1) Is it really so important to wash my hands with soap before applying my contact lenses? Are there certain soaps or products that should be avoided?
Yes, hand washing is the single most important step in removing pathogens and decreasing your risk of infections/complications. As you would suspect, try to avoid soaps that have fragrances or lotions, as these can interfere with the contact lenses themselves.
2) I try to get "the most" out of my contact lenses, and wear them a little beyond the prescribed time interval. Is that ok?
The simple answer is “it depends”. Lens “life” is determined by many factors such as how often and how long you wear your lenses, the environment you are in, how you clean the lenses, the solutions you use, etc. That being said, a fresh lens is always going to be a better lens and therefore I like to use the term “planned replacement”. You replace the lens before it hits the bottom of the curve to help provide the best wearing experience possible with the least risk of complications.
3) I usually take my contacts out before going to sleep, but I sometimes fall asleep with them on. Is that unhealthy for my eyes?
The cornea is living tissue and therefore requires constant oxygen. Anytime you sleep in your lens, you are going to reduce the amount of oxygen reaching the cornea and therefore you are at a higher risk of contact lens related complications. It is true that the newer materials are significantly more breathable than lenses of the past, which can allow for successful sleeping in contacts. However, this is more of an individual requirement and I recommend that you discuss this with your eye care provider prior to sleeping in your contacts to make sure it is healthy enough for you.
4) I enjoy wearing my contact lenses during all of my waking hours. Is there a recommended maximum number of hours a day that I should try to not go over?
Successful lens wear is determined by many individual factors. This should therefore be determined between you and your eye doctor based on your wear needs, your overall eye health, and the lenses prescribed for you.
5) At what age is it ok to allow children to wear contact lenses?
There is no “medical age” where it becomes ok to allow contact lens use. In fact, contacts lenses can (and have) been successfully used on infants. When to start wear is more often determined by the maturity and motivation of the individual child.
6) Sometimes, when I am out, my contacts feel very dry, or fall out by accident. Is it ok to use my saliva to moisten them?
No. Using saliva or tap water is dangerous because of its increased risk of infection.
7) The solution that I use to store my contact lenses now advertises that I don't even need to clean or rub them like I used to. What are the best practices to maintain the cleanliness of my lenses?
Although solutions have certainly advanced in the last 20 years, I feel it is still important to digitally rub your lenses during the cleaning process to remove any fine deposits. In fact, although some companies have tried to use advertising to make their products look more appealing by marketing them as “no rub”, several have gone back to requiring the rub and rinse step because of complications that have occurred. I also recommend making sure that you keep your case clean and replace it frequently. Also, let the case “air-dry” during the day, as leaving moisture in the case promotes bacteria, mold and fungus.
8) As the field develops further, should we expect any significant changes in the way we care for or wear contact lenses?
Although single use contact lenses are certainly not new (our practice has been fitting them for years), the percentage of patients who wear them is steadily increasing. I feel this is because of all the health, comfort and convenience benefits.
9) Are there any further messages that are important to convey about the best ways to wear and enjoy contact lenses in the most hygienic and healthy way possible?
Take care of your lenses and they will reward you with the best vision and least complications. See your eye doctor regularly and make sure to discuss any of your questions or concerns.