There's no doubt that contact lens wearers everywhere shuddered when they heard a story spreading around the Internet about a student who left her contacts in for six months and went blind from an eyeball-eating amoeba. While the story's origin may be questionable, this type of eye infection can happen — though it is extremely rare and preventable if you follow the right hygiene practices.
- Always wash your hands before inserting or removing your lenses, and be sure to store them properly. Touching your eye with germy fingers is a great way to get a cold or nasty eye infection such as pinkeye.
- If you suffer from allergies, wearing contacts can make your symptoms worse since allergens like pollen and dander can stick to the lenses. Wear glasses if your symptoms are really bad, and if you can't part from your contacts (I don't blame you), be sure to clean them thoroughly or replace disposable lenses more often.
- Keep eye drops in your purse or desk at all times, especially if you work at a computer. Not only are dry lenses uncomfortable and difficult to see out of, but they could potentially scratch your eye. Use those drops as often as you need. If you have watery or itchy eyes caused by allergies, look for drops containing antihistamines.
- Only wear your lenses as long as you are directed to. Lenses meant to be worn for only two to four weeks should not be worn for two months. Dirt and protein deposits accumulate on the lenses and can cause irritation, eye infections, or permanent damage to your eyes.
- Avoid swimming and showering with your contacts. Contact lenses absorb anything, which can include parasites and bacteria, putting you at risk for infections or worse.
- Give your eyes a rest from contacts. I know it's difficult to break the habit if you wear them every waking moment of every day, but your eyes need a chance to breathe. Choose lenses that are highly breathable, and wear your glasses a few hours a day instead so oxygen can reach your corneas.
- Be good about keeping yearly appointments with your eye doctor to have your eyes checked and to see if you need a change to your prescription. Not only will you not be able to purchase contacts without an up-to-date prescription, but if your eyes become weaker, you won't be able to see as well with your old contacts, which isn't safe and can cause headaches.