What Contact Lens Wearers Need to Know About Tobacco Use

by | May 13, 2015 | Featured, News

With a prescription from an eye doctor, consumers choose to wear contact lenses for various reasons—convenience, appearance, or to enhance athletic potential—but good hygiene and safety practices must be followed. The New Jersey Society of Optometric Physicians (NJSOP) urges consumers not to use tobacco, as smoking can cause harm to eye health.

“Smoke is a major eye irritant, particularly for those who wear contact lenses,” said Dr. Edward Harmer, optometric physician and president of the NJSOP. “If you smoke and wear contact lenses, the tar and nicotine that deposits on your fingers can contaminate your contacts when you handle your lenses, which can give your eyes a burning sensation.”

In addition to causing problems associated with poor contact lens hygiene, plus the diseases already associated with tobacco use (lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke), individuals who use tobacco are more likely to develop a blinding eye disease called macular degeneration.

“Macular degeneration is a serious disease that can cause diminished color vision and the gradual loss of ability to see objects clearly—objects can appear distorted in shape and a dark or empty area could appear in the center of a person’s vision,” said Dr. Harmer. 

The bottom line? Avoid tobacco use to maintain good overall health and to ensure your contact lenses will serve you in the best possible way. 

Use these recommendations from the American Optometric Association (AOA) to ensure you’re following proper hygiene practices when wearing contacts. If not used as directed by an eye doctor, the consequences of improper contact lens use can include infection and even damage to the eye and eye health.


  • Always wash and dry your hands before handling contact lenses. According to the AOA’s 2014 American Eye-Q® survey, 35 percent of contact lens wearers skipped this important step.
  • Carefully and regularly clean contact lenses, as directed by your eye doctor. Rub the contact lenses with fingers and rinse thoroughly before soaking lenses overnight in sufficient multi-purpose solution to completely cover the lens.
  • Store lenses in the proper lens storage case and replace your case every three months or sooner. Clean the case after each use, and keep it open and dry between cleanings.
  • Only fresh solution should be used to clean and store contact lenses. Never re-use old solution. Saline solution and rewetting drops are not designed to disinfect lenses.
  • Always follow the recommended contact lens replacement schedule prescribed by your eye doctor. According to the American Eye-Q® survey, 57 percent of contact lens wearers admitted to wearing disposable contact lenses longer than directed.
  • Don’t wear contact lenses while swimming or in a hot tub. According to the FDA and the AOA, contact lenses should not be exposed to any kind of water, including tap water and water in swimming pools, oceans, lakes, hot tubs and showers.

For additional resources about contact lens hygiene and safety, visit contactlenssafety.org or aoa.org. To find a doctor of optometry near you, visit our find-a-doc page, here.

Read: Why Water and Contact Lenses Don’t Mix