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Optical Delusions: Putting Contacts in Water and 8 Other Common Mistakes

Eye reflected on a pool of water

We've all done it. After a long day of work and no play, you just want to go to bed. You can’t find your lens solution, so you pop out your contacts and throw them in a bowl with some water. Or, worse yet, you leave your contacts in your eyes.

Putting contacts in water and all the other things on the list we're giving you are huge no-nos. Let’s dive in and find out why.

1. Putting Contacts in Water

Let's start with the opening theme: never put your contacts in water.

We tend to see water as a pure element, but water contains germs and other contaminants you don't want anywhere near your eyes. Most of the bacteria are harmless to the human body, but not all. E. coli is one that can cause serious illness.

If you're still not convinced, there's another germ that might change your mind. Acanthamoeba is an amoeba commonly found in tap water, lakes, wells and other sources. It causes Acanthamoeba keratitis, a painful infection that can take years to treat and even cause blindness.

In addition to the dangers of introducing bacteria to your eyes, you have the water's effect on your lenses to think about, too. Water warps and swells soft contact lenses. The transformation can scratch your cornea, creating an easy pathway for contaminants.

2. Sleeping With Your Lenses In

woman in tank top sleeping with hand under pillow

One word: don't. We all know doctors can get a little overprotective sometimes, but this is one instance where you absolutely need to listen to them.

Contact lenses are made from plastic and impair oxygen flow to your cornea. This part of the eye (the outer, clear covering) has zilch in the blood flow department, so it relies on oxygen to remain healthy.

If you cut off that oxygen (say, when you close your eyes to sleep and there's a plastic cup over the cornea), things get a bit dicey. It literally changes your eyes’ physiology. Small blood vessels grow to compensate for the oxygen deprivation. This causes keratitis, or corneal inflammation. If untreated, it can lead to blindness.

So don’t sleep in your contact lenses unless you have continuous wear contacts. These are Health Canada approved and allow your eyes to breathe overnight.

3. Touching Contacts Without Washing Your Hands

We know. Who really bothers to wash their hands every time? Isn't that what the cleaning solution is for?

But as with the water discussion above, washing your hands is vital. It eliminates contaminants that could spread to your solution or lenses. Once on your contacts, they can get into your eye. Just think of all the things you touch in a given day, and you'll get the picture.

4. Forgetting to Clean Your Contact Lenses

Cleaning contact lenses without putting contacts in water

Yes, the entire process can be tiresome, but you do actually have to clean those little guys. It only takes a moment to do the “rub and rinse” technique. Yet studies indicate that less than 1% of contact wearers actually do what’s necessary to keep them clean.

You might think you can get away with a day of not cleaning them. But the consequences might be more severe than you anticipated. Even if you wash your contacts every day, they still become coated with bacteria and proteins. If you miss a day, it could lead to an infection. And if left untreated, it could cause blindness.

5. Reusing Solution

You should throw away your cleaning solution after one month, even if you haven't used it. Reusing your solution or topping it off in your case is a huge breach in contact lens hygiene.

Your solution is meant to disinfect the lenses. If you swish your dirty contacts around in there, you're leaving behind dirt and bacteria. If you reuse said solution, you’ll unintentionally recycle all those nasty little particles. Also, it’ll lose its bacteria-fighting powers due to the previous cleaning session.

It's an easy way to get an infection.

6. Using Your Saliva

You're at a friend's house or a hotel, and you don't have your eyedrops. So what do you do? You pop your contact lenses into your mouth to rewet them.

A healthy substitute? We think not.

You have millions of bacteria in your mouth, and there's a reason you can't lick your eyeball. Those bacteria belong in your mouth, so let's not mix the two. Doing so can put unwanted bacteria in a position to cause eye problems.

7. Not Washing and Drying Your Case

Contact case with lens on a table

Many contact wearers forget that cleaning their case is a two-step process. It must be thoroughly cleaned and dried to keep nasty contaminants at bay.

Drying is especially important. If you don't let your case air dry, you're creating the perfect habitat for bacteria to grow in. In fact, they'll all get together to form dirty little villages called biofilms. These are communities of bacteria fostered by dirt and moisture.

And don't forget to swap out your case every month or so. That will protect your contacts from bacterial contamination while in storage.

8. Wearing Your Contacts for Too Long

Out of sight, out of mind, right? It's easy to forget about those things floating on your eyeballs. But wearing your contact lenses for too long can harm your eyes. And it’s totally preventable!

Remember the whole oxygen thing? It applies to when you're awake too. The lenses are still blocking the oxygen your corneas need.

So be sure to give them the rest they deserve. Take out your lenses every day for short periods. If you’re wearing daily contacts, you’re already used to removing them each day. For those who wear weekly and monthly contacts, it’s just as important that your eyes go without for a while. You need to clean them anyway, right?

9. Ignoring the Prescribed Time Frames

We all want to save money, but wearing the same daily contacts for eight months is not the way to do it. Even so, there are many people who refuse to follow the simple rule of changing their lenses as prescribed.

You're collecting a whole lot of bacteria this way. Discard your lenses at the appropriate time to keep your eyes safe.

Final Thoughts

You only get one set of eyes, so be proactive in keeping them healthy. Don't put them at risk because you feel lazy or tired. So putting contacts in water, along with other things many contact wearers do regularly, is a huge no-no. And remember to always take the time to purchase quality contact lenses and accessory products.

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