Contact lenses: focus on hygiene

Cleaning is particularly important with soft contact lenses in order to prevent eye diseases

Store correctly: To keep the contact lenses clean in the jar, it is advisable to clean the container regularly with a saline solution

© Getty Images / Guido Mieth

Proper hygiene is crucial

Soft contact lenses carry an increased risk of bacterial inflammation in the eye. "Its surface is structured like a sponge. Microorganisms find good conditions to grow in the warm, humid climate," explains master optician Christian Müller from Mülheim an der Ruhr. A small crack in the cornea is enough for pathogens such as acanthamoeba, which occur in tap water, to penetrate.

How to keep your lenses clean

Always wash your hands beforehand. "The best care system fails if the lenses are touched with dirty fingers," says Müller. After removing it from the eye, wet the lens with cleaning fluid and rub it off. Change the fluid each time you use it, regularly clean the container with saline and replace it at least every three months.

This helps with dry, sensitive eyes

"If the eyes are red, dry or itchy, this indicates an intolerance of the care product and is often not due to the lens itself," explains Karsten Pfeiffer, contact lens specialist at the University Eye Clinic in Marburg. It is best to seek advice and not experiment yourself.

Your eyes may also be too dry. Then tear substitutes can help. "They shouldn't contain any preservatives," says pharmacist Dr. Gabriele Röscheisen-Pfeifer from Oldenburg. She advises buying the preparations in the pharmacy. "Many eye drops are not registered as medicinal products, but fall under the term medical product, in which the ingredients do not have to be declared in the same way."

Medicines such as antidepressants and beta blockers can also cause dry eyes. Discuss long-term humidification therapy with your ophthalmologist.

Hard lenses as an alternative

"If someone wants to wear contact lenses for the rest of their life, then hard ones are best for them," says Müller. With their smooth surface, they pose a significantly lower risk of inflammation. Only the longer time to get used to it is a disadvantage. "Anyone who switches between contact lenses and glasses should use soft contact lenses."

Tip for sporty people: always wear hard lenses and switch to soft daily lenses when exercising. Hard lenses are lost faster when moving, the financial loss is greater.

If you opt for soft daily lenses, you dispose of the lenses in the evening and save yourself the cleaning process. Caution: also have daily lenses properly adjusted. Anyone who buys their visual aids in the pharmacy is guaranteed to acquire a suitable and safe product.

Check regularly

"The fatal thing with soft contact lenses is that you often do not notice immediately if something is wrong. That is why it is important to have the lenses and eyes checked every six months," says Christian Müller, Vice President of the Optometrists' Association in North Rhine-Westphalia. "Through diet, environmental influences and natural aging, the tear film changes over the course of life and the contact lens becomes dry." If the wearing comfort suffers, you should have the contact lenses or the care products adjusted by an optician.

Choosing the right detergent

Contact lens wearers can choose from a variety of lenses. All-in-one products are practical. However, they often contain preservatives that can irritate the eyes and trigger allergies. Hydrogen peroxide solutions do not contain preservatives, but usually have to be neutralized in an extra step.

In addition to the type of lens, the material, the surface of the eye and the tear film determine which care is suitable. "Here you should definitely listen to the advice of the optician and then only use this product," says Karsten Pfeiffer. Anyone who combines different products must expect irritation to the eye.

Also important: "Only use care products during the period that is printed on the label," says the optician. And because even the best care products do not remove all residues, the maximum wearing time of the lens should never be exceeded.