A Solution for Comfortable Eyes

Contact lens solutions don't just disinfect. The right one will make your eyes more comfortable, too.


A Solution for Comfortable Eyes

Contact lens solutions don't just disinfect. The right one will make your eyes more comfortable, too.

When it comes to your eyes, comfort, health and moisture are all important. If your contact lenses and your eyes are moist, you'll feel comfortable. If not, your eyes can feel dry and irritated.

That's where contact lens solutions come in. On a store shelf, they look similar, but the different ingredients in those bottles can mean the difference between wearing your contact lenses all day or racing home to get them out of your eyes.

What solutions do

Depending on your prescription and lifestyle, your eye doctor can choose contact lenses that will offer you the most comfort. But the lenses aren't the only things going into your eyes every day. Your contact lens solution is key to keeping your lenses clean, disinfected, and reconditioned for healthy lens wear.

In addition to cleaning and disinfecting your lenses, contact lens solutions can help keep your lenses comfortable during lens wear:

They maintain a layer of moisture between the lens and your eye.

They retain moisture for enhanced comfort throughout the day.

They recondition your lenses to keep them moist to promote clear vision.

All of these things help make your eyes more comfortable. If you're having problems with contact lens discomfort, your doctor may recommend a different solution to help keep your eyes moist.

Which one's for you?

What you've heard is true. You really do need to use the solution that your doctor prescribes. Your doctor will identify which one is best for you and your lenses. In some cases, such as with silicone hydrogel lenses, the chemical composition of the lens and a specific solution were designed to be biocompatible.

The right contact lens and solution will keep your eyes healthy and comfortable.

Going Green
If everybody does something positive to preserve our valuable resources, it really adds up. Now, you can help make a difference by making earth-friendly decisions at the eye doctor's office. Here are just a few of your green choices:
Recycled frames: Need new eyeglasses? Why not try a pair made of recycled plastic or metal? Soon, you may be able to get lenses made from corn, too. Add a recycled carrying case, and you're all set!
Tree program: One manufacturer of frames will plant a tree through American Forests' Global ReLeaf project for every pair they sell. What better excuse to buy two pairs?
Smart packaging: Several manufacturers are using smaller, recycled packaging for their eyeglasses. The packaging for OPTI-FREE® RepleniSH® MPDS starter kits has been slimmed down as well.
Green commitment: Some eyecare companies have made major commitments to help the planet in everything they do–even behind the scenes in their offices and manufacturing plants. A company's commitment can have a big impact.

You Asked–We Answer! Q & A

Answers to important questions from new contact lens wearers.

Q. I'm working full time and going to grad school, so I'm often rushing or taking shortcuts–even with my contact lenses. They work fine and feel OK, so what's the harm?

A. Busy, unpredictable lives often translate into what doctors call contact lens "overwear" (not replacing your lenses when you should) and insufficient or ineffective cleaning and disinfecting practices. Noncompliance could be harming your eyes, possibly risking infection. Take those few extra minutes to follow proper directions to remove debris and deposits, and to kill harmful germs.

By suspecting that your lens care routine needs improvement, you're ahead of many other Americans. Contact lenses are safe, but many wearers' lens hygiene practices are not. Here are some disturbing statistics from the market research firm Synovate, Inc.:

Two out of five people do not wash their hands before handling their lenses. Most germs on a lens or in the eye get there from the hands. Wash germs down the drain before you touch your contact lenses.

One in five people don't use fresh solution every time they store their lenses. "Topping off" contact lens solution in the case instead of replacing it is like mixing dirty bath water with clean water. It reduces the solution's ability to eliminate germs, which can lead to an infection.

Two out of five people have put their lenses in their mouth to clean them. Yikes! Saliva is full of germs, making it a potential source of infection.

Seven in ten people admit they've worn their lenses while swimming, and one in three do so regularly. All kinds of nasty bugs, such as microbes, live in swimming pools, lakes and the ocean. They can be especially harmful if they adhere to your contact lenses. One, called Acanthamoeba, can cause severe pain and damage to the eye, sometimes necessitating a corneal transplant.

People aren't always aware of how the things they do or neglect to do can harm their health. The difference between healthy eyes and risking infection is often just a few minutes. It's well worth the effort.

Q. My doctor suggested I try silicone hydrogel lenses. Can I use any type of solution with these lenses?

A. Silicone hydrogel contact lenses are made from a new type of material that offers a comfortable wearing experience for many patients. Many doctors are recommending that their patients switch from their old-style hydrogel lenses.

If you decide to try silicone hydrogel lenses, your doctor will tell you which cleaning and disinfecting solutions are made specifically for them. To properly clean, disinfect, and recondition your lenses, follow your doctor's recommendation. Generic or store-brand solutions can actually have different ingredients than the brand your eye doctor recommends.

What's the worst that could happen? Less-than-clear vision, discomfort, or even infection. Don't risk it. Stick with the products your doctor recommends.

Do You Have Dry Eyes?

Don't brush it off or ditch your contact lenses. Get some relief.

Do your eyes often feel dry or irritated? Do certain activities, like reading or working on the computer, make your eyes feel scratchy? Are you wearing your contact lenses less and less because they become uncomfortable?

If you answer "yes" to any of these questions, you may have what eye doctors call keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) or dry eye syndrome. It's a common problem, but you don't have to live with it.

What is it, and who gets it?

The term "dry eye" is self-explanatory–eyes that aren't fresh, moist and comfortable. The problem affects many people, but postmenopausal women and people who wear contact lenses are particularly susceptible.

The condition is related to the quantity and quality of your tears, which can be affected by numerous factors. Some possible causes include: diseases, such as acne rosacea, hormonal imbalance, eyelid abnormalities, medications, such as antihistamines, decongestants and birth control, and exposure to air pollution or other environmental factors.

Your eyes can become dry in centrally heated or air-conditioned rooms and on airplanes. Long stretches working at a computer can dry your eyes because you don't blink as often as you normally do.

Telltale signs

How can you tell if you have chronic dry eyes? Common signs and symptoms include:

Discomfort: Your eyes burn, sting, feel gritty or are sensitive to light.

Foreign body sensation: You feel as if you have something in your eye.

Redness: Bloodshot eyes always indicate a problem. Sometimes, it's dry eye.

Fatigue: Your eyes seem to tire easily, especially when reading, watching television or using a computer.

Uncomfortable contact lenses: If you have mild to moderate dry eye, you may not know you have a problem until you try to wear your contact lenses, which can upset the delicate balance of tear production and distribution. People with dry eye sometimes stop wearing their lenses, but they may not need to. Relief is usually available.

Is it dry eye or something else?

If you think you have dry eyes, talk to your doctor. He or she will ask you specific questions about your health history and your environment. The problem has become so common in some areas, that eye doctors have special "dry eye questionnaires" to help with the diagnosis. Your doctor also may perform some simple tests to determine your tear volume and composition.

If redness and irritation are accompanied by itching and watering, allergies may be to blame. Your eye doctor can help with this, too.

How to get comfortable

Depending on the severity of your dry eye, you and your doctor will devise a plan of action together. Here are some strategies that can help:

Give your eyes a rest. Take breaks while reading or working at a computer. Look away from the monitor or book to let your eyes focus on things that are far away. And blink.

Blow off fans. A fan or air conditioning vent can send a continuous air current across the surface of your eyes. Combine this with staring at a computer or TV, and it's a problem. Try to stay cool without a breeze blowing directly on your face.

Add water. If the air is dry at home or at work, use a humidifier. Drink plenty of water, too, to hydrate from the inside out.

Keep it clean. Steer clear of eye irritants, such as heavy pollution or smoke. That includes avoiding smoking (Smokers are more likely to have dry eye.) or being near people who are smoking.

Give dryness the drop. Lubricant drops called artificial tears work like natural tears to hydrate and restore the health of the eye's surface. Some artificial tears, such as SYSTANE® Lubricant Eye Drops, are specifically designed to treat the daily symptoms of dry eye. Note to contact lens wearers: No artificial tear product is approved for use while wearing your lenses. Always wait about 5 minutes after putting in the drops before wearing your contact lenses.

Speaking of contact lens wearers, those who have dry eyes can add these strategies to their plan of action:

Try contact lenses made specifically for dry-eye sufferers. Yes, certain lens materials are made–and FDA-cleared–for people who have dry eyes. Ask your doctor if you can try them.

Use only the contact lens solutions your doctor recommends. Your doctor knows which lens cleaning and disinfecting solutions are compatible with the type of lenses you are wearing. If you stray from the prescribed solution, your eyes may feel dry and uncomfortable.

Add moisture throughout the day. Rewetting drops, such as OPTI-FREE® RepleniSH® Rewetting Drops, can refresh your eyes throughout the day, even while you're wearing your contact lenses.

Clean lenses properly. Follow doctor's orders to care for your lenses. If you need a refresher course, you can find directions on the solution bottle or package insert. Clean lenses are less likely to irritate your eyes.

Bottom line? There's no need to live with dry, red, uncomfortable eyes. Ask your doctor how you can get relief.

Keep Your Eyes Off The Injured List

Maybe you swim laps every day, or your kids love basketball, or your spouse joined a hockey league. All these healthy activities are great, but is everyone remembering to protect their eyes?
Kids, in particular, are prone to sports-related eye injuries because they're more likely than adults to play team sports, but adults can run into problems, too. These practical tips can help protect your eyes while you exercise your body:
Use all the safety equipment. People invent safety equipment for a reason–usually because there's a history of injuries! Wear your racquetball goggles. Wear your hockey mask. Your kids will take their cues from you about whether to wear or skip the safety gear.
Swim wisely. Never wear your contact lenses during any water activities, such as swimming, snorkeling or scuba diving.
Be a shady character. Choose sunglasses–wraparound styles are good for unobstructed views–to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays and sun glare. If you wear contact lenses, talk to your eye doctor about the added protection of UV-blocking lenses.
Weigh eyeglasses vs. contact lenses. Eyeglasses can be impractical or dangerous for high-impact activities like basketball, and contact lenses may not be your best option for playing in a dusty environment like a motorcross track. Talk to your doctor about what's best for your sport. In some cases, you can even get prescription safety equipment.

Travel Update For Contact Lens Wearers

Here's good news for contact lens wearers who travel by air.

Contact lens solutions have been declared an exception to the 3-1-1 rule for liquids that are carried onto an airplane.

Here's the scoop. The Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) now considers contact lens solutions, saline solutions and rewetting drops as over-the-counter medications. According to current airport security regulations, you can now carry these products onto a plane if they meet certain inspection criteria.

You are not limited in the amount or volume of these items you may have in your carry-on baggage. BUT if the medically necessary items exceed 3 ounces or are not contained in a 1-quart, zip-top plastic bag, then you should pull them out of your carry-on bag and declare it to the security officer at the checkpoint.

Alcon offers a larger carry-on size of OPTI-FREE® RepleniSH® contact lens solution, which is ideal for traveling, because it easily fits within your carry-on bag, and is TSA compliant!

For further information and updates on security regulations for the US and other countries that have adopted the TSA guidelines, check the TSA Web site

Look Good and Feel Fresh When You Arrive

Air travel can be stressful. Remember these tips to keep your eyes refreshed:

≫ Drink plenty of water or juice while flying to counteract the effects of the dry air in the plane.

≫ Avoid alcohol, which is dehydrating.

≫ Use rewetting drops throughout the flight.

≫ Aim those drying air vents away from your face.


Today's high-tech contact lenses are geared toward giving you clear, healthy, comfortable vision. For optimum performance, you need to handle and clean your lenses properly. Follow these tips:

- visit your eye doctor annually, unless he or she wants to see you more often.

- always follow your doctor's directions and those written on the packaging for contact lenses and contact lens solutions.

- wash and dry your hands before handling contact lenses.

- remove your contact lenses before you swim, shower or enter a hot tub.

- replace your lens case regularly. Cases harbor "bugs," too.

- transfer solutions into smaller travel-size containers. This can affect the solution's sterility.

- use tap water, bottled water, or any other nonsterile solution with your lenses.

- keep wearing contact lenses past their replacement date. Follow the lens replacement schedule that your eye doctor gives you.

- "top off" the solution in your lens case. Discard it, and use fresh solution every day. Never reuse old solution.

- use saline or rewetting drops to disinfect lenses.

- put a lens in your mouth or use saliva to wet your lenses.

OPTI™ Magazine Premiere Issue
Presenting OPTI™, a quarterly online magazine dedicated to exploring all the fascinating facets of our eyes. Look for the latest issue and subscribe at
In the debut issue, you'll discover:
The Lyric Beauty of Eyes: Explore the widespread use of the eyes in pop music through the decades in songs you'll remember or wish you'd forgotten.
Eye Errors With Iris Botcher: Ms. Botcher moderates on this site for sore eyes, discussing proper eye care by wryly commenting on eye-related horror stories.
A View Around the World–Mexico: Take a look (but don't stare) at the myth of the evil eye in Mexico, including its causes, symptoms and cures.
The Power of Eye Contact: In a time when everyone seems to be averting their gaze, learn how and why eye contact still has its place.

Look for the following new features in the next issue, scheduled to post online soon:
The Cinematic Role of Eyes: From the classics to B-movies and everything in between, learn why eyes are essential for the movies (and not just for watching them).
Your Eyes as Fashion Accessories: Find out how clothes and accessories can play up your healthy, beautiful eyes, and how you can accessorize using colored contact lenses.
Plus more stories, tips, fun columns, and polls!