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Dr. Rick
Dr. Rick, Board Certified MD
Category: Eye
Satisfied Customers: 8494
Experience:  Ophthalmology since 1994 with Retina sub-specialty interest
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Hello. I purchased a very expensive pair ($1,200) of top of

Customer Question

Hello. I purchased a very expensive pair ($1,200) of top of the line toric contact lenses that were hand painted by a woman who paints contacts for almost every major motion Hollywood picture that has come out in the last five years. They're pretty special coming from a woman that paints contacts for Johnny Depp. My question is not whether or not I should throw them away, but rather is it possible that any bacteria could survive the rigorous cleaning they have undergone in the past week.

Here's the scenario.

I bought them two years ago and wore them for a year. (Toric lenses can easily last 3 to 4 years. I was specifically told that by the eye doctor she contracts with who fitted me for the contacts.) I misplaced them for a year and thus they sat in the same solution for that entire time until I recently found them. Prior to this I cleaned them as directed and disinfected regularly with peroxide solution. I have been to my regular eye doctor since then but not to her as I don't live in California. I hadn't yet found the contacts at the time of my last regular eye exam to ask my eye doctor about this and to have him look at the contacts. In this time my prescription has not changed and there are no nicks or damage otherwise to the lenses.

Every answer on yahoo claims one should throw them away but I can't believe rigorous disinfection wouldn't kill any bacteria on my contact lenses which otherwise have at least some wear life left. After all, that's what disinfecting solution is for.

I want to know is it likely any bacteria could survive after a week straight of thorough cleaning by means of gently rubbing these contacts with peroxide solution on both sides for ten minutes, each side, rinsing and disinfecting in Clear Care peroxide solution over night (6 to 8 hours) and storing in saline for the day, disinfecting the case everyday as well and repeating the process every day and night for a week straight.

I realize you can't answer definitively so I am asking is it likely? I don't see how its possible that they could not be completely disinfected and safe to wear again until I can get another pair of them. I know if I ask my regular eye doctor he will want to sell me a pair of regular contacts. How would sitting in a solution for a month vs a year make the rubbing and peroxide disinfection procedure I have performed any less effective? I know the general answer is throw them away but I am not prepared to do that. Please no answer to the the affect that they are your eyes and you only have two of them. I already take that reality very seriously so I am looking for information so I can make an informed decision on my own.

I guess the question comes down to this, is it likely bacteria would survive the intense cleaning I have described after a pair of toric lenses have sat in a unopened contact case for extended period of time. To be clear, I am not asking you if I should wear them or throw them away. I am asking if it is likely that bacteria could survive the scenario I have described, a rigorous cleaning and disinfection process, if bacteria had ever been present upon finding them to begin with.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Eye
Expert:  Dr. Rick replied 3 years ago.

Dr. Rick :

Hi. I'm online and happy to answer your question today.

Dr. Rick :

Well. Since your question deals only with the bacteria and not if the lenses should be worn let me give your problem some thought.....

Dr. Rick :

I think, from what you have told me about your cleaning/disinfection process you have put the lenses and case through, that any and all bacteria are most likely very dead.

Dr. Rick :

Does that make sense to you?

Dr. Rick :

Now, as to if you should wear them......over time the material the lenses are made of might of broken down, they may have warped or had other changes that make them unsafe to use. I would suggest taking the lenses to your ophthalmologist for evaluation and see what she says before taking the risk of wearing them.

Dr. Rick :

Does this make sense to you?

Dr. Rick :

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Expert:  Dr. Rick replied 3 years ago.
Let me know if there are there any other concerns or issues you would like to discuss on this topic.
Dr. Rick, Board Certified MD
Category: Eye
Satisfied Customers: 8494
Experience: Ophthalmology since 1994 with Retina sub-specialty interest
Dr. Rick and 2 other Eye Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Dr. Rick,

When you have a moment could you tell me what you mean by "over time the material the lenses are made of might of broken down, they may have warped or had other changes that make them unsafe to use."

Does this mean a warping which might make the contacts abrasive to the eye or is it possible the material they are made of could leach into the eye?

Is there a specific test I could ask my local ophthalmologist to perform...like could I ask to have "such and such" a test performed on my contacts that would determine their status either way without going into the details? I won't be in CA for at least a few months so I would like to have them evaluated by my local ophthalmologist to determine if I can wear them in the mean time but if I give him the details he will definitely try to sell me his disposable contacts as usual and I don't feel he would even evaluate them if I told him I just found them. Thanks again. I appreciate your help!



Expert:  Dr. Rick replied 3 years ago.
Good Morning.

Soft contact lenses have a very high water content in them. The material they are made of can change over time, perhaps loosing some of its ability to pass oxygen to your cornea, the ability to hold water in its matrix, etc. All of these things can make the contact unsafe to wear.

I doubt that the contacts would contain abrasive material or that the compounds they are made of could leech into your eye but if they are warped they could, by not fitting correctly, cause a variety of problem with your cornea.

Your ophthalmologist will know what to do in order to evaluate your contacts for safe use. There is no specific test that you need to mention. If he just blows you off and tells you to throw them out after hearing their long storage and use history without checking them out then it is because he, like most of us eye docs, have seen the serious consequences of using old contacts like yours. I wish I could tell you something different but history, and the damage old lenses can do to people eyes, has shown that you really should just throw those lenses out :(

But at least all the bacteria are dead :)

Have a great day. It has been a real pleasure helping you with this issue that impacts many people.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Last question, promise.

I noticed this morning when I looked at my box of disposable lenses the individual unopened lens packages say they have an expiration date of 4/2014. I got them over a year ago. That means they can stay in that solution for 5-6 years. So, relating this to the contacts in question, is the saline solution that contacts come sealed in, different than saline we use to store them in after they have been opened? Like does the saline disposables/new contacts in general come in somehow preserve the contact in a way regular Ciba saline would not? Thanks again.

Expert:  Dr. Rick replied 3 years ago.
You know, that is a very a good question that I have never really thought about :)

I would expect that the solution that lenses come sealed in from the factory would be very close to the saline solution you buy....with one important exception. It is sterile.

....of course, we have already established that all the bacteria on your lenses are dead.

I checked some sources just now and can't find any real information on what the lenses are packed in....I would think, however, that it would be everyday saline....

You are making a very good case for going against Conventional Wisdom (which says to throw out your lenses) and just wearing them. But, I must confess, just typing that sentence gives me the heebie-geebies :0)
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Dr. Rick,

If I do decide to wear them it will only be for musical performances. I am a musician and that's pretty much why I got them. I plan to get new ones next time I am in CA but it won't be for a few months. If I do actually decide to wear them it would be in a very limited capacity. I really appreciate your honest help. Not trying to go against conventional wisdom, just think very hard about everything and these are all the thoughts that came to mind. Lol. Thanks again. :-)
Expert:  Dr. Rick replied 3 years ago.
My pleasure. Best of luck to you.

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Dr. Rick
Dr. Rick
Ophthalmologist & Retina Specialist
5447 Satisfied Customers
Ophthalmology since 1994 with Retina sub-specialty interest