the contact lens exam
Key Elements of Effective Contact Lens Training
BY GREGORY J. NIXON, OD, FAAO
In my June column, I touched on how to structure your office policies, appointment schedule, and training space and how to promote and support a successful contact lens training program. Once those are established, there are additional elements that are fundamental to starting a new wearer on the road to a lifetime of safe and effective lens wear.
It Starts With People
While information about lens care and handling can be delivered in multiple formats, most application and removal training is still performed with one-on-one, in-office training. As such, it is critical to select the right person to conduct the instruction. By convention, this is usually a staff member to help maintain exam efficiency within the office. While it is advantageous for this person to be a lens wearer, the key trait is personality. Having an open and encouraging demeanor to educate patients is vital. Additionally, patience is more than a virtue in these situations because lens application can be a difficult encounter for some new wearers.
Regardless of who does the training, there are some wear and care fundamentals that must be reviewed with all new wearers.
Key Elements of Lens Training
First, inform new wearers that contact lenses are not just vision devices; they are medical devices that articulate with the tissues of the eye. Also, reinforce that lenses have a limited useful lifespan and therefore need to be cared for and disposed of properly to avoid microbial contamination that may increase risk of ocular infection. However, when cared for in the following manner, lens wear is safe and effective.
• Wash your hands and dry them with a lint-free towel prior to handling your lenses.
• Rub, rinse, and disinfect your lenses with fresh solution each time you remove your lenses (Be sure to "prescribe" your recommended solution).
• Apply your lenses to your eyes prior to applying makeup and remove lenses prior to removing makeup. Remember: your lenses always come first.
• After applying your lenses, clean your lens case and lids with fresh disinfecting solution and let air dry.
• Replace your lens case every three months.
• Keep your eyelids and eyelashes clean. Good hygiene helps to eliminate germs that can cause eye infections.
• Follow proper lens daily wear schedules.
• Replace your lenses according to your practitioner's recommendations.
• Adhere to the recommended follow-up schedule for contact lens and eye health evaluations.
• Remove your lenses immediately if you develop pain, redness, light sensitivity, excessive tearing or discharge, or a sudden loss of vision. If any of these symptoms persist after lens removal, contact your practitioner for evaluation.
• Have spectacles in a current prescription to wear when not wearing your contact lenses.
Send the Right Message
Make sure that patients are completely comfortable and proficient with lens application and removal prior to dismissing them from a lens class. It is recommended to have patients successfully and independently apply and remove their lenses twice under office supervision prior to dispensing lenses for wear. This will build patient confidence and decrease frustration at home, in addition to limiting complications from improper handling techniques.
Following these steps to emphasize the importance of proper lens care and handling will go a long way in making new wearers lifelong success stories. CLS
Dr. Nixon is an associate professor of clinical optometry and the extern coordinator at The Ohio University College of Optometry. He is also in a group private practice in Westerville, Ohio.