If you are one of the 26 million people in the United States who wear contact lenses, then you can thank Leonardo da Vinci for coming up with the idea. But it was 500 years after da Vinci conceived the idea that a contact lens was designed and developed that the average person could afford.
As contacts continue to evolve, their popularity grows. They are more comfortable and affordable than ever before. As a result, some 95 percent of people are able to wear contacts lenses – as long as they are motivated to take care of the lenses and their eyes.
The people who are successful with contact lenses are those who are willing to put up with some discomfort while their eyes adjust to the lenses. They are willing to invest the time to learn to insert them properly, as well as clean and care for them. You must abide by the adjustment schedule, gradually building up the time you leave them in. And you must be committed to getting regular eye check-ups.
Once you get used to your contacts, the world will open up to you. No longer hampered by eyeglasses, you can freely take part in athletics – even swimming if you have appropriate goggles.
But contact lenses are a responsibility. You need to be on the lookout for problems and report them to your doctor at the first sign of trouble. That first sign might be blurry vision. When you remove your contact lenses and put on your glasses, your vision will probably be blurry for a couple of minutes. This is normal. But if it goes on longer than that, you should see your eye doctor.
Some people who wear soft contact lenses are at risk of developing a corneal ulcer or an ocular infection. Symptoms include acute pain and redness in the eye. Your doctor will tell you how to care for the damaged eye – and it’s important that you follow the instructions carefully. You do not want to take any chances of permanently damaging your vision.
Another common problem is red eyes, which can be the result of tiredness, dryness or allergies. Even more serious, it could be a case of conjunctivitis. If your eyes are red, try the simple solutions first. Remove your contact lenses. Run a wash cloth under cool water and lay it over your eyes.
You can also try natural tears to counter the dryness. If the problem appears to be allergies, see the doctor about getting a topical antihistamine. It may be tempting to reach for an over-the-counter drop, like Visine, but these often treat the symptom and do not solve the problem.
If you have discharge coming from your eye, your doctor may diagnose viral conjunctivitis. If this occurs, relax. This condition, also called pink eye, can be compared to having a cold in your eye. In this case, use artificial tears, cool compresses and drink plenty of water to ease the symptoms. If the doctor diagnoses your condition as bacterial conjunctivitis, you’ll need an antibiotic.
Always use your common sense. Take out your contact lenses and switch back to eye glasses until the doctor clears you to go back to contacts. When you have a problem with one or both eyes remove your contacts and call your doctor if:
Your eye continues to tear.
Your eye is inflamed or very red.
It hurts when you put your contacts in, remove them or while you’re wearing them.
You are sensitive to the light.
You see a rainbow or halo when you look at the lights.
You have blurred vision.
As a general rule, contact lens wearers need to be more careful with their hygiene than others. Here are some ways to keep you and your eyes healthy:
Wash and dry your hands before putting your contact lenses in or taking them out.
Be diligent about getting your eyes checked.
Keep a pair of glasses as a backup in case you can’t wear your contact lenses.
Put on makeup after you’ve inserted your lenses.
Keep a contact lens case with you so you can safely remove them at any time.
Use the commercial solutions recommended by your eye doctor.
Keep your hands away from your eyes and never rub them, especially when you’re wearing contact lenses.
Take your contact lenses out when you are sleeping, unless your doctor specifically allows it.
Use formulated wetting agents, not tap water or saliva.
Always use a disinfectant before reinserting your contact lenses.
Replace your contacts as recommended by the manufacturer.
Remember, with proper care you can free yourself from the hassle of eyeglasses and enjoy clear, healthy vision for life.
Stockton Mark is a freelance writer who writes about health, eye care and specific products such as contact lenses