Even though contact lenses have become increasingly low maintenance, contact lens cleaner and disinfectant are still required for some lens design. Regular cleaning helps to preserve the visual quality and comfort of the lenses and helps to protect the wearer from infection and eye damage.
It is important to remember that any introduction of foreign objects to the eye has the potential for problems and as a result contact lens wearers are at higher risk for eye infections and corneal damage. Because of the shape and nature of the contact lens, matter can become trapped under the lens and bacteria can collect between the lens and the eyeball. Trapped objects can scratch or scrape the cornea and minor eye infections can result from bacterial build up.
Fortunately, due to the sensitivity of the eye itself, problems are usually easily detected and can be addressed immediately. Some symptoms of eye problems are redness, itching, irritation or burning, but can also include blurring of vision, light sensitivity or increased drainage. If any of these symptoms are occurring, it is important to remove the lenses and clean them immediately. If the symptoms persist for more than 2 to 3 hours, contact your eye doctor for treatment advice.
The process of disinfecting contact lenses and the cleaning systems available have made dramatic progress as contact lenses have become more ubiquitous in the general population. There are multiple disinfecting options and cleaning systems for contact lenses. The following is a brief overview of these options.
Contact Lens Cleaner
Hydrogen peroxide is often used to clean lenses because of its antimicrobial properties. Hydrogen peroxide eliminates bacterial, viral and fungal germs but requires a neutralizer because it can be irritating and can potentially damage the cornea. The neutralization is accomplished by adding a catalyst either during the cleaning, with a one-step cleansing system, or after the cleaning, with a two-step cleaning system. This catalyst turns the hydrogen peroxide into a gentle oxygen and water solution.
A variety of chemical solutions are often used to clean contact lenses as well. These formulas do not require a neutralizer following cleaning and are therefore consider one-step cleaning processes. Chemical cleaning solutions employ a variety of ingredients to eliminate germs and bacteria and a number of the formulations actually include hydrogen peroxide but include buffering agents to neutralize it within the single step process.
The merits and detriments of the one-step and two-step cleaning options continue to be explored in microbiology and commercial labs. A great deal of the research indicates that the two-step hydrogen peroxide contact lens cleaning is the most effective against the broadest array of germs. However, many of the one-step solutions are capable of eliminating most germs to acceptable levels that provide the wearer with safe, comfortable lenses with ease of use. In chemical cleaning products that use hydrogen peroxide and neutralizer within the same solution, the disparity in effectiveness when contrasted to a two-step process is due to the rapidity of the neutralization of the hydrogen peroxide. Lab testing indicates that simply slowing the neutralization eliminates the remaining bacteria. For many consumers, the one-step cleansing is more than efficient.
Determining which cleaning system is right for you and your brand and type of contact lens is an important discussion to have with your eye care professional and your contact lens manufacturer. Following the guidelines set forth by the manufacture, coupled with your eye doctor’s advice is the best way to ensure that you are maximizing the life and functionality of your contacts, as well as protecting your eye health.