Contact Lens Safety Protects Your Eyes

Contact Lens Safety Protects Your Eyes

Eye health is essential for your overall health and is especially important for nurses. For nurses who wear contact lenses, keeping your eyes in top shape takes some dedicated effort. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has elevated the importance of contact lens care to create a Contact Lens Health Week which begins this year on August 22.

Contact lens wearers know how much of a benefit the lenses bring, but it’s easy to dismiss some of the basic health guidelines around this convenient alternative to glasses. Nurses, particularly those with long shifts, are especially prone to wearing them for long periods.

Here are a few refreshers on how to keep your eyes healthy while using contact lenses.

Maintain good hygiene

Make sure anything that touches your contact lens is meticulously clean. Wash and thoroughly dry your hands before putting your lenses in or taking them out. Rinse your case regularly with contact lens solution (not water) to help reduce the chances of bacteria contaminating your lenses, and change your case regularly. Follow all instructions for how long to wear the kinds of lenses you have (some are longer-wear hard lenses while others may have daily or two-week lenses). And always remove them before sleeping (this counts if you’re on a plane as well).

Keep them away from water

It’s easy to forget that you have lenses in when they become such a routine part of your life. But if you’re near any water–such as showering or swimming in a lake, ocean, or pool–your contact lenses should be out. Water holds all kinds of germs that are normally perfectly safe for normal use, but can introduce bacteria that can contaminate your lenses and cause a dangerous infection in your eye.

Protect your eyes

Many contact lenses have UV protection, but that doesn’t mean you’re covered. Wear sunglasses with 100 percent UVA and UVB protection when you’re outside to help your general eye health. The sun’s rays, even on overcast days and even in the watery sun of northern winters, can cause eye damage and hasten conditions including cataracts, macular degeneration, or even cancer.

Take a break

There are all kinds of guidelines around the various contact lenses available today. Be aware of the recommendations for how long you should keep yours in your eyes. If your work schedule means you leave your lenses in for long periods of time, make an effort to wear them less on your days off. Ideally one day a week that’s free of contact lens use can help your eyes, but even taking them out earlier than usual (as soon as you get home) is a healthy choice.

Be ready for a change

If you’re at work or doing something fun and your eyes begin to hurt or bother you in any way (a speck of dirt getting in your eye or allergies can cause real discomfort and irritation), be prepared to remove them and use your prescription glasses. Carry a pair of glasses with you when you leave the house so you aren’t forced to leave in uncomfortable contact lenses or to remove them and leave you with uncorrected vision. Leave a stash of solution and a lens case at work and contact lens-safe rewetting drops in your bag.

Don’t skip appointments

See your contact lens provider regularly. They will check for any vision changes and will notice any other changes in your eye. They also perform a regular assessment to see if your eyes are getting enough of the needed oxygen exchange (if contact lens overuse is your fallback, this might be an issue) that keeps them healthy.

While some tips for contact lens care can seem burdensome, getting an eye infection is not only painful and potentially dangerous, but it’s also disruptive. Being mindful of eye safety while using contact lenses will help keep them healthy.

Raising Awareness About Glaucoma

Raising Awareness About Glaucoma

Although more than 3 million people in the United States have glaucoma, awareness of this eye disease, how it starts, and how it progresses isn’t widespread.

The Glaucoma Research Foundation says January’s Glaucoma Awareness Month, can help people become more knowledgeable about this disease. Glaucoma can eventually lead to blindness, but obvious symptoms of it are almost nonexistent. For that reason, glaucoma is known as a silent or sneaky disease.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in people over 60. The disease causes fluid to build up in the eye which can damage the optic nerve and cause irreversible damage. The disease has some hereditary traits, and it can affect one eye but not the other.

The good news is if glaucoma is caught early, significant damage can be prevented, saving the patient’s eyesight. Regular eye screenings are vital to finding the pressure buildup in the eye, so if any patients have a history of glaucoma in their family, they should be aware of how important these screenings are. According to The Glaucoma Foundation, age alone is also a risk factor, and glaucoma is more commonly found in people over age 40 rather than those in younger groups.

There are other risk factors to be aware of. Preexisting conditions including high blood pressure, diabetes, an eye injury, long-term steroid use, and nearsightedness can predispose someone to glaucoma. In addition, those of African, Hispanic, Latino, and Asian descent have an increased risk of developing one or both of the two types of glaucoma—angle-closure glaucoma or normal tension glaucoma.

If you or any of your patients notice any vision changes, it’s wise to consider the possibility of glaucoma. By the time symptoms develop, some damage has occurred, so it’s essential to get any symptoms checked early. Things to look for include any blurred vision, cloudy or dark spots in the field of vision (including peripheral), eye pain, or even headaches.

According to the American Glaucoma Society, treatments for this eye disease include anything from medications and eye drops to reduce the swelling in the eye caused by fluid buildup. Advanced cases may require surgery to help drain the excess fluid in a permanent manner. This can include a laser surgery to improve the drainage capability of the eye.

With treatment, eye damage can be slowed, but some low vision can still happen, even if the final result isn’t blindness. People need to learn how to live with the disease and manage the resulting symptoms as much as possible. Working as a team with a good ophthalmologist can help, but the patient’s entire medical team can also act as a resource and support for managing glaucoma for the long-term.

As a nurse, you can help patients become aware of this disease and the risks associated with it. And in your personal life, you can help your family and friends, as well as yourself, keep up with screenings to catch any early signs of the condition.