Soft Contact Lenses: Enzyme Cleaning

What is enzyme cleaning of soft contact lenses?

Enzyme cleaning is the use of a special cleaning product that removes protein build up from soft contact lenses. Proteins can build up and damage your lenses and irritate your eyes. Enzyme cleaning can remove these proteins, but does not remove dirt and oils, and it does not kill germs. You also need to clean and disinfect your lenses with other products.

How often is it done?

Usually it is done once a week. Follow your healthcare provider's instructions about how often to use an enzyme cleaner. Use the enzyme cleaner on the same day each week to help you remember when to do it.

How is enzyme cleaning done?

You need an enzyme cleaner approved by your eye care provider, two small plastic vials (which usually come packaged with the enzyme cleaner), and a sterile saline rinsing solution.

Buy a sterile saline solution for use with contact lenses. It is not safe to use tap water with your enzyme cleaner. Tap water can be contaminated. One organism in some tap water, called Acanthamoeba, can cause an eye infection that is very hard to treat and can cause blindness. Do not use distilled water instead of saline solution. Saline solution is safer for your lenses. It has salts that are not in distilled water.

To use your enzyme cleaner properly, follow these steps:

  1. Wash your hands with plain soap and dry them.
  2. Put one enzyme tablet in each plastic vial and fill the vials with sterile saline solution. Shake the vials until the enzyme tablets dissolve. They will fizz a little.
  3. Put your right lens in the vial marked with an R and your left lens in the vial marked with an L. Let the lenses soak for the recommended time, usually at least 2 hours.
  4. After the lenses have soaked, wash and rinse your hands thoroughly. Pour one lens into your palm, and use one finger to rub it back and forth for about 30 seconds. This helps remove loosened protein deposits.
  5. Rinse the lens thoroughly with your saline rinsing solution. Then follow your daily cleaning and disinfecting procedure.

Repeat steps 4 and 5 with the other lens.

Remember that enzyme cleaning does not replace your usual cleaning and disinfecting procedures. After enzyme cleaning, clean and disinfect your lenses as you would each time you remove them.

What cleaning products should I use?

Some enzyme tablets are designed for use with chemical disinfection systems. Others should be used only with heat disinfection systems. Using the wrong enzyme cleaner could damage or discolor your lenses. Use the enzyme cleaner your eye care provider recommends.

Get your eye care provider's approval before you change solutions. Also, always read the instructions that come with your lens care products.

Reviewed for medical accuracy by faculty at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins. Web site: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/wilmer/

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