Contact lenses

A contact lens is a small, thin, soft or hard plastic lens placed directly on the surface of your eye that can be used instead of glasses to correct visual problems such as short-sightedness.

Why use contact lenses?

Compared to wearing glasses, contact lenses have several advantages including:

  • it’s easier to play sport with contact lenses because they don’t get in the way
  • you have better peripheral (sideways) vision and there are no frames to obstruct your vision
  • contact lenses don’t collect moisture such as rain, snow, condensation or sweat
  • they don’t fog up when you’re wearing a face mask
  • you can wear ordinary sunglasses, goggles or other eyewear without needing special prescription eye wear
  • in some eye conditions they are more effective at correcting vision than glasses
  • cosmetic benefits, such as being able to change the colour of your eyes with coloured contact lenses.

Would contact lenses work for me?

Before using contact lenses, you'll need to see an optometrist for an eye examination. They can advise you about the most suitable type of lenses for your eyes which often are soft contact lenses that are daily disposable or reusable (e.g., weekly, fortnightly, or monthly) depending on your needs. Depending on your eye condition, an optometrist may recommend hard contact lenses instead.

They will also teach you how to use and clean your contact lenses. Taking care of your contact lenses properly helps keep your eyes healthy and reduces the risk of infection.

It’s normal to feel a bit squeamish when you first put them in and take them out, but practice makes perfect and before long it will become second nature.

How to put your contact lenses in

Follow these steps for putting your contact lenses in. It might feel strange at first, but the more often you do it, the easier it gets.

  • Wash and dry your hands.
  • Check the lens is clean. If not use contact lens solution to remove any debris.
  • Check it’s not inside out – it should be bowl-shaped (if it has a lip on the edges, it’s inside out).

  • If you have a different prescription for each eye, make sure you put the correct lens in the correct eye.
  • Stand in front of a mirror.
  • Put the lens on the tip of your index finger and pull the top eyelid up with your other hand.
  • Pull the bottom eyelid down and place the lens in your eye (you don’t need to press it in, it will go into place on its own).
  • Once the lens is in, blink slowly to remove air bubbles and move your eye from side to side to make sure it’s in the right position.
  • Repeat for the other eye.

How to take your contact lenses out

Again, this gets easy to do once you're used to it.

  • Wash and dry your hands.
  • Look straight into a mirror and tilt your head down slightly.
  • Pull your lower eyelid down.
  • Move the lens down to the white of your eye with your finger.
  • Gently pinch the lens out.
  • Repeat for the other eye.

How to look after your contact lenses

Here are some top tips to help you look after your contact lenses and some advice to help you put them in and take them out with ease.

1. Follow the instructions

Make sure you follow the instructions of the contact lens manufacturer and that of your optometrist. The instructions may vary depending on the type you have. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your optometrist.

2. Wash your hands

Before handling your contact lenses, always wash your hands thoroughly with soap then dry them on a lint-free towel to avoid getting an eye infection.

3. Clean your contact lenses carefully

After taking them out, clean them by gently rubbing them with a few drops of contact lens solution or by soaking in a fizzling cleaning solution overnight as directed by your optometrist. If you are cleaning your contact lenses with the fizzling solution, you must wait until all the bubbles (about 6-8 hours) have gone before inserting them back on to your eyes. Do not use saliva or water to clean them as this can cause eye infections.

4. Store your contact lenses properly

Put them carefully into the contact lens case. Make sure the case is clean and filled with fresh contact lens solution. Clean your case regularly and let it air dry.

5. Discard your contact lenses when recommended

Throw your contact lenses out after the recommended period, e.g., if you have monthly lenses, then throw them out one month after opening the contact lenses.

6. Don’t sleep in your contact lenses

Unless advised by your optometrist, don’t sleep with your contact lenses in as this increases the risk of infection.

7. Watch out for water

Take out your contact lenses if you are showering. If you’re swimming, playing water sports or in a hot tub, either take your contact lenses out or wear tight goggles to ensure water doesn't get in. 

8. Put make-up on afterwards

Put your make-up on after putting your contact lenses in to reduce the risk of getting make-up on your lenses or in your eyes.

9. Check the expiry date

Discard your contact lenses and solution if they are past their expiry dates. 

10. Do not overwear your contact lenses

You should stop wearing your contact lenses up to about 14 hours per day and give your eyes a break. Stop wearing your contact lenses immediately if they are damaged or your eye is red and sore. Contact your optometrist for further advice.

11. Spare glasses

Always have a pair of glasses handy just in case you have an issue with your contact lenses and need to put your glasses on.

How to look after eyes while using contact lenses 

Your eyes may be dry when wearing contact lenses. You may wish to lubricate the surface of your eyes using eye drops. Please contact your optometrist for their recommendation before using eye drops. 

Red sore eyes with discharge may be a sign of infection. If you notice this happening, please contact your optometrist for advice as soon as possible. 

Visit your optometrist regularly such as every year for a check-up to make sure your eyes are still suitable for contact lenses. 

References

  1. Contact lenses tips Specsavers, NZ
  2. Caring for your contacts OPSM, NZ
  3. How to care for your contact lenses and eyes WebMD, US
  4. How to clean and care for your reusable contact lenses Acuvue, NZ
  5. Contacts vs. glasses WebMD, US
  6. Guide for contact lens wearers Lentiamo, UK

Reviewed by

Kenny is a therapeutic optometrist at Eye Institute and Counties Manukau District Health Board. Kenny has a clinical background in ocular surface disease & retina, along with research experience in retinal imaging and macular disease.
Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team. Reviewed By: Kenny Wu, Optometrist, Eye Institute, Auckland Last reviewed: 29 Oct 2021