It is estimated that an astounding 45 million people in the United States wear contact lenses. However, the vast majority of users don’t use their lenses properly. The outcomes can be harmful to both your lenses and your overall eye health, potentially leading to a serious eye infection, among other risks.

Showering and sleeping while wearing contact lenses are just a couple of well-known examples of what not to do, but do you actually know why? How many of our daily activities are dangerous for our eye health, and what are some important steps necessary to prioritize our eye care that we may be neglecting? Dr. Gloria B. Chiu, OD, FAAO, FSLS, Associate Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology, at the USC Roski Eye Institute, Department of Ophthalmology, is back to highlight the biggest Don’ts of proper contact lens care and to answer some of these important questions. Last week, Dr. Chiu spotlighted some of the big Do’s of contact lenses. Read on to learn what she recommends not to do.

Contact Lenses Don’ts:

Don’t Sleep in Your Contacts

Unless you have been instructed by a doctor, you should never go to sleep while wearing contacts. When your eyes are closed at night, your tears don’t bring as much oxygen to your eyes compared to when they are open. Oxygen and hydration are necessary in order to ward off bacterial and microbial invasion in your eyes. Sleeping with your lenses in can also cause infections from viruses, bacteria, amoebae, or fungi.

Don’t Overuse Your Contact Lenses

You should never wear your contact lenses for longer than their intended use. Disposable, single-use contact lenses should only be worn for one day, then thrown away at night. Never re-wear your disposable contact lenses. Reusable contact lenses, on the other hand, can be worn for up to 30-90 days, depending on the brand. Similar to disposable contact lenses, reusable lenses should still be removed at night. Reusable contact lenses should be thoroughly cleaned after each use, and then you may wear the same pair the following day, up until their maximum allowable use. Most rigid and specialty contact lenses can be worn on a daily basis for longer periods of time, as determined by your doctor.

Don’t Shower or Swim in Your Contacts

Thinking about hopping into the shower or the swimming pool with your lenses in? Think again! This can cause eye irritation due to lenses sticking to your eyes and dry eye syndrome, especially when swimming in a chlorinated pool or saltwater. Dirty water or soap can enter your eyes when showering or swimming, and wearing contact lenses can disrupt your eyes’ natural defenses. Your lenses and the dirt under them can then cause little abrasions in your cornea, making it easier for microbes to enter. Showing with your lenses in can also potentially put you at risk for contracting a parasite that infects your cornea, causing a condition called acanthamoeba keratitis. This infection can result in scarring, which can impair eyesight or even cause vision loss.

Don’t Ignore Signs of an Infection or Irritation

Not taking proper care of your contact lenses can lead to an infection or injury. It’s important not to ignore any signs of an infection or irritation. If you start to experience pain, changes to your vision, redness, blurry vision, discharge, unusually watery eyes, or light sensitivity, you may require medical attention. Contact your eye doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.

Don’t Share Your Contact Lenses

It may be tempting to borrow a family member’s contact lenses if you’ve just run out, but you should never share your contact lenses with others, or wear someone else’s. This can spread bacteria, or cause problems from wearing the wrong prescription, such as headaches.

Don’t Use Topical Medications on Top of Lenses

Do not use any type of topical medication while wearing contact lenses, unless instructed to do so. Topical medications such as allergy drops, antibiotics, topic steroids, and eye drops not specified for contact lens wearers should all be avoided while wearing contacts. Certain topical medications may damage the lens, which could potentially scratch your eye.

Don’t Clean Lenses with Saliva

While we hope this one is obvious, you’d be surprised to learn that it has been done before! Never clean your contact lenses with saliva, as it can transfer germs from your mouth directly into your eye and possibly lead to infection.

Don’t Use Expired Products

Do not use expired contact lens cleaning products or solutions. Expiration can result in contamination of the solution, which may lead to severe infection, vision loss, or blindness.

Don’t Use Lenses if They Look Damaged

Never put contact lenses in your eyes if they look damaged. Wearing a damaged lens could cause discomfort, irritation, or injury to your eye. If a lens is torn or becomes torn while you’re wearing it, it won’t properly fit over the eye and your vision may become blurry or the lens could become trapped in your eye.

Don’t Wear Lenses That Cause Discomfort

It’s paramount not to ignore signs of discomfort, as it may indicate a bigger problem, such as a scratch, incorrect fit, or even allergies. If you feel any discomfort while wearing your contact lenses, remove the lens and contact your doctor.

Don’t Always Trust the Internet!

Remember, the internet is not your doctor. If you have questions about your lenses, contact your doctor directly as some of the information online may be misleading or incorrect, and lead to harming your eyes or damaging your lenses.

Healthy Eye Care Awaits

Whether you’ve been wearing contacts since you were younger or are just starting out, it’s important to pay proper attention to your lenses and your eye health. Otherwise, you may face a number of unnecessary risks! Armed with a fresh understanding of some big Do’s and Don’ts of contact lenses, there’s nothing but healthy eye care ahead!

For more information on keratoconus and available treatment options, visit our website and follow Living with KC on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!