Contact lenses are chosen for their subtle design. Many people find them to be more convenient than glasses.
Contact lenses do comes with more risks than glasses. An improper glasses routine usually just risks potentially damaging the glasses, whereas an improper contact lenses routine can genuinely harm your eyes. (Learn More)
Most contact lenses have a wearing schedule, meaning you should only wear them for a set period of the day. Most people know not to wear them while sleeping.
There are other behaviors to avoid while wearing contacts. Exposing them to water can cause big issues, as can failing to wear protective wear during some sport activities. (Learn More)
Whether contacts are safe for children is a big question, and it usually comes down to a matter of maturity. The FDA released a guide to help guardians determine if their child might be ready for contacts and the proper way to educate children on safe use. (Learn More)
Whether maintaining a proper routine and avoiding certain activities make contact lenses too limiting for you is a personal choice. If you don’t want to follow a care regime, glasses tend to be safer and therefore should probably be your default option.
At the same time, the risks of contacts are manageable. If you want to wear them, make sure you follow the recommended procedures and safety guidelines. (Learn More)
The Downside of Contact Lenses
Preferred by many for their subtle design compared to glasses, contact lenses have many advantages. Doctors emphasize that they must be used carefully.
Contact lenses are considered by many to be more convenient than glasses. They can be put in the eyes and largely left alone for the majority of the day. While they are indeed more convenient than glasses in some ways, it is very important to take care of contact lenses properly.
Glasses can sometimes be fragile, but if they are mishandled, they simply need to be replaced. The lenses of most modern glasses do not shatter, so there is little chance for them to hurt the eyes.
Misused contact lenses can sometimes cause much more serious harm to a user.
Things to Avoid While Wearing Contacts
There are several behaviors that should be avoided when wearing contacts.
One that most people are aware of is sleeping. Sleeping with contacts can generally cause a host of problems. Most contact lenses come with a wearing schedule, where you are only supposed to wear the lenses for a set amount of time.
Overwearing lenses has an increased risk of complications, such as infection. It is very important to regularly and properly clean your lenses and give your eyes a break. If you are unsure how to properly clean and maintain your lenses, talk with your doctor for clarification.
Proper cleaning is important. Some people make the mistake of using tap water to clean their lenses. Most water is not totally germ-free. Using tap water to clean lenses, or swimming (especially in lakes, ponds, or the ocean), while wearing contact lenses can expose your eyes to dangerous and irritating germs.
Avoid getting your contact lenses wet at all, barring during the cleaning process where you will use saline solution. If your lenses do get wet, it may be possible to clean them, but the safest measure is to throw them away and get new ones.
Moving and touching your contact lenses too much can cause problems, both due to bacteria and because it risks pressing them into the eye. You should not rub your eyes when wearing contacts. You should either not wear contacts or wear them under protective goggles when engaging in physical activity like contact sports.
Wearing contact lenses while ill, experiencing allergies, or dealing with any kind of eye symptoms is a bad idea. At best, they can irritate your eyes further. At worst, you may expose your contact lenses to bacteria that you are then putting directly on your eyes.
If you’re unsure whether you should use contacts, it is generally best to be safe and avoid them until you feel better.
Contact Lenses and Children
The FDA has a guide explaining the best practices when it comes to children and contacts. This guide advises that:
- Children not be started on contacts until the ages of 12 to 13.
- Maturity is a big element to proper contact use. Children of the same age may sometimes be able to handle very different levels of responsibility.
- Guardians watch their children’s contact lens routine carefully to spot any issues.
- Children be kept informed about proper contact care and hygiene.
The guide also emphasizes that children should not be allowed to use cheap contact lenses, often sold over the internet. Even zero-powered lenses need to be properly fitted to a person’s eyes for safety reasons. If a store does not require a prescription to buy their contacts, don’t buy them there.
Are Contact Lenses Too Limiting?
For people who are physically active, especially swimmers, contact lenses may seem very limiting.
Contact lenses are generally a perfectly manageable risk for the average user, as long as the proper way to use, clean, and store the lenses is understood.
Contacts are in many ways a double-edged sword. They are subtle, less bulky than glasses, and present an alternative for people who don’t like wearing glasses but need sight correction.
At the same time, they require a level of discipline and maintenance that glasses do not. Some people may find them more trouble than they are worth. Broadly speaking, glasses present fewer risks.
It is up to you if contact lenses will be too limiting for you. You can still work with them, go to most social gatherings, and otherwise live out a normal life within some basic parameters. If you believe you can maintain them, the choice is yours.
If you do not think you can keep up with the recommended routine, do not use contacts. An unhygienic or otherwise unsafe contact routine can put your eyes in more serious danger than most people realize.
What to Know if Your Child Wants Contact Lenses. (August 2017). U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
Healthy Contact Lens Wear and Care: Water & Contact Lenses. (June 2014). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Healthy Contact Lens Wear and Care: Other Complications. (June 2014). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Dos and Don'ts of Contact Lens Wear. (January 2016). The University of Iowa.