If you wear contacts, you’ve probably heard that it’s not safe to reuse them. Contact lenses are disposable medical devices intended only to be used once.
However, studies show that the odds of getting an eye infection from reusing contact lenses are relatively low, and many people have been doing this safely for years without any problems at all.
Still, there are ways to make it even safer when you choose to reuse your contacts, and there are plenty of other factors related to wearing contacts in general that can raise your risk of eye infection as well.
What Are Contact Lenses?
Contacts are small, thin disks that are placed on the eye to correct vision. They fit over the iris, or colored part of the eye, and sit just on top of the cornea. The contact lens is designed to mimic how our natural lens bends and focuses light onto our retina.
This helps us see clearly without glasses. Contacts may be made out of hard plastic or soft silicone material, depending on your needs and lifestyle choices.
What are some common issues with contact lenses?
Contact lenses are a popular way to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. They can be used for about a year before it is necessary to replace them with a new pair.
One issue with contact lenses is that they need to be kept moist in order to remain effective. This means you can’t use tap water or store them in containers that contain moisture, like some types of contact lens cases.
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Do we use lens cases when disposing of used lenses?
If you reuse contact lenses, it is important to use a lens case when disposing of them. If you do not use a lens case, the contact lens can be left sticking out on your finger and exposed to possible contamination.
Furthermore, when you expose the contact lens to contaminants, there is a higher chance of eye infection or other eye diseases.
What Is Acanthamoeba Keratitis (AK)?
Acanthamoeba Keratitis (AK) is a rare but serious eye infection that can occur when a contact lens wearer has been exposed to Acanthamoeba, the single-celled organism that can live in water or soil.
Symptoms include pain, redness, irritation, and swelling and may not be noticeable for several weeks. AK can cause permanent blindness if left untreated.
What causes AK?
Eye infections can arise when contact lenses are not properly cleaned and disinfected. Acanthamoeba keratitis, a rare but serious infection that can lead to blindness, is caused by the amoeba Acanthamoeba polyphaga.
The amoeba enters the eye through contact lens wear if the lenses are not disinfected following reuse and then enter the cornea. AK typically causes a red eye with severe pain, sensitivity to light, and decreased vision.
Can I get an AK without using a contact lens case?
It is possible for someone to get an AK without using contact lens cases. In fact, contact lens cases are not the only way in which people can contract the disease.
Contact lenses may be contaminated during the process of manufacturing or during their insertion into the eye and are not properly cleaned prior to use.
When a contaminated lens is placed on the eye it does not matter whether it touches the surface of the cornea or whether it resides within a protective case.
How do I prevent getting AK?
AK is not a condition that is caused by something you can directly control, but there are steps you can take to reduce your risk.
First and foremost, never wear contact lenses for more than 12 hours at a time. Your eyes need at least 8 hours to rest in order to maintain their health. If you do wear them overnight, make sure they’re always disinfected before putting them back in your eyes.
As well, try to avoid wearing the same pair of contacts every day – this increases the likelihood that you will develop irritation or infection.
Finally, always wash your hands before handling or using your contacts; doing so will help prevent bacteria from spreading around the eye area.
🔵WebMD (2005-2022) Contact Lenses and Eye Infections (Available On):https://www.webmd.com/eye-health/contact-lenses-eye-infections
🔵Cleveland Clinic (n.d) Avoid These Eye Infections From Bad Contact Lens Habits (Available On):https://health.clevelandclinic.org/avoid-eye-infections-bad-contact-lens-habits/
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