As a die-hard University of Kentucky basketball fan, I have watched many, many basketball games throughout my life. During these basketball games, I have cringed at a few of my favorite players because I have seen some of the players drop their contact lenses on the court, pick them up, put them in their mouths, and then put them right back in their eyes!
As a die-hard University of Kentucky basketball fan, I have watched many, many basketball games throughout my life. During these basketball games, I have cringed at a few of my favorite players because I have seen some of the players drop their contact lenses on the court, pick them up, put them in their mouths, and then put them right back in their eyes! How can they possibly think this is safe? I know others who aren’t optometrists probably cringe, too!
This is noticed because it happens to be on live TV, but what happens when younger contact lens-wearing athletes see these players at collegiate or professional levels do this? This can lead to bad contact lens habits for our athlete patients regardless of age. The best way to prevent this is with a thorough discussion of patients’ hobbies and lifestyle activities, recommending the right modality for these patients, and educating on the proper contact lens care and hygiene.
I like to discuss with all my patients not only what their visual needs are but also what their lifestyles are. Lifestyle should go hand in hand with what we recommend to our patients. They might sit at a computer for eight hours a day, but maybe they swim for an hour before work and then meet up with friends after work for hot yoga or a pick-up game of basketball.
Some of our younger patients are working day and night practicing to become the next LeBron James or Derek Jeter. We focus so much on the fact that they are young, and we want to make sure they can see at school to do their homework. But do we discuss with them what they do outside of school? Addressing the lifestyle aspect during the eye exam will help us better prescribe the right options to help not only keep their vision crystal clear but also keep their eyes healthy. Starting them off with the proper methods will help create better habits later in life.
Next: Which is better for our active pateints: Daily or monthly modality?
There are many times that I actually recommend both. For those patients who have an active lifestyle or play sports in college or higher, I have recommended monthly lenses as their day-to-day contact lenses, and then when they are doing something active, I recommend a daily disposable contact lens. While playing baseball or lifting weights, I recommend the patient bring at least one pair of back-up daily contact lenses in case something happens like his contact lens falls out.
Even though it is a daily contact lens, it wouldn’t also hurt to recommend bringing a travel-sized contact lens solution bottle just in case he needed to rinse the contact lens off. This would help prevent situations like rinsing his soft contact lens in water-or even worse, putting the contact lens in his mouth!
Next: Keep our athletes' eyes healthy
It is our job to properly discuss the dos and don’ts of contact lens hygiene and care. I always go over with my patients how to properly clean, disinfect, and store their contact lenses for each type of modality. Telling them the importance of why this is done and what the serious risks and consequences they could face is vital to the health of their eyes.
Everyone’s clinic days can get very busy, but it is our job to educate our patients on how to prevent infections and that putting contact lenses in our mouth can easily cause bad outcomes. I send home instructions with all new contact lens patients on how to clean, disinfect, what to do if there is a problem-for example, their eyes become red or irritated-and what not to do with their contact lenses. It is always good to reinforce what you said in the office by sending your patients home with additional educational material on contact lens care and hygiene. I send a small packet listing all the important guidelines regarding the proper care emphasizing what they were taught in the office. This will help decrease infections and serious problems from improper contact lens wear.
Not that all of our contact lens patients don’t warrant discussions about proper care, but our athletes need an additional discussion. They are in high-bacterial environments from the locker room to the playing field and back. Using daily disposable contact lenses, carrying small bottles of multi-purpose solution, carrying extra daily contact lenses, and knowing not to put the contact lenses in their mouths or use water to rinse the contact lenses will help decrease infections.