Health Center - Eye Health

Protecting your eyes includes more than just wearing sunglasses. In addition to shielding yourself from damaging UV rays, your dietary choices and other daily habits can greatly affect your eye health. Get tips for fending off age-related problems and other damaging eye conditions.

Contact Lenses: Tips for Proper Wear and Care

woman putting in contact lensesMillions of American adults and children wear contact lenses and enjoy the freedom and comforts they bring, from being able to play tennis with clear sight to going on a first date without glasses. But a survey conducted at UT Southwestern Medical Center unveiled some disturbing news: Only 2 percent of contact lens wearers follow all the rules for safe use.

Some of the biggest violations include swimming or showering with contacts; wearing lenses longer than recommended before replacing them; topping off disinfectant in the lens case rather than switching it out with a fresh batch; and (gasp!) using beer, baby oil, lemonade and other inappropriate alternatives to contact solution.

These infringements are dangerous, considering we put contacts right smack up against one of our most precious organs—our eyes. In fact, improper wear and care of contacts can cause a variety of eye infections, possibly leading to partial vision loss or even blindness. Therefore, in exchange for the many benefits contacts offer, proper lens wear and care is imperative.

Setting Your Sights on the Right Contacts

The first step in healthy contact wear for children and adults is getting the right pair, which involves a trip to an eye care professional. This can be an ophthalmologist, optometrist or licensed optician working under an eye doctor.

If you're wondering if your child is ready for contacts, factors to consider include the child's motivation to wear contacts, the child's maturity level and his or her ability to adhere to guidelines for wear and care. Age is one factor in determining whether a child is a good candidate for contacts but not the only one.

More than half of optometrists feel it is appropriate to introduce a child to soft contact lenses between the ages of 10 to 12, with daily disposable contact lenses being the most frequently prescribed contacts for this age group, according to an American Optometric Association study.

Studies show that contacts offer benefits for children beyond just improved vision. Children who wear contacts feel better about their physical appearance, athletic ability and social acceptance compared with kids who wear glasses. These children also report greater comfort with peer perception and greater satisfaction in social activities. For children who initially dislike wearing glasses, contact lenses also make them more confident about their academic performance.

Your eye care professional can help you make this decision and will examine your child to make sure there are no underlying eye conditions or other circumstances that might interfere with successful contact wearing.

Once you've decided to go for contact lenses for yourself or your child, the fitting process will involve working with your eye care professional to find a lens prescription, size and type that maximizes sight, eye health and comfort. More than 75 percent of contact wearers opt for soft contacts, which are made of soft, flexible plastic and allow oxygen to reach the cornea.