crsheader Index Related Topics Soft Contact Lenses, Thermal Disinfection: Teen Version

What is thermal disinfection?

During normal wear, dirt, protein particles, and germs can get on soft contacts. Thermal (heat) disinfection is one way to kill the germs that can cause serious eye infections. It also protects your eyes from irritation. The rest of the cleaning process removes substances that may shorten the life of the lens.

Thermal disinfection is one of several ways to disinfect soft contact lenses. (Chemical disinfection is more commonly used than thermal disinfection.)

When is it done?

Soft contacts must be disinfected every time you remove them. If you have daily-wear soft contacts, you will clean and disinfect them every night. If you have extended-wear soft contacts, you will clean and disinfect them every time you take them out. Most eye care providers recommend that all contacts be taken out before sleeping, even extended-wear contacts.

Throw away disposable contacts. Do not try to clean and reuse them.

How is it done?

You will need:

  • an electric thermal disinfecting unit (heating unit)
  • a contact lens case made for use with the heating unit
  • your recommended daily cleaning solution
  • the solution recommended for use with your heating unit

To clean and disinfect your lenses properly, follow these steps:

  1. Wash your hands before you remove your lenses. Always handle them gently (soft contacts can tear). Be sure to keep track of which is the right lens and which is the left. It helps if you always handle the right lens first.
  2. Cleaning: Remove the lens and put it in the palm of your hand so that it curves up (like a bowl). Pour a few drops of daily cleaner over the lens. Using one finger, rub the lens back and forth. The daily cleaner helps dissolve dirt and oils.
  3. Rinsing: Either cradle the lens in your fingertips or leave it in your palm, and rinse it thoroughly using the sterile saline rinsing solution.
  4. Disinfecting: Fill the case with the recommended solution. Put the lens in the correct side of the case. Repeat these steps with the left lens. Screw the caps on and put the case into the heating unit. Be sure the unit is plugged in, then turn it on.

Before you use your heating unit for the first time, read the instructions that come with it. Most heating units take 30 to 45 minutes to disinfect your lenses and then cool down. When the heating process is complete, you can put your lenses in your eyes. You may want to rinse them with saline solution before you put them in your eyes. If you do, be sure to use only the sterile saline rinsing solution that your eye care provider has recommended for your lenses.

Rinse the case thoroughly with tap water, and either dry it or let it air dry.

Is any other kind of cleaning needed?

To help remove protein deposits, your eye care provider may recommend enzyme cleaning. Enzyme cleaning is usually done once every week or two. Using the enzyme cleaner on the same day each week may help you remember when enzyme cleaning is needed. Only certain enzyme cleaners are designed for use with thermal disinfection systems. Be sure that you read the package information carefully before you buy an enzyme cleaner.

Most enzyme cleaners come in tablet form. Use your enzyme cleaner according to the directions on the package. Then clean, disinfect, and rinse your lenses before putting them in your eyes.

What solutions should I use?

There are many different contact lens care products on the market. Your eye care provider will recommend certain products based on what is best for your contacts and safest for your eyes. Always check with your eye care provider before changing contact lens solutions. Other products might work, but using different solutions could irritate your eyes or discolor your lenses. Always read the instructions that come with your contact lens products.

Do not store or clean your lenses using tap water or homemade solutions.

Reviewed for medical accuracy by faculty at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins. Web site: Developed by RelayHealth. Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-07-21
Last reviewed: 2010-09-07 This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional. References
Pediatric Advisor 2011.4 Index
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