The first time you book in a contact lens fitting at your local optometrist is equal parts exciting and nerve-wracking. After all, you’re about to ask someone to stick a piece of plastic in your eyes so
everyone will stop calling you four-eyes you can see.
Before I took the plunge and got contact lenses, I had a lot of questions churning in my mind. What if I can’t get them out? Are contact lenses safe for my eyes? Getting your first pair is pretty intimidating.
As I’ve now learned after being a proud wearer for 10 years, there’s minimal risk associated with contact lenses. But that dreaded beast of anxiety (we’ll call him Bert) has probably whispered one too many untruths in your mind.
Myth #1: Contact lens are the worst waste of plastic
According to Menicon Australia, “While contact lenses themselves are made from plastic, they represent a very insignificant amount of everyday waste.” However, Menicon also warns that you shouldn’t flush your contact lenses down the drain. Won’t somebody think of the poor turtles?!
It turns out that plastic blister pack packaging actually makes up a larger portion of plastic waste than the lenses themselves. If you want to reduce the amount of plastic waste you’re contributing to the environment, it’s a good idea to consider whether any lens providers offer environmentally-friendly packaging.
Menicon’s Miru 1-day Flat Pack is an option to consider since, according to Menicon, its plastic packaging has been reduced by 80% in comparison to the standard blister pack you’ll receive at most optometrists. Each contact lens is contained in a 1mm lightweight casing, which suggest it is easy to store or travel with.
Myth #2: You can permanently damage your eyesight by wearing contact lenses
I’m not gonna lie, when I first booked in to get contact lenses, this was one of my very first thoughts. What if I scratch my eyeball? What if I become even more blind?
According to Kevin La, Eye Concepts Optometrist, the truth is that there’s an “extremely low risk of this happening so long as you follow instructions given by your optometrist and wear contact lenses in a hygienic manner.” In other words, don’t be nasty folks. In fact, this brings us to our next mythbuster.
Myth #3: Contact lenses are difficult to clean
I’ve heard some horrendous tales about lens wearers that have ended up with infected eyeballs because they got a little lazy on the cleaning front. This typically applies to those with reusable contact lenses, rather than single-use options.
Menicon Australia explains that the idea that contact lenses are difficult to clean “couldn’t be further from the truth.” All it takes is washing your hands with soapy water, wetting your contacts with a few drops of fresh lens solution and rubbing it between your thumb and forefinger for about 20 seconds.
You’ll then want to rinse the little fellas with some more solution before placing it back in its protective case with a fresh dollop of – you guessed it – more solution. Just make sure you soak them for up to four hours (although overnight is ideal) and they’ll be nice and clean for your gawkers in the morning.
If that all seems like a bit much for a lazy bones like you, just invest in some daily wear contact lenses instead. A game-changer, truly.
Myth #4: Sleeping with contacts is very bad and will damage your eyesight
During my first-ever appointment, my optometrist looked me straight in the eyes and sternly said, “Don’t you ever, ever fall asleep with your contact lenses in.”
It’s safe to say that my anxiety demon was eavesdropping on that day and has literally repeated that line to me ever since. Whenever I’ve started to nod off on the train, or after a night out, the devil’s forced me to soldier on until I could pinch the little suckers out of my eyes.
Sometimes I do wonder, what would happen if I accidentally fell asleep with them in?
La explains that, “Most soft contact lenses are not meant to be worn while sleeping because the material used does not allow enough oxygen transfer with a closed eye. So if you wear your contact lenses to sleep while you’re not supposed to, you risk starving the front surface of the eye of oxygen and causing issues that way.”
Ultimately, this will put your eyes at risk of a condition called CLARE, which is essentially red eye. This will increase your chances of developing bacterial infections which might cause pain and redness. So while you can sleep with them in (they won’t melt into your iris), you definitely shouldn’t.
That said, he does note that there are certain types of contact lenses that you can wear to sleep but you’ll want to consult your optometrist since that’s a whole new rodeo altogether.
Myth #5: My contact lens could get lost behind my eye
Simply put, optometrist Daniel Juhn says, “They can’t. The inside of your eyelid and the white of your eye are actually connected together all the way around (conjunctival fornix), not so far from the opening of the lids. Poorly fitting lenses can drift away there, but we will always be able to get them out without anything drastic.”
All I can say is – phew.
Myth #6: Contact lenses are uncomfortable to wear
I will never understand the types of people that can prod and poke their own eyes without flinching. We all knew that one kid at primary school who could flip his eyelids inside out. (Maybe you were that kid!?) I even knew one ghastly child that could push down on his own eyeball with his finger (please don’t try that at home, kids).
On that note, the idea of putting something on my eye seems as comfortable as laying on a bed of LEGO. But La reassures me again that this isn’t an issue. “Soft contact lenses are mostly very comfortable to wear – especially with the newer technology available on the market these days.”
“If they’re uncomfortable, you likely would have been fitted with a contact lens that’s just not the right fit for you,” La suggests. “Or, you may have extremely dry eyes and are not suitable for contact lenses in the first place. Either way, for most people there is a suitable contact lens option, you just have to discuss with your Optometrist to find the right one for your eyes.”
Myth #7: I’ll never be able to get my contact lens out, especially with long nails
Oh look, another thing for my personal anxiety demon to bully me with after a conundrum I ran into a while back. When I got nail extensions for a wedding (so my hands looked less like Thing from The Addams Family), I had no dramas getting my lenses in. But the drama definitely started when I needed to take them out before I went to sleep.
Thankfully, this isn’t about to evolve into a horror story where I gouged my eye out and had to go to the emergency room. While fellow Eye Concepts Optometrist, Thomas Huynh agrees that “long nails aren’t the greatest for contact lenses”, he notes that “we have seen people with very long nails be able to use contact lenses comfortably.”
He continues by adding that, “The technique to insert and remove the contact lenses is a little bit different, but not impossible. There are also contact lenses out there, that are designed with Smart Touch technology to ensure that the lenses always presents the right side up. Not only does this mean easier handling, but it means less chance of microbial contamination.”
And he’s right. While most optometrists will teach you the “pinching technique”, I can personally vouch there is a way to safely remove your lenses if you have long nails.
Myth #8: Contact lenses are too expensive
When I decided to buy contacts without mummy’s money like a grown up gal, I was afraid of seeing that phat number on the receipt. If my glasses were already hundreds of dollars for the lenses alone, then could a 30-day pack of contacts bankrupt me?
Hunyh insists that “there are different contact lenses available at different price points that will suit the budget of different people. For example, some products with a lower price point cost as little as $200 for a 90-day supply, which equals to just over $2 a day.”
Two dollarydoos? Why, that’s less than my daily mocha! Who would’ve thunk?
Myth #9: Your contact lens can pop out of your eyes
Please tell me I’m not the only one who’s ever worried about their contact lenses falling out of their eyes? It just doesn’t make sense to me how a thin piece of plastic could cling onto my peepers.
There’s been a few strong gusts of wind that sure have worried me in the past. But La assures me that “a good fitting contact lens will fit on the front surface of your eye like a glove fits on your hand. It should be very difficult to move away from the position it’s sitting in, unless there’s a strong force that makes it pop out.”
So maybe the wind might steal my contact lenses? I suppose I could always just close my eyes.