I recently saw a new patient, as an emergency appointment, that had developed a serious eye infection. The patient was a long time, soft contact lens wearer and frequently slept in contact lenses. This patient slept in soft contact lenses due to difficulty and frustration inserting and removing them. It was easier for this patient to leave the lenses on the eye rather than to insert and remove them daily. After talking with this patient, I realized that with proper education on soft contact lens insertion and handling, this eye infection could have been avoided. So I thought I would share some successful soft contact lens insertion and handling tips that I have provided patients over the years.
This information is provided for experienced soft contact lens wearers and is not meant for patients who have never worn contact lenses. For first time contact lens wearers, lens education and training should be done, in person, with a trained eye care professional, and may take up to one hour to complete.
First off, and this may seem pretty obvious, ALWAYS have clean hands while handling your contact lenses. Prior to lens handling, it is best to wash your hands with a soap that does NOT contain perfumes, fragrances, colored dyes, oils or moisturizers. These common soap ingredients can leave a residue on your fingers that can land on the lens surface and cause irritation or blurred vision. Ivory bar soap is a good choice. One may use any soap they choose when not handling their lenses.
Secondly, it is best to dry your hands with a lint free towel with a tight weave. Linen towels are a good choice. A lint towel with a loose weave and lots of fine threads ( "fuzzies" ) is a poor choice. The fuzzies can find their way underneath your lens and cause discomfort and irritation until lens removal. Preventing soap residue and towel lint from contact with your lenses during wear often improves lens comfort dramatically.
Now lets address contact lens insertion. One has to always remember that soft contact lenses love moisture. The most common complaint I hear regarding difficulty with contact lens insertion is that the lens will not leave the patient's finger when trying to insert the lens on to the eye. To solve this problem it is best to insert the lens using a finger that is as dry as possible. After removing the lens from the case or foil pack, dry the finger you use to insert the lens with a towel. The lens will need to be moist in order to keep it's shape, but the solution does not need to be dripping down your finger. The lens does not leave a wet finger for a less wet eye. Remember, soft contact lenses won't easily leave wet fingers.
Patients who use cosmetics need to be aware that cosmetics use can result in eye irritation. Always apply make up AFTER inserting your contact lenses. Also avoid lining the inner rims of your eyes with eyeliner. This can block the Meibomian glands on your eyelid margins and cause irritation and poor tear quality. To remove soft contact lenses, ( again ALWAYS have clean hands ) look up and towards your ear, and with the middle finger of your dominant hand, bring down your lower lid. Then with your index finger, slide the lens down and towards your nose and gently pinch the lens with your thumb and index finger and remove. The lens should come off of the white part of your eye smoothly and easily.
Some patients find that inserting a rewetting drop on their eye facilitates lens removal, especially if the lens feels excessively dry at the end of the day. Soft contact lenses are worn comfortably, safely and successfully by millions of people around the world. Proper care and handling are important components of successful contact lens wear. If this information helps one patient avoid a nasty eye infection, as I saw last week, it was well worth posting on our blog. To learn more or connect with an exceptional eye physician, call 702-896-6043. Douglas Orton, O.D.