Getting to the Truth of Contact Lens Myths
BY MARY JAMESON, BHS, COA, NCLC, CPOT
We've all had patients who heard about, knew about or "knew someone who does this" with their contact lenses. Following are a few myths about contact lens wear, along with some reasons why we can classify them as such. Have you heard any of these?
"I don't need a pair of glasses. I only wear my contact lenses."
While this may be true, everyone and everything deserves a break, including your eyes. Patients don't think it's necessary to have a pair of glasses until for some reason they can't wear their lenses or maybe just feel like resting their eyes. With today's available frame styles and lens materials and designs, the perfect pair exists for each and every contact lens wearer.
"I lost my contact lens in the back of my eye."
You and your staff should explain to patients that while a contact lens may move off center from time to time, it will never go all the way to the back of the eye. Tell them, in layman's terms, how the bulbar conjunctiva and the palpebral conjunctiva cross paths in the fornix. It's viewable if you double evert the upper lid and look way up, so never fear.
"I clean my lenses with ____."
From toothpaste to dishwashing liquid, patients come up with the "darndest things" with which to clean their lenses. When a patient presents with a unique cleaning regimen, make sure that he realizes that the "off-label use" of toothpaste doesn't include putting it in the eye. Document the patient's current regimen and recommend an approved product for him to use on his lenses.
"I put them in my mouth before putting them in my eye."
Yuck! Need I say more?
"I tried wearing my friend's lenses and I really liked them."
Okay, I'll admit that when I was in high school, I tried on my friends PMMA lens. (Tells you how long it was that I was in high school). Anyway, this has become a popular "myth" with adolescents, especially with the cosmetic tints available and the "recreational lenses" that change eyes to cat eyes, spirals or even your favorite football team logo. Be sure to educate your younger patients about the harm in sharing lenses. The possibility of an infection is great.
If you'd like more information, or your patients would, visit the Food and Drug Administration Web site, which contains more articles and warnings on this topic. We all learned about sharing hairbrushes. I guess contact lenses are the hairbrushes of the new millennium.
"They protect my eyes."
Contact lenses do cover a part of the cornea (GPs) or the whole cornea and limbus (soft contact lenses). They provide correction for a refractive error, not eye protection. Be sure to ask about the patient's work and hobbies. If these include situations where he needs eye protection, make the recommendation for the proper type of eyewear and lenses.
Sharing the Truth
While we may be surprised at the actions of our patients, we need to educate them on other methods of handling their lenses.
Our role as contact lens care and handling educators is extremely important when patients receive their contact lenses and continue to wear them. Asking your patients at every visit how they're taking care of their lenses, about changes in jobs or hobbies, etc. may uncover some unusual stories.
These are only a few of the myths I've heard. If you've overheard any that you'd like to share, please send them to me.
Ms. Jameson is a laboratory supervisor for the Department of Clinical Sciences at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry and is a past chair of the AOA Paraoptometric Section.