What is Contact Lens Solution Made Of?

June 21, 2024


Contact lenses are safely used by millions of people worldwide, but they require regular upkeep and care.
Oil, debris, makeup and microorganisms can accumulate on your contact lens surfaces over time, and these in turn can irritate your eye, or cause severe complications.
As contact lenses sit directly on the surface of your eye ( the cornea), a lens that is not properly cleaned and disinfected can increase the risk of eye infection, so good hygiene is important.
A good cleansing regimen will include a type of contact lens solution and/or related products that must include cleaning, rinsing, disinfecting and properly storing the lenses.
Contact lens solutions are a commercially prepared chemical solution for cleaning and disinfecting contact lenses.
There are many types and brands and most of them contain some kind of preservative, a binding agent, a buffer, and a surfactant or wetting agent.
These elements effectively remove any build up that has formed on your contact lenses without scratching them and condition the lenses so that they are moist and wet on the surface of your eyes.
Contact lenses can safely be stored in contact lens solution when not in use, where they will be kept sterile and hydrated.
Contact lens solution will need to be renewed on a regular basis if your contact lenses are not worn regularly Your Contact Lens Guru can inform you of your requirements depending on your contact lenses and the solutions you are using.
Multi step contact lens care includes separate solutions to clean, rinse, disinfect, neutralise and remove proteins.
While single, multipurpose contact solutions can perform all the above steps in one solution.
The multipurpose solution appears to save both time and money, but it may not be suitable for everyone.
A one-step disinfection system is available in two types, hydrogen peroxide and multipurpose solutions.
Both contain cleaners, to break down proteins adhering to your contact lens surface.
Most solutions typically contain moisturizing or conditioning agents, with the hope that this will make your contact lenses feel like, “Wow, this feels great!”
There are also buffers to maintain an eye-friendly pH and preservatives to maintain the shelf life of the disinfection bottle of solution.
The difference between hydrogen peroxide and multipurpose solutions is the process disinfect.
Hydrogen peroxide systems use hydrogen peroxide as the disinfection agent.
They typically involve two components: a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution and a neutralization catalyst.
While the hydrogen peroxide does a terrific job of killing whatever microbes might have latched onto lenses, it’s not very eye-friendly, so a platinum, palladium, or silver catalyst is used in the contact lens case to completely neutralize the solution by reducing the hydrogen peroxide to form oxygen and water.
The hydrogen peroxide neutralization reaction itself, as well as the O2 product bubbling through the solution, may further help to kill any residual microbes.
Your contact lenses require a minimum of six hours for the full disinfection cycle.
Once the disinfection cycle is finished your contact lenses are clean and ready to wear.
In contrast to hydrogen peroxide solutions, multipurpose solutions typically use a disinfection agent such as polyhexamethylene biguanide or polyquaternium, which are effective at killing microbes while still being gentle to the eye.
As with hydrogen peroxide solutions, the disinfectant presents the biggest challenge to solution developers whereas the contact lens multipurpose solution must be gentle enough that lens wearers can put their lenses directly into their eyes without rinsing.
Some of the cleaning regimens may be multistep or others may be all-in-one, it is best to speak to your Contact Lens Guru and they will recommend which contact lens disinfecting solution is best for you and your type of contact lenses.
what is contact lens solution?
How is contact lens solution different from saline?
Saline solution is a simple, pH- balanced saltwater solution that can be used to rinse off your lenses before inserting them.
It is important to note that saline solution does NOT contain any cleansing agents, so it should never be used to clean, disinfect or store your lenses.
Never attempt to make your own mixture at home, as multiple studies have shown it leads to serious corneal infections.
Saline solution can be used to rinse your lenses before inserting them in as they are made of a pH-balanced saltwater solution that’s gentle on your eyes.
Can I use my contact lens solution for dry eyes?
Contact lens rewetting drops do work differently to contact lens solutions.
The tear layer of your eyes mainly contains mucus, water and oil.
Contact lens solution however contains six or seven ingredients, cleaner that is antimicrobial, ingredients to coat the contact lens making it comfortable, preservatives, while others bind to the water component in your tears to help keep it from evaporating.
All these extra chemicals are not great for your eyes.
Artificial tears contain ingredients that stick to the surface of your eye, keep your tears stable and eyes moisturized.
It is best not to use contact lens solution as eye drops to relieve your dry eyes. Non-preserved artificial tears are also healthier when you wear your contact lenses.
How to clean contact lens and lens case?
Looking after your contact lenses is by far the most important part of being a responsible contact lens wearer.
Contact lens disinfection must be done every day and straight after you have removed your contact lenses.
Wash your hands with soap and water before handling your contact lenses.
Cleaning your lenses falls into three separates, but equally important areas:
The rubbing or cleaning step is enabled by rubbing the lens surface with specially designed cleaners.
The aim of this is to physically remove contaminants from your contact lens which could otherwise lead to discomfort, infection or decreased lens life.
Once the lens has been cleaned, the cleaner and any loosened contaminants must be rinsed from the lens.
A sterile saline solution is commonly used for this step.
Bacteria and contaminants can accumulate on the lens during wear or handling. Disinfecting aims to destroy and left-over contaminants and bacteria from the cleaning and rinsing steps.
The disinfection process returns your contact lenses to a “ready-to-wear” state.
Protein accumulates on the lens surfaces during a day of wear and therefore it is important to include a weekly protein removal.
Proper cleaning of contact lenses and your case are essential for good eye health.
It has also been proven that regular replacement of our contact lens case significantly reduces the chance of infection.
After you insert your contacts, empty all solutions from the case.
Never re-use your contact solution.
The liquid happens to be warm and moist, the kind of environment in which micro-organisms like bacteria and fungus typically thrive.
You’re creating an environment where you’re growing more stuff that’s bad for you in your case and inserting a dirty contact lens into your eye.
Rub the inside of the case with your clean fingers or clean cotton buds.
Rinse the case with a fresh, clean multipurpose/conditioning solution.
Your contact lens case needs to be cleaned on a daily basis to ensure bacteria do not have the chance to grow.
Air dry the case upside down with the caps off until you’re ready to store the lenses.
The only way to achieve a hygienic and safe clean of your contact lens containers is with fresh solution.
Occasionally disinfecting your contact lens case is by soaking it in boiling water for at least 5 minutes.
The contact lens case should be replaced every 3 months. Bacteria and other microorganisms can produce a substance called biofilm that can form in your case and help bacteria hide from the disinfectant in your contact lens solution.
Proximity to the bathroom sink seems like a good thing and especially since you’re going to actually clean your case often.
The problem is that your case is at the greatest risk of becoming contaminated when you keep it in a humid environment like your bathroom.
Each time you flush your toilet, pathogens like E.coli and salmonella may spray into the air and those little droplets can land on your case.
This doesn’t mean you’ll definitely wind up with some sort of intense eye infection simply because your contact lens case is in the bathroom.
After all, tons of people have been doing this for years without issue, and maybe you’re one of them.
But if you’re concerned and want to keep your eyes as safe as humanly possible, aim to store your contact lens case in a clean, low-humidity environment.
Once you’re familiar with your contact lenses and how to care for them, establishing a routine is simple.
Here are some tips to keep your contacts in tip-top shape:
Establish a habit of starting with the same eye.
This way you won’t mix them up, since each eye has its own prescription.
Check the contact lens solution bottles for expiration dates and throw out any that are out of date.
Keep the solution tip away from other surfaces and tightly capped.
Particles can contaminate the solution, so always close the cap when you’re finished.
Never mix different brands or even different types of contact lens solutions.
Each contact lens solution has different ingredients that could counteract one another or not be suitable with your type of contact lens.
Even if you use a “no-rub” contact lens solution, it’s still advisable to rub your lenses gently on your palm using your index finger with your recommended contact lens solution before rinsing for a more effective cleansing.
Avoid extending the life of your contact lenses, even though you store the old ones in your case with a fresh solution.
You should throw out your contact lenses on time whether or not you actually wore them for the full use period.
The contact lenses are either worn safely on your eyes or safely stored in your contact lens case.
Clean hands, clean contact lenses and a clean case.
Your contact lenses and contact lens solutions should be stored below 25C.
Where to buy contact lens solution?
If you’ve left your contact lens solution at home and find your particular contact lens solution your best option is to discard your contact lenses.
Tap water should definitely not be used with your contact lenses as all water contains bacteria and microorganisms.
Once in your eyes, they can cause a rare disease called Acanthamoeba keratitis. It is a severe corneal infection that can lead to permanent vision loss.
Some sources may tell you that distilled water is fine for storing contacts in if you boil it first.
This is also not recommended because there is no way to know for certain if you’ve killed all organisms in the water.
It is dangerous to store you contact lenses in distilled water for even one night.
Contact lens solution is the only solution for the safe disinfection of your contact lenses.
If you are unsure please contact your Contact lens Guru for any clarification.

In addition to owning and managing Ezekiel Eyes, Damon is a contact lens consultant to various research organisations. He regularly lectures and conducts workshops in contact lens practice throughout Australia, Asia and the United States. Damon graduated from the University of NSW with a Bachelor of Optometry in 1989. He is now married with two children and enjoys running, hockey, swimming, piano, travelling and trekking.

Damon’s professional associations include:
President of the International Society of Contact Lens Specialists
Practising Fellow of the Scleral Lens Education Society
Fellow of the Cornea & Contact Lens Society of Australia
Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry
Member of Optometry Australia
Member of the Orthokeratology Society of Australia
Member of Alcon Australia advisory panel