From the instant that you place the contact lens onto the eye, the contact lens material begins to interact with the mucus, oils and minerals in your tears and your ocular surface. These minerals, mucus and oils start to deposit on the surface of the contacts and decrease the hydrophilic (water-loving) nature of contact lenses leading to contact lenses that are uncomfortable towards the latter part of the day. Additionally, dried contact lenses do not focus light the way they were designed to. You have undoubtedly noticed that when the contacts dry out, vision starts to fluctuate.
Cleaner contact lenses breathe better.
Contact lens deposits decrease the oxygen permeability or breathability of the contact lenses. Think of a window screen that is nice and clean versus one that has dirt and leaves on it. One allows better air flow, doesn’t it? Quick ocular anatomy lesson: the cornea is the front clear window of your eye where the contact lenses sit. The cornea normally does not have any blood vessels running through it allowing us a clear window to see through. However, because of this, the way it gets oxygen is from the air surrounds it. If that airflow is compromised by a piece of plastic, we put that piece of tissue that is starved of oxygen at risk of getting attacked and overwhelmed by bacteria and parasites. This can often lead to irreversible vision loss.
Even the best contact lens care systems do not clean the contact lenses 100%.
We have all experienced the difference in comfort between a brand new pair of contacts versus a 2-week-old, month old (or beyond) pair of contact lenses. The brand new pair always feels better in the eyes, doesn’t it? That points to the fact that even the best contact lens care solutions, enzyme cleaners and peroxide-based systems are unable to fully clean the surface of the contact lenses. As we have established above, cleaner contact lenses not only feel better on the eyes, they perform better and are healthier for the eyes. Additionally, contact lens build-up can irritate the surface of the eye enough that the body can become contact lens intolerant and the eye can no longer comfortably wear contact lenses.
“I can feel when the contact lenses need to be change…” is NOT a reliable indicator
In my clinical practice, I hear this proclamation from my patients all the time. They will often tell me how they have worn contact lenses for X number of years and can usually tell when the contacts need to be changed. Unfortunately, those same patients’ eyes look awful under magnification when I examine them. The fact of the matter is that one very important thing that happens when we start wearing contact lenses is our corneal nerves desensitize. Follow me on a journey back to your first experience trying contacts. I would venture to guess that most of you could feel those pieces of plastic in your eyes for the first few minutes to a few hours of getting them in. Now, you hardly know that they are in your eyes. In fact, I get patients that comment about how they often forget they have contact lenses in at the end of the day. This is a good thing as it allows us to be able to comfortably see well without the limitations of glasses. However, because of the decreased sensitivity of your eyes’ nerves, you literally have to do significantly more damage to your eye before you feel that there is a problem. “By feel” is not the best barometer of when your contact lenses need to be thrown away.
We understand the financial pressures to try and get the most out of a contact lens prescription. However, the price of poor contact lens habits is the very real risk of corneal ulcers, corneal infections, or developing an intolerance to contacts. By developing and using good contact lens habits over the short-term, we ensure that you have the opportunity to comfortably and safely see without glasses for years to come.
Dr. Abhner Wang
Optometrist and Co-owner