Following the correct hygiene procedures is crucial to successful and safe contact lens wear. Comfort and performance will be affected if you extend the life of your lenses beyond the recommended replacement interval or if they are not cleaned and disinfected with the correct solutions. Wearing dirty or damaged lenses can put your eye health at risk. If you are in doubt about which solutions to use with your lenses then ask your optician.
The aim of disinfecting and cleaning solutions is to reduce the number of microorganisms that accumulate on the lenses with wear, therefore minimising the risk of infection with contact lenses.
Wash Your Hands
Before handling contact lenses, wash your hands with an antibacterial soap, free from perfumes and moisturisers. Rinse thoroughly to ensure there is no soap residue remaining on your fingers, then dry them with a lint free towel.
Stages of Cleaning
Contact lenses should ideally be cleaned with a cleaner then rinsed with saline, before soaking in a disinfecting solution. If the lenses are changed frequently (e.g. 2 weekly or monthly disposable) then an ‘all in one’ multipurpose solution, alone may suffice providing the lenses are given a rub and rinse with the solution before insertion and upon removal, before storage.
To minimise the risk of infection, the solution and lens case should be changed every month. Make sure you empty the lens case of solution after each use, clean and air-dry it, then replace with fresh solution each time the lenses need to be stored.
Types of Contact Lens Solutions
There are many types and brands of contact lens solution, each with different ingredients and for specific lens types. It’s important to use the solution recommended for your contact lenses at the time of your fitting and to read the instructions carefully.
Multipurpose (preserved) solutions such as Renu, Biotrue, Optifree are the simplest and most convenient type of soft contact lens solutions, designed to clean, rub, rinse and store lenses. The minimum storage time to ensure adequate disinfection varies but is generally four to six hours. Occasionally some patients experience mild irritation when combining certain multipurpose solutions with certain soft lenses. If this is suspected, try an alternative solution with a different preservative and if the problem persists, see your eye care practitioner to change to a different lens design or preservative free system.
Hydrogen peroxide solutions provide a preservative free method of disinfection and are useful for people who are sensitive or allergic to preserved solutions. After disinfection, the hydrogen peroxide must be neutralised before contact lenses can be worn, otherwise it can cause a painful ‘chemical burn’ to the eye. This either requires a metallic disc which is incorporated in to the case (e.g. Easysept & Aosept), or a tablet which must be added to the solution (eg Ever Clean & Oxysept 1 step). The minimum storage time is usually around six hours. When hydrogen peroxide solution has been neutralised it will offer no resistance to microorganisms so contact lenses should not be stored for longer than one week in neutralised unpreserved solution. With all preservative free solutions it’s particularly important to follow the instructions to avoid problems.