Contact lenses: how to use them properly

thumb_129_doctor_pictureContact lenses, disposable or fixed, are worn daily by hundreds of thousands of people around the world. However, many people do not use them correctly and make common mistakes in terms of cleaning and conservation of the lenses. Prof. Paolo Vinciguerra, Head of Ophthalmology at Humanitas Research Hospital, provides valuable advice for those who have to wear contact lenses.

How should contact lenses be stored?

“When storing the contact lenses, you must replace the solution and not top up the present one. A few hours after they come in contact with the liquid, the bacteria form a biofilm that reduces the effectiveness of antibacterial agents and solutions, which can later affect this sort of film. Just adding new fluid means we are thereby allowing bacteria to proliferate unmolested, in spite of the disinfectants. Therefore, it is necessary to empty the container, wash it carefully, leave it to dry upside down and then refill it with liquid.”

Can contact lenses be washed with tap water?

shower-1502736_1920Tap water should never be used: tap water can contain pests such as formidable keratistis
and other amoebae acanthamoeba responsible for very serious diseases of the cornea, and it is generally not suitable due to the quantity of salts and the absence of specific disinfectants.”

Can we take a shower with our contact lenses?

“It is never advisable to take a shower with contact lenses for the same reasons why we should not use tap water to wash them.”

Is swimming with contact lenses safe?

“Although they allow us to see well, one should avoid wearing lenses when swimming, even at sea. The risk, once again, is to come into contact with bacteria and amoebas that can lead to serious infections or irritants of various types. It is best to use them with a diving mask” says Dr. Vinciguerra.

Can we sleep with our contact lenses?

“This is not recommended. Wearing contact lenses while sleeping can cause micro-abrasions that pave the way for bacteria, which can colonize the cornea and increase the risk for infections all over the eye. This habit also reduces the normal oxygen supply to the corneal tissue. Finally, the cornea desensitizes and this limits your ability to understand that something is wrong until it is too late to act effectively and not have permanent damage.”

When is it advisable to replace contact lenses?

“Apart from those of daily use, for the others, the right interval varies according to the type. In general, we should not wait until the expiration date.”

Handle contact lenses with clean hands!

“It is essential to always wash your hands for at least 20 seconds using soap and making sure to rinse it away entirely before handling your lenses. The germs found on hands can stay on the lens and cause infections and irritations. Ideally, it is recommended to use soap with disinfectant properties, such as the surgical ones sold in pharmacies. The hands should always be dried off with a clean towel to prevent contact with tap water.”

Is it better to wear glasses or lenses?

“It is advised to always have your glasses with you in order to avoid having to wear lenses, which may bother you in case you lose a lens” concludes the specialist.


Humanitas is a highly specialized Hospital, Research and Teaching Center. Built around centers for the prevention and treatment of cancer, cardiovascular, neurological and orthopedic disease – together with an Ophthalmic Center and a Fertility Center – Humanitas also operates a highly specialised Emergency Department.