Author Topic: Cheaper methods of cleaning and disinfecting contact lenses (Read 14722 times)

rachael talcott

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Cheaper methods of cleaning and disinfecting contact lenses
« on: October 19, 2013, 08:06:20 AM »
I wear soft contacts and can't use the "one step" cleaning/disinfecting solutions because they irritate my eyes. At the recommendation of my optometrist, I've been using a hydrogen peroxide system (generic Clear Care). It costs about $10/month. I'd like to find something cheaper, so I started doing some research.

The textbook _Clinical Contact Lens Practice_ http://books.google.com/books?id=yq5_QfbP8HQC&pg=PA416&dq=contact+lens+disinfection&hl=en&sa=X&ei=1IZiUsSJL4a09QSYjoAY&ved=0CE0Q6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false has a chapter on this topic, and the methods (other than the chemical ones) include

1) heat
2) microwaving (!)
3) UV light

The heat systems were used in the 70's but have fallen out of favor due to baking proteins onto lenses. The microwave option is intriguing, but the textbook does not give instructions. I could probably dig up the original literature and figure out how to do this. There is one commercially available UV system called Purilens. But because some preservatives in saline solutions absorb UV, they sell (expensive) unpreserved solution. There are also ultrasonic devices being sold (http://amazon.com/Bogue-Ultrasonic-Contact-Lens-Cleaner/dp/B0001FZAAY) that are cleaners but don't claim to disinfect, and given what they do probably don't. The natural immunity in the eye is pretty good, so it's not like there's a need to have perfectly sterilized lenses, but I don't like the idea of not disinfecting at all.

Does anyone have experience with any of these methods?

RT

Jwesleym

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Re: Cheaper methods of cleaning and disinfecting contact lenses
« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2013, 11:01:07 AM »
Have you weighed the lifetime cost of contacts against the cost of corrective surgery? At $10 a month, the solution alone could cost $7000+ over your lifetime. That doesn't take the cost of the replacement contacts into account. That would probably at least double, maybe triple that amount. I had LASIK surgery 6 months ago, and love my new eyes. I can see the clock in the morning, and see in the shower. I have new freedom in my life and couldn't imagine going back.
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ender

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Re: Cheaper methods of cleaning and disinfecting contact lenses
« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2013, 01:17:05 PM »
My vision is about $300 a year for contacts, clear care, etc.

C'est la vie. When your prescription sucks you have fewer options :)

Spork

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Re: Cheaper methods of cleaning and disinfecting contact lenses
« Reply #3 on: October 19, 2013, 02:49:30 PM »
Have you weighed the lifetime cost of contacts against the cost of corrective surgery? At $10 a month, the solution alone could cost $7000+ over your lifetime. That doesn't take the cost of the replacement contacts into account. That would probably at least double, maybe triple that amount. I had LASIK surgery 6 months ago, and love my new eyes. I can see the clock in the morning, and see in the shower. I have new freedom in my life and couldn't imagine going back.

Lasik isn't without risks though. It isn't a comparison. There is actually a pretty high rate of less than optimal outcomes.... (It used to be about 25%, but they may have brought it down by now.) Glasses/contacts are pretty benign and have been around a long time. I'm not saying you're necessarily going to go blind if you get lasik ... just that risk factors into this equation.

...also remember: when you hit mid 40s presbyopia is likely to hit and take you back to glasses/contacts.
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Spork

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Re: Cheaper methods of cleaning and disinfecting contact lenses
« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2013, 03:24:40 PM »

I actually did use heat disinfection back in the 80s with soft lenses. And, yes, I had some sort of cooked in proteins over time. In fact, I never found a method that didn't either get black spots, white spots or (gack) little tiny microscopic holes (which appear as white spots) on the lenses. This was in the days before throw away lenses and I had an expensive prescription (lots of nearsighted + even more astigmatism).

At some point I moved to old school hard lenses. Once you get past the initial "getting used to it" period, I actually prefer them. But: the disinfection problem remains. The lenses last longer, but the solutions are still expensive.
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rachael talcott

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Re: Cheaper methods of cleaning and disinfecting contact lenses
« Reply #5 on: October 19, 2013, 04:14:38 PM »
Have you weighed the lifetime cost of contacts against the cost of corrective surgery? At $10 a month, the solution alone could cost $7000+ over your lifetime. That doesn't take the cost of the replacement contacts into account. That would probably at least double, maybe triple that amount. I had LASIK surgery 6 months ago, and love my new eyes. I can see the clock in the morning, and see in the shower. I have new freedom in my life and couldn't imagine going back.

I've thought about it. My sister and dad both had it done and like it. But I'm prone to dry eyes when I wear contacts and the most common complication of the surgery is dry eyes. I'm imagining the feeling of wearing contacts too long but without the option of taking them out.

The natural immunity in the eye is pretty good, so it's not like there's a need to have perfectly sterilized lenses, but I don't like the idea of not disinfecting at all.

Does anyone have experience with any of these methods?

RT

I'm sorry to say no, I don't. But honestly this is an area where I would avoid taking risks. Eyeballs are precious and irreplaceable. :)

Obviously I don't want to take unreasonable risks, but I'm already taking risks by wearing silicone hydrogel contacts (which apparently are more "infectable" than other types). I have a background in biology, and know that UV is a good disinfectant -- probably better than any of the solutions. From what I've read so far, the biggest risk factor is not washing your hands before handling your contacts.

lhamo

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Re: Cheaper methods of cleaning and disinfecting contact lenses
« Reply #6 on: October 19, 2013, 04:59:54 PM »
You might want to consider switching to rigid gas permeable lenses (RGPs). They are more comfortable than traditional hard lenses, practically as durable (I've been wearing my current pair for 2+ years), and the wetting/cleaning solutions aren't THAT expensive (I think a box of two wetting solutions and one cleaning solution -- enough for about 8 months for me -- is about $20 at Costco, and you can get them for similar prices at target when they go on sale, especially if you can find a coupon).

The lenses can be expensive -- mine cost about $200/pair -- but again they last for a long time (as long as you don't lose/step on them) so the overtime cost is less than soft lenses if you are careful.

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m8547

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Re: Cheaper methods of cleaning and disinfecting contact lenses
« Reply #7 on: October 19, 2013, 05:03:08 PM »
Can you make your own saline to use with UV? Cook it in a pressure cooker if you have one to sterilize since boiling does not kill all microorganisms. (Autoclaves and pressure cookers happen to run at the same temperature and pressure).

Microwaving will just cause heating. I don't think there's anything about microwaves that inherently kills microorganisms. Ionizing radiation is usually required (short wave UV, x-rays, nuclear radiation, etc).

You could use a steri-pen as a UV source. It's intended for disinfecting water. You would probably have to run it twice to get both sides.

Can you figure out what's in the hydrogen peroxide system? Hydrogen peroxide is cheap, then you probably need to neutralize it with something.

Jwesleym

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Re: Cheaper methods of cleaning and disinfecting contact lenses
« Reply #8 on: October 19, 2013, 05:58:37 PM »

Lasik isn't without risks though. It isn't a comparison. There is actually a pretty high rate of less than optimal outcomes.... (It used to be about 25%, but they may have brought it down by now.) Glasses/contacts are pretty benign and have been around a long time. I'm not saying you're necessarily going to go blind if you get lasik ... just that risk factors into this equation.

...also remember: when you hit mid 40s presbyopia is likely to hit and take you back to glasses/contacts.

I understand all the risks, they made all of them pretty clear before the surgery. I will probably need reading glasses one day which is fine, and I most likely won't be legally blind again.

I was lucky enough to have the surgery done at the Army hospital, since I'm active duty. They are in a unique position, since they aren't motivated by the customer's money. They have a success rate in the high 90's and actually can follow all their patients after surgery. This is much higher than civilian success rates, since the Army will turn away patients that are not suited to either of the 3 methods they use. I could go on, but I'll leave it at that.


I've thought about it. My sister and dad both had it done and like it. But I'm prone to dry eyes when I wear contacts and the most common complication of the surgery is dry eyes. I'm imagining the feeling of wearing contacts too long but without the option of taking them out.


The dry eye feeling is much different than the "contacts in too long" feeling, and my eyes have progressively gotten less dry in the months following surgery. I just have to use drops in the morning when I first get up. I never get the end of day dryness anymore.

I fully understand not wanting the surgery, it took me about 8 years to warm up to the idea. I also did not enjoy the surgery, at all. I ended up doing some push-ups and taking some drugs between surgical procedures to calm down enough to finish the process. Having said that, really happy with the outcome and would do it again.

That's my 2 cents and I won't nag about surgery anymore.
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toodleoo

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Re: Cheaper methods of cleaning and disinfecting contact lenses
« Reply #9 on: October 19, 2013, 08:23:13 PM »
With coupons from the newspaper and drugstore sale ads, I can usually get my contact lens solution at half price or even better. Not sure that the time and effort to clean them another way would be worth it.
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rachael talcott

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Re: Cheaper methods of cleaning and disinfecting contact lenses
« Reply #10 on: October 20, 2013, 08:19:14 AM »
Quote
The dry eye feeling is much different than the "contacts in too long" feeling, and my eyes have progressively gotten less dry in the months following surgery. I just have to use drops in the morning when I first get up. I never get the end of day dryness anymore.

That's interesting, and I'm mentally filing that away. I haven't decided against. Just not ready yet.

Quote
Can you make your own saline to use with UV? Cook it in a pressure cooker if you have one to sterilize since boiling does not kill all microorganisms. (Autoclaves and pressure cookers happen to run at the same temperature and pressure).

Microwaving will just cause heating. I don't think there's anything about microwaves that inherently kills microorganisms. Ionizing radiation is usually required (short wave UV, x-rays, nuclear radiation, etc).

You could use a steri-pen as a UV source. It's intended for disinfecting water. You would probably have to run it twice to get both sides.

Can you figure out what's in the hydrogen peroxide system? Hydrogen peroxide is cheap, then you probably need to neutralize it with something.

All good points. I was thinking of making saline. I have a pressure cooker, and I also have access to a real autoclave that reaches a higher pressure/temp than a home pressure cooker. I hadn't heard of steri-pens, but sterile saline plus a steri-pen sounds like a viable option. So thanks for the tip.

Making the peroxide solution seems like the cheapest and simplest option to try first. Aside from 3% hydrogen peroxide (the same as the cheap stuff sold for wound care) the company lists a surfactant as an "active ingredient" and a buffer, salt, and a stabilizer as other ingredients. It doesn't need a separate preservative because of the peroxide. Salt is easy. The other stuff not so much. I don't think the lack of a buffer is a big deal. The pH of normal saline is not going to be much different than tears. The stabilizer is apparently to increase the shelf life of the stuff, and I could just make one bottle at a time. It looks like the surfactant is a cleaner, so the solution would be to get a surfactant-containing cleaner and rub them with it before disinfecting with the peroxide. I will report back on this.

Quote
You might want to consider switching to rigid gas permeable lenses (RGPs). They are more comfortable than traditional hard lenses, practically as durable (I've been wearing my current pair for 2+ years), and the wetting/cleaning solutions aren't THAT expensive (I think a box of two wetting solutions and one cleaning solution -- enough for about 8 months for me -- is about $20 at Costco, and you can get them for similar prices at target when they go on sale, especially if you can find a coupon).

I'm pretty sure the cleaners would cause the same problems I had with cheaper systems for soft contacts.

MelodysMustache

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Re: Cheaper methods of cleaning and disinfecting contact lenses
« Reply #11 on: October 20, 2013, 10:23:53 AM »
IMHO your vision is not the place to look for the cheepo option. $10 a month, while not free, is a small price to pay to know that you are taking care of your eyes in the way your doctor recommends.

CommonCents

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Re: Cheaper methods of cleaning and disinfecting contact lenses
« Reply #12 on: October 20, 2013, 10:41:28 AM »
No. I like my eyes very much, bad as they are, and wouldn't want to risk anything happening to them. I'm not a candidate for laser myself (eyes are too bad, it wouldn't fully correct for me), but I do save by paying attention to the free bottle samples from Biotrue. I get enough I have my mom request for my sister not me (I tell them when the samples are available to get them). I only pay for my hard lens, and the rare bottle of cleaner. I've also got enough saline I've given it away to shelters.

MrsPete

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Re: Cheaper methods of cleaning and disinfecting contact lenses
« Reply #13 on: October 20, 2013, 01:54:11 PM »
As much as I like to save a dollar, I would search high and low for other areas of my life in which I could be frugal loooong before I'd use any type of homemade solution that could potentially mean risking my sight.

If money is really low, consider using plain old eyeglasses. I have a fairly expensive prescription (can't do anything about that), but I only need new glasses every 3-4 years, and that's considerably cheaper than using a product that requires replacement every month.

I don't think Lasik is a bad idea at all, and it might be cheaper than buying contacts your whole life. I know a number of people who've had it and every single one of them has had wonderful, wonderful results. One person says, "This is the single best thing that money can buy." I know one person who had a bad time with the surgery, but her problem was an allergy to a medicine they used. Once that medicine was out of her system, no more problem. I will echo what a previous poster said: Your eyes are going to change significantly around age 40. It happens to all of us. I don't know what that means to a potential Lasik patient, but if I were considering the surgery, I'd absolutely research it further.

jamface10

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Re: Cheaper methods of cleaning and disinfecting contact lenses
« Reply #14 on: October 20, 2013, 04:55:04 PM »
I want to second that this probably isn't the area to skimp. Most likely the contacts will build up more deposits which can cause inflammation of the eye. Worst case scenario is an infection which can be potentially blinding and I have been told can be worse than child birth (n=1).

Abe

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Re: Cheaper methods of cleaning and disinfecting contact lenses
« Reply #15 on: October 20, 2013, 09:20:54 PM »
I agree with the others saying that one should not try to make their own home-made solutions. While they could work well, I would be concerned about the ability to ensure sterility and effective anti-bacterial ability without damaging the lenses. For example, the buffers are often titrated carefully to protect the lens and the active ingredients' enzymatic activity. One could probably do it with sufficient experience in chemistry/molecular biology. Also, please DO NOT try to make a hydrogen peroxide-based solution by yourself! That must be neutralized afterwards, and if not completely neutralized, it can cause severe, irreparable damage to your corneas! If you are concerned about cost, wear glasses. I've seen enough severe eye infections and corneal injuries in clinics and research to not fool around with my contact lens care in any way.

rachael talcott

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Re: Cheaper methods of cleaning and disinfecting contact lenses
« Reply #16 on: October 21, 2013, 06:53:13 AM »
You know, it occurs to me that at least part of the reason health care is so expensive is that medical goods are thought of as super special and therefore worthy of their high cost. I actually do have a biology PhD and a lot of experience with biomedical research, so it doesn't seem that much of a risk to add the appropriate amount of salt to peroxide so that once it's neutralized it becomes normal saline. And it doesn't seem a risk at all to put freshly neutralized normal saline in my eye (yes, I do know it needs to be neutralized). I wouldn't make my own IV saline but what I'm trying doesn't seem like a risk.

GuitarStv

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Re: Cheaper methods of cleaning and disinfecting contact lenses
« Reply #17 on: October 21, 2013, 07:07:50 AM »
You know, it occurs to me that at least part of the reason health care is so expensive is that medical goods are thought of as super special and therefore worthy of their high cost. I actually do have a biology PhD and a lot of experience with biomedical research, so it doesn't seem that much of a risk to add the appropriate amount of salt to peroxide so that once it's neutralized it becomes normal saline. And it doesn't seem a risk at all to put freshly neutralized normal saline in my eye (yes, I do know it needs to be neutralized). I wouldn't make my own IV saline but what I'm trying doesn't seem like a risk.

Fortunately you don't need to make your own IV saline . . . you can just use coconuts:

http://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10674546

Spork

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Re: Cheaper methods of cleaning and disinfecting contact lenses
« Reply #18 on: October 21, 2013, 09:04:53 AM »
You know, it occurs to me that at least part of the reason health care is so expensive is that medical goods are thought of as super special and therefore worthy of their high cost. I actually do have a biology PhD and a lot of experience with biomedical research, so it doesn't seem that much of a risk to add the appropriate amount of salt to peroxide so that once it's neutralized it becomes normal saline. And it doesn't seem a risk at all to put freshly neutralized normal saline in my eye (yes, I do know it needs to be neutralized). I wouldn't make my own IV saline but what I'm trying doesn't seem like a risk.

When I wore soft lenses and used hydrogen peroxide (CAUTION: THIS WAS MORE THAN 30 YEARS AGO!) it was neutralized with some sort of platinum coated catalyst. ...just FYI (or FY eye, as the case may be.)
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Abe

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Re: Cheaper methods of cleaning and disinfecting contact lenses
« Reply #19 on: October 21, 2013, 06:08:44 PM »
Fair enough, if you have the expertise then sounds alright. I just wanted to make it clear to others who do not have that expertise and decide to follow suit. To each their own, after all!

jamface10

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Re: Cheaper methods of cleaning and disinfecting contact lenses
« Reply #20 on: October 21, 2013, 08:30:19 PM »
You always hear some fun stories about lenses stored in beer or urine :-P

rachael talcott

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Re: Cheaper methods of cleaning and disinfecting contact lenses
« Reply #21 on: October 24, 2013, 05:58:43 AM »
For what it's worth, the new system seems to be working fine.

When I take them out, I rub them in a "one-step" cleaner, then put them in the standard peroxide system, using peroxide with plain (uniodized) salt (9 grams per liter) added. The disc neutralizer in the holder will eventually run out, but I have lots of them from buying the expensive stuff for years, and even if I have to buy a package of it once in awhile to get a new one, they last a long time. I measured and did the math, and this should save me about $70-80 per year.

Probably most people who wear contacts can use cheaper solutions to start out with, but if you're stuck with expensive Clearcare, this two-step procedure might be an option.