Congratulations, you have contact lenses for the first time! Now what?
It’s time to learn how to put them in and take them out—safely.
Putting something in your eye for the first time is frightening. This guide shares tricks of the trade for easy handling and a comfortable first-time experience.
When learning to insert and remove contact lenses, slow and steady wins the race. Before long, with a good routine and a bit of practice it should become as easy as brushing your teeth.
A guide to safely inserting your contact lenses
Find a clean, quiet space to put in your new contact lenses where you can sit or stand in front of a mirror. Spread a clean towel out in front of you and set your contact lens container on it.
Tip: It is easier to concentrate when you have no interruptions.
ALWAYS WASH YOUR HANDS
You’re going to be touching your eye and you don’t want to risk getting an eye infection. Start with clean, freshly washed hands. Use anti-bacterial soap and tap water.
Always rinse your hands to avoid soap being left on your fingertips as it can end up stinging your eye. Rinse and thoroughly dry your hands with a clean towel.
Tip: Avoid soap with perfumes or oils as they will leave a blurry film on your contact lens.
SETUP A ROUTINE
Your contacts are made specifically for your left and right eyes. Do not swap the lenses between your eyes even if they share the same prescription. Start with the same eye every time.
Tip: If you are right-handed, start with your right eye and vice-versa.
PREPARE THE LENS
If you remove the lens straight from a new blister pack it will not need to be rinsed.
If you are storing your lens then ALWAYS rinse it with a multipurpose or rinsing solution before insertion. Do NOT rinse the lens with tap water.
Soft contact lenses can dehydrate if they are out of the solution and not in your eye for more than 45 to 60 seconds.
Tip: Initially, if it takes a while to insert your lens, rinse it with a multipurpose or rinsing solution to rehydrate it.
CHECK THE ORIENTATION
Soft contact lenses need to be inserted the right way to be comfortable. Follow these useful tips:
- Many lenses have subtle engravings such as “123” on them. You will see these when you look at the inside of the lens (the part that touches your eye). The lens is inside out if the numbers are back to front.
- If they don’t have engravings, place the contact lens on your fingertip and look at the edges of the lens. The edges should point almost straight upwards, like a “U” or bowl shape. If they flare out like a rimmed bowl the lens is inside out.
- Another method is to use the “taco test.” Use your thump and forefinger to pinch the contact lens. If the lens bends easily into the shape of a taco shell and almost rolls together, it’s oriented correctly. If the lens resists bending into a taco shape, it’s inside out.
Tip: If the lens is inside out it will feel like you have an eyelash stuck in your eye.
INSERT THE LENS IN YOUR EYE
Now that you’re prepped with a quiet working space and clean hands, it’s time to insert the lens. Use the following sequence:
- Balance the lens in the correct orientation on your right index finger. Lift the lens off your finger with your left hand and replace it lightly on your finger so there is minimal touch.
- Look squarely in the mirror at yourself and maintain eye contact. Focus on the eye you are starting with.
- With your left hand lift your upper eyelid and eyelashes out of the way and hold them. Maintain eye contact in the mirror.
- With your right middle finger hold down your lower eyelid and tilt your chin down slightly while maintaining eye contact.
- Watch your index finger in the mirror and move it towards the center of your eye. It’s best to lead with the lower half of the lens so it’s on a slight tilt and less likely to fall off your finger.
- As the lower edge of the lens touches your eye, tip the lens so it is upright and the upper half of the lens will hug onto your eye.
- Slowly release your lower eyelid and then your upper eyelid and return your head to a normal position. Gently close your eye and press lightly on the upper eyelid to settle the lens in place. Blink slowly a couple of times.
- Repeat with the other eye. Empty the used solution out of the case and leave it to air dry.
Tip: Always work over your clean work space in case you drop the lens.
A guide to safely removing your contact lenses
So now you have your contact lenses safely in your eyes. How do you get them out?
WASH YOUR HANDS AND SETUP YOUR STATION
Setup your clean towel in front of the mirror again. Wash your hands. Open the contact lens case (if you are storing your lenses) and fill it with multipurpose solution. Make sure your fingers are dry so you can easily grip the contact lens.
START WITH THE SAME EYE
Remove the same lens first each time. When removing your right lens, turn your head slightly to the left and tilt your chin down maintaining eye contact in the mirror.
MAKE SURE YOU CAN SEE THE LENS
Move close to the mirror so you can see the contact lens sitting on your eye.
SLIDE THE LENS
With the soft pad of your index finger (no nails!) place your finger onto the contact lens and gently slide the lens off the centre of your eye onto the white part. With the other hand hold your lower eyelid out of the way.
REMOVE THE LENS
Once the lens is on the white of your eye, using only the soft pad of your index finger and thumb gently squeeze the lens off your eye.
STORE THE LENS CORRECTLY
If your contacts are to be re-used, after removal, place the lens in the palm of your hand and gently rub it with multipurpose solution to clean off any dirt or debris. Rinse it in the multipurpose solution and store it in the case.
Practice makes perfect
Always visit your optometrist for a valid contact lens prescription to ensure you get the correct lens fit for your eye. Without a proper fitting, contact lenses can be harmful.
Like any new skill, handling contact lenses requires practice and patience. In my clinical experience it can sometimes take more than forty minutes to insert your first lens! No need to worry. In time, it will become a simple routine for you.