More than 140 million people wear contact lenses in the world, with up to 40 million in the United States alone. People wear contact lenses for various reasons, mainly to avoid wearing glasses in order to correct vision, as well as for some other cosmetic or therapeutic reasons. However, not much people know exactly how to deal with this medical device, and tend to neglect many essential and basic points in using contacts. In this article we will try to help people understand the very nature of contact lenses, how to use them, and how to choose the best type that would suit their lifestyles and their needs.
What are contact lenses?
Contact lenses, commonly called contacts, are a thin medical lens that would be placed on the cornea of the eye in order to enhance vision by correcting refractor error and thus treat myopia, presbyopia, , astigmatism, and hyperopia. They are also used to change the color of the eye with color lenses and offer some animal-like eyes
What are the main types of contact lenses?
They fall in one of two categories: hard contact lenses, and soft contact lenses. In addition to the recent hybrid type.
Hard/Rigid contact lenses
Until 1970s; those contacts were made from polymethyl methacrylate and are very disadvantageous due to the fact that they do not allow oxygen to pass through to the cornea. Later, another improved rigid material had become widely used to make rigid gas permeable lenses. They have tiny holes in them in order to allow oxygen to pass to the eye, and a refracting surface, that can help correct astigmatism. This type of lenses can allow their users to use the same pair of lenses for up to two or three years, with the need to clean and disinfect them regularly. However, they require some period of adaptation before becoming more comfortable with them.
Soft contact lenses
The most popular type of contacts, accounting for about 40% of the market. They are made from a gel-like plastic with high water content, and are usually used in the treatment of non-refractive eye disorders. They are highly comfortable and oxygen-permeable which allowed them to be approved for extended wear (overnight wear) as well as for daily wear. There are also disposable soft lenses that can be used for a week, a month or just a day, and then thrown away and replaced by another set of lenses, without any need for cleaning or disinfecting whatsoever. Besides, users get used to them more quickly and are more comfortable wearing them.
Hybrid contact lenses
Only few of them exist, they are made of a rigid center and soft peripherals. They are perfect for combining both the beneficial refracting correction of rigid lenses along with the comfort of soft lenses.
How to wear contact lenses?
In order to wear your lenses in the right way, you will need to follow the following simple steps:
– The very first essential thing you need to do before handling your lenses, is to clean your hands by washing them with mild soap, rinsing then drying them completely.
– Then you will have to open the lens package: after shaking the package, peel back the foil closure and reveal the lenses. They should be floating freely in the solution.
– Remove the lens from its package, and examine it thoroughly: it must be moist, clear, and clean, if any of these conditions is not satisfied do not use that lens. You should also verify that the lens is not inside out (this is very important!) by checking its profile while placing it on the tip of your finger.
Placing the lens on your eye:
To acquire good habits and ensure that you will always manage to put each lens on its corresponding eye, you should start always with the right eye.
After placing the lens on the tip of your finger, use the middle finger of the same hand to pull down the lower lid, and the other hand’s index to lift the upper lid, in a way that opens your eye and leaves enough space for the insertion of the lens which should be gentle and quick.
Then release your eyelids and blink several times, this will allow the lens to be automatically centered on your eye. Use the same method with your left eye.
However, in some cases the lens can be displaced away from the cornea, causing your vision to go blur. In this case, all you need is close your eye and massage the lens gently into place.
How to remove contact lenses?
Before removing your lenses, you need to clean your hands first, wash, rinse and dry them thoroughly. Then you have to start, as always, with the right eye. But before proceeding to removing the right lens, you need to make sure the lens is on the cornea. If not, you simply replace it onto the cornea as described above.
Your ophthalmologist will usually recommend one of the following two methods. You need to follow his recommendations:
The forefinger and thumb method:
This method is usually used to remove rigid lenses.
– Open wide your eye and maintain your eyelids separated by placing your forefinger on the upper lid, and your thumb on the lower lid then force a blink.
– Place a clean towel, or your other hand under your eye in order to catch the lens as it falls.
– Follow the same procedure to remove the left eye’s lens.
After removing your lenses, you will need to take care of them as described further.
The pinch method:
This method is better in front of a mirror. Besides, your fingernails should be trimmed so that you will not harm your eye. It is usually used to remove soft lenses.
– Follow the same procedures of preparation.
– Slid the lens to the bottom of your eye as you look up, then pinch it between you thumb and forefinger. The lens should be removed with ease.
– Repeat the same thing with your left eye.
Do you have dry eyes?
How to take care of your contact lenses?
Cleaning your lenses should be immediate after removing them, and of course after cleaning your hands, and includes rinsing and disinfecting them:
Rinsing your lenses:
Rinsing contacts is essential to remove any mucus, films, or secretions that may have accumulated while wearing them. It is also very important to ensure a safe usage of your lenses.
In order to achieve this, you need to use the lens care solution providedyou’re your lenses, dealing with one lens at a time, and avoid using water from the tap, because it may contain many contaminating agents that can damage your lenses and cause some serious eye infections.
Disinfecting your lenses:
It is necessary to get rid of any potential harmful germs that could adhere to your lenses. You should use the recommended chemicals for that purpose, following the instructions on the labeling, and avoid any other methods of disinfection such as heat.
After disinfecting and cleaning your lenses, you will have to store them back into their respective chambers in the storage case, totally immersed in the recommended disinfecting solution.
You should also know that you will have to clean and disinfect the storage case as soon as you remove your lenses to wear them. This way you will always keep both your lenses and their storage chambers clean and sterile.
A common mistake people tend to do is moisten their lenses with saliva or put them in their mouth and then back on their eyes, this is very wrong, you should always use the recommended solutions to rewet your lenses if they go dry.
In all cases, you should also be aware that this is a very basic and introductory guide to using your lenses. Frequent consultations with your eye practitioner are a must, and you should contact him if any complication seemed to arise, and also you have to stick to his advices and recommendations.
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