Q&A with Dr. Mendelson

Q:

My eyes feel fine; why should I get a comprehensive eye exam?

A:

Regular eye exams help detect the early stages of eye disease. As an adult, you should aim to get a comprehensive eye exam once a year, even if your vision is good, and your eyes don’t bother you. This is especially true if there is a family history of eye disease, like glaucoma, a stealthy and symptom-free disorder. Your vision won’t be affected by glaucoma, for example, until the disease damages 50 percent of your ocular system. I’m very fortunate at UT Southwestern: if I suspect you have a problem, I’m able to refer you in-house to one of our sub-specialty ophthalmologists for treatment.

Q:

Are there contact lenses I can sleep in overnight?

A:

There are lenses designed to be worn while sleeping, but this convenience is just not worth the risk to your vision. When you sleep with lenses, the closed-eye environment is perfect for incubating bacteria, viruses, and fungi that can lead to eye infections, and, sometimes, blindness. People who sleep with their lenses are also at greater risk for developing corneal ulcers, whereby bacteria actually eat away at the cornea, resulting in blindness. Another complication from extended contact-lens wear is corneal blood vessel growth (known as corneal neovascularization). A healthy cornea does not have blood vessels. Sleeping with contact lenses deprives the cornea of oxygen, which results in blood vessels growing elsewhere to provide oxygen to the eye.

Q:

What is the best way to care for my contact lenses?

A:

You’d be surprised at the number of people who don’t care for their lenses correctly. A 2011 study by Drs. Cavanagh and Robertson in the Department of Ophthalmology here at UT Southwestern found that less than one percent of the 433 people they surveyed cared for their contact lenses correctly. Topping off used solution, exposing lenses to tap water, and not washing hands prior to handling lenses, are a few of the common practices my colleagues encountered during their study.

Careful handling, disinfection, and storage of your contact lenses will reduce your risk of developing complications resulting from lens wear. Proper care of your lenses includes the following steps:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before inserting or removing lenses.
  • Never use tap water to rinse or store lenses. To avoid tap water, it’s also best not to shower with contact lenses.
  • Remove lenses daily, then rinse and store in disinfecting solution. I recommend using a hydrogen-peroxide-based formulation.
  • Discard and replace storage solution every 24 hours. If you store your lenses longer than a day, be sure to disinfect them again.
  • Keep the contact lens case clean and replace it at least every two to three months.