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How Bad Is It If I Reuse My Daily Disposable Contact Lenses?

Pretty bad, but you can’t stop me

My most toxic habit is reusing my one-day contact lenses. They seem good as new after a day of wear so I just plop them into a case with some fresh solution. I usually only reuse a pair once but I’ve been known to do it twice. The contact lens companies want me to toss a perfectly good pair of contact lenses in the trash, and I won’t fall for it!

In my defense, I grew up without money. My childhood instilled certain thrifty habits I don’t know any amount of future financial stability could break. Getting contact lenses was a huge splurge, but given that I only planned to wear them on special occasions, the optometrist recommended daily disposables. Now that I wear them about 50 percent of the year, I ought to go back to the optometrist and ask for a different lens prescription. But like, when was the last time you scheduled a non-urgent medical appointment with any kind of immediacy? 

Anyways, I haven’t died yet.

But according to some research, I’ve narrowly avoided a staph infection in my eyeballs. In a study from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, 20 people were asked to place their daily disposable contact lenses back into the plastic container and saline solution that they were packaged in, following a day of wear. Each participant submitted five pairs of lenses over the course of the study. At the end, all but one participant had a “contaminated” pair of lenses, “with staphylococcal contamination being predominant.” Considering your eyeball is a warm, wet ball of membranes, it’s probably best not to put a little coat of staphylococcal bacteria (which, yes, cause staph infections) upon it. 

The researchers concluded that the most significant risk for daily disposable contact lens wearers is improper cleaning. Because daily disposable users may not have experience cleaning lenses intended to be reused, they may not have the proper knowledge of how they are to be cared for. In particular, they may not own a proper disinfecting solution or case, and the plastic container and teeny amount of saline the disposables came in won’t cut it.

So, hypothetically, if I’m utilizing a case and adequate solution, I should be able to reuse my daily disposables so long as they’re structurally intact, right? Sadly, probably not. Per a blog from The Eye Doctors, an eye care clinic in Florida, disposables are “not designed to be resistant to germs, bacteria and other buildup that collects on the lens throughout the day.” Further, their thin design makes them more susceptible to damage during the cleaning process. “A daily disposable lens is very much like a paper plate. It is very thin, but after a plate of food is served on one, the food particles are deeply absorbed into the material instead of just being on the surface. Running it through a dishwasher doesn’t really achieve the desired effect of reusing it.” 

Really, doing just about anything in your contact lenses is risky. Sleeping in them, showering in them, swimming in them — all things that could lead to a nasty infection. You’re pretty much always at risk. 

But that’s what it means to be alive. When Hunter S. Thompson said, “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride,’” he was referring specifically to your eye health.