disinfection of contact lenses

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Contact Lens Disinfection

While contact lens use is common and safe, there can be complications. With normal wear, dirt, protein, bacteria, oils, smoke, lotions and makeup from the hands, can get on the contacts. These normal occurrences, coupled with improper lens protocol, can lead to complications. Complications such as decrease oxygen to the eye, poor fit, poor vision, swelling of the eye, allergic reaction and infection. Proper cleaning and disinfecting of the contact lenses can prevent or decrease the occurrence of such problems.

A surfactant cleaner should be used daily. An enzyme cleaner should be used weekly or bi-weekly, using a solution made for the specific type of disinfecting your doctor recommends. No rub cleaners are available and approved by the US FDA, however, many ophthalmologists believe rubbing the lens is an integral part of cleaning, There are many different solutions available, always use what your doctor recommends and do not make changes without consulting him/her first.

Soft contacts must be disinfected every time they are removed and before they are reinserted. Even those contacts made to be left in overnight, should still be disinfected nightly. Obviously, disposable contacts do not need to be disinfected, as they are worn and then thrown away. There are two ways of disinfecting contact lenses, chemically and thermally.


Eye doctors most often recommend this method of disinfecting. Three different solutions and an eye case are required.

  1. Thoroughly wash and rinse hands.
  2. Gently remove right lens as instructed by your doctor.
  3. Cupping your hand place the lens in the “bowl” upturned.
  4. Poor a small amount of the daily cleansing solution in your palm and gently rub off dirt and oils with ONE finger.
  5. Cradling the lens on your fingertips, rinse with the sterile saline solution.
  6. Fill your contact lens case with the prescribed disinfectant solution and place the right contact lens in the right side of the contact case. (If it is not already, you may find it helpful to mark the case.)
  7. Repeat steps for the left eye.
Ideally lenses should be soaked overnight, but a minimum time will be prescribed by your doctor. Before re-inserting the lens, wash hands thoroughly and rinse the lens with the sterile solution. The case should be rinsed with water and dried


In the case of thermal disinfection, a contact case, a thermal unit and special solutions made for thermal application must be used.

  1. Follow steps 1-6 in chemical disinfection for both eyes.
  2. After placing the lenses in the lens case, screw on the lids and place the case in the heating unit.
  3. Be sure the unit is plugged in and turned on.
  4. The heating unit usually takes 40 minutes, however follow the manufacturer or doctor recommendation,
  5. Once cool, wash hands thoroughly, and rinse the lenses with a sterile solution, before re-inserting.
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