial capability of your disinfectant. Lenses left in their case need to have the disinfectant changed regularly. I usually recommend changing your solution every 48 hours to keep from getting bacterial growth. In our office we recommend a peroxide based solution for patients who have extra sensitivity to protein build up, seasonal allergies, dry eyes and recurrent infections. Peroxide based disinfectants have shown to have the least rate of complications and infections in our practice.
Within our clinic daily contact lens wearers have shown to be most infectious free. Unfortunately daily contact lenses are not for everyone. So, when I fit a contact lens wearer in a bi-weekly or monthly lens, I emphasize to my patients the importance of discarding the lenses according to the recommended wear schedule. Many people extend the wear of contact lenses to get more bang for their buck. When a monthly wear contact lens is worn for 2 or 3 months, the damage to the eyes may become permanent. All lenses have a certain oxygen permeability (DK) value. As a lens is worn the protein build up reduces the oxygen permeability and the pores, which let oxygen through, become blocked. As the pores get blocked less oxygen gets to the cornea. Lack of oxygen can lead to serious eye conditions, such as neovascularization of the cornea, corneal edema, superficial punctate keratitis; just to name a few. Treatment of some of these conditions would jeopardize contact lens wear and the cost would diminish the savings one may have made by extending the wear schedule. So my advise is… just don’t do it.