Rub Some Dirt On It: The no-saline-solution blues

October 14, 2010

The hardest-working organs in any college student’s body are probably the eyes.   They are continuously glued to a computer-screen lit in harsh, artificial light, gazing at power-point slides during class lectures, pouring over glossy textbook pages into the early morning, or adjusting to the strobe-lights at a Saturday night party. Despite all that they do for us, our eyes are among the most abused and neglected parts of our bodies. This is especially true for those of us who couldn’t survive a day without our contact lenses.

Almost everyone who owns and depends upon contact lenses has been guilty of sleeping without removing her contact lenses, wearing her two-week lenses for two months, and rinsing her lenses in water after forgetting to pick up a new bottle of saline solution on her last trip to CVS. Since the occasional transgression seems to do no harm, and our contacts lenses continue to work just fine, we are easily seduced into making a habit of these offenses.

And it is okay to take the occasional catnap with your lenses in. Being too lazy or too tired to pop out your lenses on a regular basis, however, is not okay. This is especially true if you’re recovering from a night at the bar, because your eyes need oxygen almost as much as your lungs do. Corneas are transparent because, ideally, they doesn’t have any blood vessels flowing through them. But as a result, it needs to get its oxygen directly from the environment.

If your contact lenses are always glued to your eyes, oxygen cannot get in, and carbon dioxide, a waste product of the cornea, cannot get out. When that happens, your amazingly intelligent body will build blood vessels around the cornea in an attempt to provide your eyes with the necessary oxygen. That means you wake up the next morning with a pair of not-so-attractive, bloodshot eyes.

Add alcohol to the mix and your problem gets worse. Alcohol dehydrates your whole body, including your eyes. Your contact lenses stick more tightly to your eyes as a result, which could lead to an infection.

An even easier way to contract a nasty eye infection is to use tap water to clean your lenses when in a fix. How many times have your resorted to using the water fountain or the bathroom sink to clean a lens when it falls out between classes? Unfortunately, our water isn’t entirely pure. It contains minerals and residues that don’t belong on your lens or in your eye, which means you’re better off leaving your contact out if you can manage.

Just because you can’t see or feel the negative consequences of misusing your lenses doesn’t mean your eyes aren’t being damaged. Wearing your lenses past their prime can hurt your eyes in ways you won’t know about until it’s too late—when a full fledged infection develops and puts your vision in danger.

Even if money is tight, this isn’t the place to be stingy. In fact, your best bet is to save a little extra cash and invest in a sturdy pair of glasses for late-night studying, lazy Sundays, and ran-out-of-saline-solution Mondays.

Got your bloodshot, inflamed eye on Sadaf? Let her know at squreshi@georgetowvoice.com


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