Use hydrogen peroxide contact solutions with care

peroxiclearI wear contact lenses. Several years ago, when my eyes began to be more dry and easily irritated, my ophthalmologist recommended using the new 3% hydrogen peroxide-based cleaning solution.

The preservatives used in many eye drops and contact lens solutions can be irritating, especially if used over time. Hydrogen peroxide solutions don’t contain these preservatives.

Related post: The eyes have it

I was interested in getting rid of my red eyes, but the thought of using hydrogen peroxide on my eyeballs scared me. I had to have a lot of faith in the science that the little piece of platinum in the special contact case would really neutralize all the hydrogen peroxide.

Otherwise, I would get a nasty chemical burn. On my eyeballs.

But I followed the directions carefully and the product worked just fine.

Other people aren’t as nervous as me, apparently, and do end up with burned eyes, sometimes necessitating an expensive trip to the emergency room.

h2o2 warning labelThe manufacturers, consumer groups and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have been working more or less together over the last few years to make sure the labels are much more clear about potential eye injuries.

Have they succeeded? Hmm…this label is on the back of a box of the Bausch & Lomb product, PeroxiClear. The print is very tiny. How many people buying this product would actually take the time to read it?

Another problem is that all the contact lens solutions stand next to each other on the shelves. It would be easy to grab this product (maybe it’s on sale and cheaper!) rather than one without hydrogen peroxide.

The special case with the neutralizing disc must also be used and replaced regularly. And it takes 4-6 hours for the hydrogen peroxide to be converted to a safe saline solution. I’ve been wearing contact lenses for decades, and I know how sloppy we can all get in caring for our lenses.

The solution bottle has a red tip to make sure we know the product shouldn’t be put directly into our eyes. At least, I hope most people understand what that red tip means. But what if the light is poor, or you’re just not paying attention?

Although at this time the FDA thinks the manufacturers have adequate warnings and directions, they still issued a consumer update last week encouraging everyone to be careful with hydrogen peroxide-based solutions and follow all the instructions.

If you use a solution that has hydrogen peroxide you absolutely must follow the disinfecting process with a “neutralizer.” A neutralizer is always sold as part of your hydrogen peroxide cleaning solution kit. It turns the peroxide into water and oxygen, making it safe to put lenses into your eyes.

The update included the following safety tips:

Checklist for Solutions With Hydrogen Peroxide

  • Talk to your eye-care provider before deciding on the best cleaning and disinfecting method for your contact lenses. Never change your lens-care system before consulting your provider.
  • Before you use a new solution, read all instructions on the box and bottle and follow them carefully. If you have questions, stop and contact your eye-care provider.
  • Never share solution that contains hydrogen peroxide. Other people might confuse your solution with multipurpose solution and not follow instructions. This could result in damage to their eyes.
  • Always use the special contact lens case that comes with each new bottle of solution. Never use a case other than the one that comes with each new bottle. (An old case would not neutralize the peroxide, which would cause burning, stinging and irritation when you put contacts in your eyes.)
  • Leave contacts in the solution for at least 6 hours to allow the neutralizing process to finish.
  • Never rinse your contact lenses with hydrogen peroxide solutions or put these solutions in your eyes.

If you do accidentally get hydrogen peroxide in your eye, follow these first aid steps for chemical burns of the eyes (it’s easier if someone helps you):

  • Tilt your head so that the affected eye is “down river” from the good eye (or the chemical will just flow into the unaffected eye).
  • Use your fingers to hold the eye open as wide as possible.
  • Using a cup with plain, tepid water (or saline if you have it), slowly pour the water into the inner corner of your eye and let it wash over the eyeball. Position a basin to catch the water. 
  • Repeat for at least 15 minutes.
  • Get medical attention. Call your eye doctor or a nurse hotline. If pain is severe, call 911 or go to an urgent care/emergency room.

And if you do experience an injury or another problem with these products, or don’t think the warning labels/instructions are good enough, make a report to the FDA’s MedWatch Program.

Sláinte,

Frugal Nurse

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