EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
Almost everyone can wear contact lenses. Your eye care professional will evaluate your eligibility and explain the different lens types available, helping you choose the best solution for your vision correction needs and lifestyle. Contact lenses can correct short-/long-sightedness, astigmatism and presbyopia, and can also change your eye colour with or without vision correction. In short, there’s a contact lens for almost everyone.
It’s normal to feel nervous when doing something for the first time. Asking yourself questions like “Will it be OK?” and “How will it feel?” is common. Your eye care professional will guide you through the process, and you’ll realize it’s much easier that you may have initially imagined. Have a look at the simple steps for applying and removing contact lenses. Most people adjust very quickly and can’t believe they were initially hesitant. You’ll soon be doing it without thinking too.
Daily disposable contact lenses are simply applied in the morning then taken out at the end of the day and thrown away. Monthly replacement contact lenses need to be cleaned after wearing. There are two ways to do this: with an easy-to-use multipurpose solution, or with a peroxide-based solution for sensitive eyes. To find out more, read the contact lens care section below and ask your eye care professional.
Today’s contact lenses are made of soft water-containing materials, making them highly biocompatible with your eyes. A visit to your eye care professional will allow you to touch them and try them in your eyes. Over 100 million people happily wear contact lenses.
Myopia, or short-sightedness – “I have difficulty focusing on distant objects, such as when driving, watching TV, or reading”
Myopia, or short-sightedness, is very common in people of all ages. It often first becomes noticeable in school-age children and tends to advance in the teens, as the eye continues to grow during this time. The condition levels off and generally stabilizes in adulthood.
Here are the most common signs and symptoms of myopia:
- Objects far away, like a whiteboard or road signs, appear blurry
- Persistent need to squint or close eyelids to see clearly
- Headaches due to eyestrain
- Difficulty seeing while driving a vehicle, especially at night (night myopia)
- Need to sit closer to the television, movie screen or the front of the classroom
- Holding books very close while reading
- Not able to notice distant objects
- Blinking excessively
- Rubbing eyes frequently
If these symptoms interfere with daily activities and are pronounced enough that you or your child can’t perform a task, consult an eye care professional. He or she can determine the degree of short-sightedness and recommend ways to correct the vision.
Hyperopia, or long-sightedness – “I have difficulty focusing on near objects, such as when reading or using a computer or mobile device”
Hyperopia, or long-sightedness, is less common than short-sightedness but is still experienced by many people. Hyperopia can affect children and adults, and people whose parents are longsighted are more likely to inherit it. Although long-sightedness usually begins in childhood, it can be easily missed because the very flexible lens in young children compensates for it naturally. As long as the long-sightedness is not too severe, children will see objects clearly at a distance and up close. The eyes can usually adjust this way until they stop growing at around nine years old.
The symptoms of long-sightedness vary from person to person. Here are the most common signs and symptoms of hyperopia:
- Difficulty focusing on close-up objects, like a pen or a book
- Eyestrain, aching eyes or a burning feeling around the eyes
- Persistent squinting or closing of eyelids to see clearly
- Headaches while reading or after close-up work such as drawing
- Crossed eyes (strabismus) in some children
If these symptoms interfere with daily activities and are pronounced enough that you or your child can’t perform a task, consult an eye care professional. He or she can determine the degree of long-sightedness and recommend ways to correct the vision.
Astigmatism is often inherited, so if one or both of your parents have astigmatism, you are likely to have it as well. It is extremely common. Some experts believe that almost everyone has a degree of astigmatism from birth. Just as perfectly aligned teeth are rare, so is a perfectly curved cornea. The degree of irregular curvature in your cornea determines whether you will need corrective lenses to help focus light rays better. Pre-existing eye issues do not cause astigmatism, but a correlation does exist. If you are shortsighted or longsighted (or both), you are more likely to also have astigmatism that needs correction. Finally, certain types of eye surgery, such as cataract surgery, can increase your risk of developing astigmatism later in life.
Sometimes, astigmatism can be so mild that symptoms are barely noticeable and the condition remains undetected for years or until it shows up on a regular eye exam. However, in some cases it can cause troublesome vision distortion. Here are the most common signs and symptoms of astigmatism:
- Blurring or distortion of images at all distances
- Eye discomfort or irritation
- Difficulty seeing at night
- Trouble distinguishing between similar letters and numbers like P and F, or B and 8
People with astigmatism may experience symptoms that cause them to see what seems like a shadow or fuzzy image around what they are looking at. It is most pronounced when there is high contrast in the image, such as black text on a white background or a light shining in the darkness.
Presbyopia is an age-related condition that makes it harder to see and read things close-up. As we get older, the lenses in our eyes lose some of their elasticity, and with this they lose some of their ability to change focus for different distances. The loss is gradual. Contact lenses are becoming a popular choice for presbyopia.
Presbyopia develops gradually, with most people developing symptoms by their early to mid-40s. Here are the most common symptoms that you may experience due to presbyopia:
- Blurred vision at normal reading distance, including while wearing your normal glasses or contact lenses
- Holding reading materials at arm’s length to focus properly
- Fatigue while reading or doing close-up work
Contact your eye care professional if you’ve developed any of these symptoms.
Multi-purpose contact lens solutions such as OPTI-FREE® PureMoist® clean and disinfect contact lenses in a one bottle system. Some multi-purpose solutions also recondition contact lenses. Make sure to discuss with your eye care professional which contact lens care products work best with your lenses.
Hydrogen peroxide-based contact lens care systems such as AOSEPT® PLUS with HydraGlyde® employ a one-step or two-step process, depending on the product. They use hydrogen peroxide to kill germs and bacteria for strong disinfection, and some systems require a separate step for cleaning.
Hydrogen peroxide care systems are preservative-free and are often recommended for contact lens wearers who may be sensitive to preservatives found in multi-purpose contact lens solutions. However, it is important to follow every step in the product instructions.
Saline solutions are mainly used for rinsing and storing contact lenses when you’re using a heat or UV disinfection system. Saline solutions are not indicated or meant for disinfecting contacts.
A daily cleaner is used to clean contact lenses prior to disinfection. Daily cleaners are not indicated or meant to disinfect contact lenses so you will be required to use additional products.
Whether you’re new to contact lenses or have been wearing them for a while, below are some helpful Do’s & Don’ts when it comes to contact lens care. In addition to the tips below, be sure to follow your eye care professional’s directions and the package insert instructions for a successful, comfortable contact lens experience.
DO Stick strictly to the wearing schedule prescribed by your eye care professional and dispose of your contact lenses as directed.11
DON’T “Stretch” your lens wear beyond what your eye care professional has recommended.12 If you are told to replace your contact lenses every two weeks, that means two weeks – not three or four.
DO Clean, rinse and disinfect your contact lenses with fresh solution each time you remove them. Always remember to use fresh solution. Do not add more solution on top of what’s already in the case.11
DON’T Use saliva, tap water or anything other than contact lens solutions for lubricating, rewetting and/or cleaning your lenses.11
DO If your eyes become red, irritated or your vision changes, remove your lenses immediately and consult your eye care professional.13
DON’T Let the tip of solution bottles touch other surfaces – including your fingers, eyes or contact lenses.
DO Always refill your lens case with new solution instead of adding more solution on top of what’s already in your case.
DON’T Share your contact lenses with anyone! It’s unsanitary.11
DO Always handle your lenses with clean, dry hands.11 Wash and dry your hands thoroughly with a lint-free towel before touching your lenses.
DON’T Be stingy with your lens solution and try to use less or reuse solution. Always use fresh solution to rinse, clean and store your lenses.11
DO Keep bottles of solution closed when not in use and use solutions before the expiration date marked on the bottle.13
DON’T Expose your contact lenses to any kind of water – tap, bottled, distilled, lake or ocean water.
DO After use, always empty and rinse the lens case with fresh solution and allow the lens case to air dry.13
DON’T Change the brand of contact lens solution unless recommended by your eye care professional.13 Not all solutions are the same.
DO Replace your contact lens storage case according to your eye care professional’s directions and the product instructions.
DON’T Reuse – or top off – old lens solution to disinfect your lenses. Discard all of the lens solution after each use, and use fresh solution each time.11
DO Insert contact lenses before applying makeup and remove your lenses before washing off makeup.14
DON’T Cut corners when it comes to lens care habits.
Days, months, years – no matter how long you have been wearing contact lenses, there is a good chance you have heard that there are ways to “bend some of the rules” of contact lens care to save time or money – or both. However, doing so can put your eyes at risk.
MYTH: It’s perfectly fine to reuse contact solution. Throwing out your contact lens solution after each use is just a marketing tactic to get you to buy more.
FACT: Reusing old solution or adding fresh solution to the old solution that is in your existing case diminishes the disinfecting properties of the fresh solution. Lens cases can be a source of microbial contamination. Be sure to follow your eye care professional’s directions and product instructions for replacing your case to help avoid buildup of bacteria and residue.
MYTH: You can wear contacts much longer than the packaging suggests.
FACT: Successful contact lens wear depends on following the instructions. Contact lenses should be discarded and replaced according to the schedule provided by your eye care professional to help ensure a successful, comfortable lens wearing experience. Protein, calcium, lipids and other substances found naturally in your tears can build up on your contact lenses, making them less comfortable.
MYTH: It’s OK to use tap water to clean contact lenses and lens cases. It’s just water, right?
FACT: Even when clean and clear, tap water is not appropriate for cleaning lenses. Tap water does NOT disinfect your contact lenses, and it can contain bacteria, chlorine, minerals and metal particles, which can damage both the lenses and the eyes.
MYTH: You can tell when contact lenses and contact lens cases are dirty just by looking at them.
FACT: Just because the contact lens or lens solution looks clear does not mean it is clean. That’s why it is essential that you clean your contact lenses immediately after removing them and NEVER reuse contact lens solution.
MYTH: It’s OK to swim while wearing contacts lenses as long as you close your eyes.
FACT: Never swim while wearing your contact lenses. All water contains bacteria that can cause eye infections, and water does not disinfect your contact lenses.
MYTH: Cleaning contact lenses takes a long time and involves a difficult process.
FACT: Once you establish a contact lens care routine, proper lens care does not have to be difficult. Remember to pour out the old solution and use fresh solution each time – it only takes a few seconds!
The cornea is the clear protective surface over the front of your eye. When you look at something, light reflects off that object and enters your eye through the cornea. The light then passes through the pupil into the lens, forming an image that is focused on the retina. The retina contains millions of tiny light-sensing nerve cells called rods and cones that send information about that image to your brain.
The cornea is an important part of your ability to see clearly because it refracts, or bends, light as it enters the eye and helps focus it toward the retina. A correctly shaped cornea is round and smooth like a basketball. Light can hit it from any direction and be focused sharply on a single point on the retina. But if your cornea has a steeper curve in one direction – more like a rugby ball than a basketball – light will bend in slightly different directions as it enters the eye. This causes the light to hit the retina in more than one place. This creates astigmatism, a condition that makes images look blurry, fuzzy or slightly distorted.
Refraction is when light is bent, or its direction is changed by something it passes through. To see light refraction for yourself, pour water into a clear glass and put a straw in the glass. The straw will appear bent or broken at the water’s surface because the light is refracted as it passes through the curved glass and water. The same type of bending happens when light passes through your curved cornea and the vitreous humour, or liquid, in your eye. If the glass, or your cornea, is not smooth and even, the image becomes more distorted and difficult for your brain to decipher.
Many eye health and vision problems occur naturally with age and with no obvious signs or symptoms. The most important way to prevent eye health issues from becoming unmanageable is by scheduling an annual exam with your eye doctor. More than 80 percent of all visual impairment is treatable, preventable or curable, so early diagnosis and care are critical.
In addition to regular eye exams, the following habits can help maintain healthy eyes and vision:
- Select the right glasses or contact lenses to correct visual impairment
- Always disinfect and replace contact lenses as recommended
- Wash hands regularly and thoroughly before touching eyes or inserting and removing contact lenses
- Wear sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of UVA/UVB rays
- Avoid smoking
- Maintain a healthy weight to avoid systemic conditions – such as diabetes – that may lead to impaired vision
- Monitor chronic health conditions (e.g. diabetes and high blood pressure)
- Eat a healthy diet filled with dark leafy greens, like kale and spinach, and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, including salmon and tuna
- Include dietary supplements that boost your intake of vitamins and minerals that support eye health