Contact lens solutions

Following the correct hygiene procedures is crucial to maximising successful and safe lens wear. Most contact lenses need to be cleaned and disinfected with solutions in order to provide optimal performance and, in the case of soft lenses, to keep them hydrated.

The exceptions are:

• Daily disposable lenses, worn for a day and then thrown away on removal, negating the need for solutions as they should not be stored and reused; and
• Continuous wear contact lenses, which are worn continuously (day and night) for a week or a month at a time.

The aim of the disinfecting and cleaning solutions is to reduce the number of microorganisms that accumulate on the lenses with wear, therefore minimising the risk of infection with contact lenses. Cleaning solutions can also improve comfort by conditioning the lens surface and making it more wettable. A 'rub and rinse' step with solution is usually also recommended as part of your lens care regime, before you put the lenses on your eyes and before you store them.

All lens care procedures are important but some hygiene measures are crucial. Make sure you empty the lens case of solution after each use, clean and air-dry it, then replace with fresh solution each time the lenses need to be stored.

Types of solution

There are many types and brands of contact lens solution, each with different ingredients and for specific lens types. Some lens/solution combinations are not compatible so it's important to use the solution recommended to you by your eyecare practitioner and always to follow their instructions carefully.

It is good practice for your practitioner to record the recommended solutions on your contact lens specification. Contact lens solutions carry an expiry date and the discard date is normally two to six months after opening.

Multipurpose solutions are the simplest and most convenient type of contact lens solution and are designed to clean, rub, rinse and store lenses. The minimum storage time to ensure adequate disinfection varies but is generally four to six hours.

Hydrogen peroxide solutions work in a different way and incorporate a metallic disc in the case, or tablet to add to the solution, to neutralise the disinfectant before wear. The minimum storage time is usually six hours. With these solutions it's particularly important to follow instructions to avoid discomfort.

Other lens care products include special cleaning drops and tablets, usually for rigid lenses, and comfort and re-wetting drops, which can be used with the lenses on the eye.

Saline solutions are sometimes recommended for rinsing lenses before they are applied to the eye but should not be used for storing lenses. Only use these products if advised to do so by your eyecare practitioner. No other solutions, including any type of water, or saliva, should come into contact with your lenses.

If you have any questions about your contact lenses or solutions you should consult your eyecare practitioner for advice.