To start with, do not ever sleep with your contact lenses on. If you have worn disposable lenses past there prescribed date, slept with contact lenses on, or went for a dip in a pool whether your own or a community pool without first removing your contact lenses, then it is time to start rethinking your habits. Here is why, first off poor choices with contact lens use can lead to serious eye infections in some cases.

About 80-90 percent of contact lens related eye infections are bacterial and many of them involve a common and difficult to treat bacteria known as staphylococcus aureus. However the most severe of these infections is pseudomonas aeruginosa, which is a fast growing bacterial infection which may lead to a hole in your cornea. Patients who obtain this infection unfortunately have a very high chance of permanent scarring and vision loss. Beyond bacteria there are other infections that may occur, such as that of fungal ones, like aspergillus or fusariam which are potential threats to your vision. These are likely caused by trauma to the eye or even poor contact lens hygiene, which can and most likely will lead to fungal infections.

However there is good news, you can avoid all of these health problems by knowing what to watch for and practicing proper contact lens habits.

Watch for signs of infections!

These signs include painful eyes, red eyes, watering eyes, discharge, blurred vision, light sensitivity or even the sensation that a foreign body is in your eye. If you have any of these symptoms it is fundamentally important to be examined by a doctor immediately.

Water is a no!

Always practice and remember the rule of the three “S’s”, don’t shower, sleep or swim with your contact lenses on. As you can note, two of the rules apply to the use of water. This is because water may contain pathogens or pollutants that may lead to infections (such as those mentioned above), so it is important to be careful not to get any water in your eye when wearing contact lenses. Swimming on the other hand presents a set of specific problems. Lakes, hot tubes and pools can and usually contain bacteria and microbes that can produce a serious infection, such as that of acanthamoeba keratitis, which is caused by a free swimming amoeba. This type of infection can lead to blindness or visual impairment.

Don’t sleep in your contact lenses!

First, don’t wear lenses beyond their recommended, replacement schedule. Secondly, do not sleep in lenses. One of the biggest problems with over-wearing or sleeping in the lenses is you’re getting less oxygen to the eye. This can lead to infection, inflammation and abrasions to the eye because the added oxidative stress makes the eye more vulnerable to various bacteria and pathogens. If you wear soft contact lenses, pay special attention. These lenses create the ideal condition for pathogens to grow, like a petri dish. Daily disposable soft lenses have helped reduce the risk of complications, but healthy habits are still extremely important.

Store and disinfect your lenses properly!

Some people tend to reuse their cleaning and storage solution. Or they “top it off” instead of adding fresh solution to their lens cases every day. The minor savings you get from this are not worth a potential infection. Throw out your solution and start fresh daily. And be sure to replace lens cases once every three months. Using a case for too long can add to pathogen buildup.

Try a hydrogen peroxide solution!

Storing contact lenses in a hydrogen peroxide-based solution is an efficient way to reduce bacteria. These solutions, available in stores, are especially effective at cleaning lenses. Various brands may have different directions for soaking the lenses, so be sure to check labels. Usually the recommendation is to store the lenses in the solution for at least four to six hours. It’s safe enough to use every day. Make sure you do not put the solution directly into the eye, or rinse the lenses without the proper supplied case.