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Ask Dr. Schauer ~ Contact Lenses

“My friend wears contacts and will wear them until they tear. She’s a “penny pincher” and tries to make them last as long as she can. Several times, I had to help her get a piece of the remaining contact out of her eye. This can’t be the correct way to wear contacts?”

This question came in from a listener to our 103.3 US Country weekly chats on Thursday mornings. And the answer seems pretty clear: This is not the correct way to wear contact lenses!

How often should you change your contacts?

There are many different modalities of contact lenses available. The most common soft contact lenses are meant to be disposed once per month. However, daily contact lenses are becoming increasingly popular where you dispose of the contacts every single day.

Of course, there are specialty contact lenses (hard or soft) that may be worn longer than one month before replacing, but these certainly are not the norm.

Your optometrist will know what type of contact that you have been fit with and knows the history of your eyes. Therefore, it is best to follow your doctor’s recommendations on when they should be changed.

What if I can save money by “stretching them out”?

I have plenty of patients who are financially conscious and try to save money by extending their contact lenses. But we have to truly think about whether that is a good idea or not.

Let’s say you wear the same pair of contact lenses for 4 months. That little piece of plastic is in contact with proteins, oils, and other debris that is found in your tear film. Those particles will adhere and stick to the contact lens, and build up over time. Sure, you might take them out once in a while to rinse them in contact lens solution or let them soak overnight. So what if you did the same thing with your underwear? Yes, that sounds disgusting but if you only “rinsed” your underwear once in a while but kept on wearing the same pair for 4 months ….. well, you get the idea!

So to wear the exact same pair of contacts for a very long time just doesn’t seem like a good idea. You are unable to truly wash it and make it clean again. They are meant to be disposed. They will break down and weaken over time to the point of ripping or tearing. The same thing would happen if you tried to reuse a paper plate and use it every day for a month.

Can I damage my eyes by over-wearing my contact lenses?

Yes, you can. Contact lenses are a medical device regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and they should be treated with the respect they deserve.

“Abusing” your contact lenses by not changing them when you are supposed to puts your eyes at great risk. When the lenses get dirty, they can cause eye infections, giant papillary conjunctivitis, or even corneal ulcers (which can permanently damage your vision).

Most complications will require the use of prescription eye drops from your optometrist, along with office visits, in order for them to heal. Many of these eye drops can cost $100 to $200 per bottle. Not to mention you’ll also spend $100 or more in order to pay for the office visit to seek medical attention from your optometrist. You’ve now just blown enough money to purchase a year supply of contact lenses, or more.

So did you really save money in the first place by being frugal with replacing them? Not really. Not to mention, now your eyes hurt and you have to wear your glasses while they heal.

You have one set of eyes. Take care of them.

You only get one shot to do it right. It is unfortunate and sad when contact lens over-wear leads to scarring on the cornea and permanent decreased vision because it is preventable. Your best bet to keep your eyes safe with contact lenses is to wear them exactly as your optometrist has instructed you to do so. It’s just not worth the risk.



Top image by Flickr user n4i (location) used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharelike 4.0 License. Image has been cropped and modified from original. Image rights state commercial use and modifications allowed when image was obtained on 05/11/2018.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.