Contact Lens Discomfort

by Dr. John Rumpakis

Today, almost every person you meet on the street wears glasses or contact lens for corrective vision. And often, they will have a story to tell you about their journey to find that comfortable solution to clear vision.

For contact lens users, probably the equation is a wee bit more complicated, because you need to get the right type of lens and the right disinfecting lens solutions as trusty companions for that comfortable journey to uncompromised vision.

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Sounds easy? On the contrary, a global survey conducted to determine why people stop wearing contact lenses revealed that the leading cause for discontinuation across all regions of the world was discomfort. Nearly 50% of all individuals stopped wearing their contact lenses due to discomfort.

Among the top factors cited by the respondents in the Asia Pacific region were comfort/fit (41.9%) and fear of eye infections (17.5%). Other contact lens dropouts cite lens cleaning regimens as a factor that contributes to discontinuation. In fact, the Asia/Pacific rim ranked highest with a 31% dropout rate for individuals who stopped wearing their lenses within the first year of getting them.

These individuals could have been successful contact lens wearers if they or their eye care professionals had taken some very simple steps to help prevent discomfort or alleviate their fear of infections. Many of these factors can easily be resolved with the right understanding and knowledge of the science of comfort in the solution which contributes towards comfortable eyes.

Science of Comfort?

These 2 questions will lead you to a conclusion as to why there is discomfort.

1. Are you using the right type of lenses that's suitable for your eyes and your daily needs?

2. Are you using your lens for extended periods of time, beyond the hours your disinfecting solutions can continue to provide comfort?

3. Most importantly, are you using the right disinfecting solution?

These days, with easy accessibility to opticians and optometrists, finding the right contact lens is not much of a challenge. But, what often remain outside the radar of consultation by eye care professionals is the disinfecting solution that should go hand in glove with the right contact lens.

Because contact lens solutions do not come with a prescription, you may not have enough knowledge to select an appropriate solution. You may not fully understand the science in the solution for optimal eye comfort. Some of you walk into a retail outlet and pick up a product without much consideration for compatibility to your lens. This is why getting the needed knowledge on proper disinfecting solutions for contact lens is critical.

Causes of Discomfort

The 3 most common causes of discomfort experienced by contact lens users are :

1. Not matching the solution with a specific brand and type of lenses.

Certain solutions are best used when paired with certain types of lenses to avoid 'staining' of the eye. Therefore, when your eye care professional recommends you the best type of lenses to suit your needs, it is important to also discuss with him the appropriate solution, rather than going for the best promotion.

You should discuss with your optician and optometrist on a solution with good disinfecting capability (antibacterial and antifungal) and less staining that matches your contact lens type, especially silicone hydrogel contact lenses. More often than not, the best price may not always be the best deal for your eyes!

2. Not using the appropriate solution for the specific characteristics of your eyes.

It is important to note that just as we are made differently, so are our eyes. Some of you may feel your eyes stinging or drying after a few hours of using your contact lens, and that is perhaps because you naturally have dry eyes. So, when choosing your solution, it is important to understand the composition of the solution.

Seek out one that best suits your eyes and provides day-long moisturising and effective lens cleaning characteristics. Discuss with your optician and optometrist what their recommendation is for the appropriate type of contact lens solution is before committing to a brand.

3. Not considering your needs/daily usage of lenses.

Once upon a time, your optician and optometrist would advise you not to use your contact lens for more than 8 hours. However, let's face it. These days, our schedules can no longer accommodate this because on the average, people wear contact lens for up to 13 hours a day. You can't really remove your contact lens in the midst of an important meeting and switch to your spectacles.

Most solutions provide moisturising effects up to eight hours, but thanks to science and technology, certain contact lens solutions have since been specifically developed to provide comfort to those who wear their lenses for long hours (up to 14 hours), leaving your eyes comfortable even at the end of the day.

Moisture For Maximum Comfort

Generally, the best contact lens solutions should fulfill all of the following purposes. Such solutions are usually backed by research and development.

* Maintains moisture and wettability for comfort

* Removes protein and lipid deposits

* Disinfection (antibacterial and antifungal respectively) and compatibility, with minimal staining

For the best comfort, solutions should provide moisturising effects up to 14 hours. This is a feature that is highly necessary, seeing that we observe such long hours at work.

An optimal contact lens solution should contain a reconditioning agent which allows a dual action of reconditioning and retaining the moisture on the lens surface on a daily basis. Such a long lasting 'wetting system' allows a thin layer of moisture by working with your natural tears to be maintained on the lens surface throughout the lens wearing day.

Good disinfection capabilities must also address antibacterial and antifungal build-ups. There must also be good biocompatibility with soft contact lenses and newer contact lens materials like silicone hydrogel.

These combined features in disinfecting solutions can greatly reduce dropout rates due to discomfort and address the fear factor of infection. Inevitably, a good disinfecting solution (combined with right consumer behaviour) does keep eye infections at bay!

The final important point to note is the cleaning effect of the disinfecting solution. The solution should be able to reduce protein and lipid build-up when the lenses are soaked in the lens case.

Thus, a good multi-purpose disinfecting solution (MPDS) should have good moisturising effect for greater comfort, effective disinfecting and bio-compatibility with most soft contact lens and silicone hydrogel lenses, and effective cleaning for a cleaner and comfortable wear.

The Right Steps

Here are 10 tips to help you observe good usage and hygiene habits for optimal eye care.

1. Visit your eye care provider for regular eye exams.

2. Wear and replace contact lenses according to the schedule prescribed by your eye care provider.

3. Remove contact lenses before any activity involving contact with water, including showering, using a hot tub, or swimming.

4. Wash hands with soap and water. Dry your hands before handling contact lenses.

5. Clean contact lenses according to the manufacturer's guidelines and instructions from your eye care provider.

6. Use the right disinfecting solutions for your lens. Use fresh cleaning or disinfecting solution each time lenses are cleaned and stored. Never reuse or top-up old solution.

7. Never use saline solution and re-wetting drops to disinfect lenses. Neither product is an effective or approved disinfectant.

8. Store reusable lenses in the proper storage case and replace storage cases each time a new bottle of solution is used or at least once every three months.

9. Rinse storage cases with sterile contact lens solution (never use tap water) and leave open to dry after each use.

10. Last by not least, follow your eye care professional's recommendation on the appropriate contact lens solution to match the specific type of contact lenses that you are wearing.

Do not shop for solutions based on price as not all contact solutions are able to provide the cleaning, disinfection, and comfort required for the best contact lens wearing experience.

Contact lenses can help you see more clearly and make you feel better about yourself. So now that you have the necessary knowledge, enjoy many years as a contact lens users... comfortably!

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