You do a lot to stay healthy, such as eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep. You even see your doctor each year for a checkup. You also understand that your eye health matters just as much as your overall health.
But even if you visit an eye doctor every couple of years for an eye exam, you may still experience some common eye issues. One such issue includes conjunctivitis, or pink eye. And if you wear contact lenses, your risk for developing this problem increases significantly.
In the blog below, we discuss everything you need to know about conjunctivitis-especially if you wear contacts.
Common Causes of Pink Eye
Pink eye, medically called “conjunctivitis,” refers to a condition that affects the conjunctiva of your eye. The conjunctiva is the thin, clear tissue that rests over the white portion of your eye. The conjunctiva also lines the inside of your eyelids. The conjunctiva turns pink or red when it becomes irritated and inflamed.
Conjunctivitis typically bothers children, since they are more susceptible to contracting and spreading the condition. However, adults can still develop pink eye. Well-known causes for the condition include:
- Pollen and other allergens
- Shampoo and soap
- STIs (such as gonorrhea and chlamydia)
Additionally, if bacteria or a virus caused someone to develop the condition, he or she can spread it to another individual. For example, if your child got pink eye from a bacterial infection, he or she could spread the condition to you by touching his or her eye and then touching yours.
Contact-Lens-Related Causes of Conjunctivitis
Most people know about the common causes of pink eye. However, most don’t know that contact lenses can cause-or worsen-pink eye. You’ll find a list of contact-lens-related causes below.
If you wear contacts and become exposed to a bacteria- or virus-induced form of pink eye, then those same bacteria or viruses could stay on your lenses. Out of habit, you’ll likely remove your contacts, place them in a case with solution, and treat your eyes so you don’t get pink eye. But if you don’t properly disinfect or dispose of your contacts, you could develop pink eye the next time you put your contacts in.
This cross contamination is one of the most common causes of conjunctivitis in individuals who wear contacts.
Additionally, if you don’t clean your contacts well enough, bacteria could get trapped in the lenses and you could develop pink eye. Make sure to use a contact solution that can disinfect the lenses. Also try the following cleaning tips:
- Wash your hands before you clean your contacts. This step prevents germs and dirt on your hands from getting onto the lenses and into your eyes.
- After you take out your contacts, let them sit in a case full of solution for at least four hours before you wear them again.
- When you put your contacts in again, dispose of the solution in your contact case so you don’t store your contacts in dirty, grimy solution.
- Rinse your contact case out with hot water after you’ve emptied it. This step further prevents dirt and germs from getting into your eyes.
You can even ask your eye doctor to show you how to gently, but properly, scrub your lenses.
Sleeping With Your Contacts In
As previously mentioned, bacteria and viruses can get trapped under your contact lenses. The longer these bacteria stay on your contacts (and in your eyes), the greater your risk for getting pink eye. This risk significantly increases if you constantly sleep in your contacts since you prolong your exposure to the viruses or bacteria in your eyes.
Wearing Your Contacts Too Long
Similarly, you can expose your eyes to bacteria and germs if you don’t switch out your contacts on a regular basis. Experts say you should wear your contacts for no more than two weeks to reduce the amount of bacteria in your eyes-and to avoid developing conditions like pink eye.
Some contacts require you to switch between pairs on a weekly or daily basis. Check with your eye doctor for more specific instructions.
Allergies to Contact Brands and Contact Solution
Though this problem is rare, you can have an allergy to a specific brand of contacts or contact solution. No matter which preventative measures you take, this allergy can cause you to develop pink eye regularly. Instead of purchasing the same brand of contacts or using the same solution, choose a different brand.
If you have pink eye, use the tips above to treat the condition. Also take the preventative measures listed in this article to reduce your risk of contracting conjunctivitis again. For additional care and preventative tips, talk to your eye doctor. He or she can provide you with professional advice so you can effectively combat pink eye.
If your contacts have caused you to develop the condition, your eye doctor can also recommend a new brand of lenses (as well as a new type of solution) so you don’t develop pink eye.
For more eye health tips and information, check out the rest of our blog!