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Everyone who has ever tried contacts knows the feeling: The first time you attempt to get them in at home is so frustrating. How is it possible that you mastered it in the office and now at home its been an hour and they're still not going in? Its like you forgot everything the doctor told you. Just relax. Here are a few pointers:

1. Keep both eyes open. Your eyelids operate in sync with each other, so if you are trying to insert a right contact and your left eye is squeezed shut, you are making it a lot harder for yourself. Keep your left eye open so the right follows suit.

2. Keep you contact WET and your finger that its resting on DRY. The reasoning is simple if you think about it: wet things love to stick to other wet things. So a wet contact will want to get right on your wet eyeball. But if your finger is also wet, it will never want to leave.

3. Don't break eye contact with yourself. If you start to panic when the lens approaches your eye and your eyes roll back, suddenly you can't see what you're doing in the mirror and just aimlessly pushing the contact towards your eye. If you don't watch what you're doing, this will never work.

4. Practice with eye drops first. Part of the struggle is simply getting comfortable with something going in your eyes. It is an unnatural thing, if you think about it. Our instinct is to be protective of our eyes and shut them tight if anything gets close. A great way to get more comfortable is to practice putting artificial tears in your eyes. Once you've mastered eye drops, the next step is contacts.

5. When removing lenses, don't delay between the "slide" and the "pinch." You probably remember being taught to pinch the lens off. But first its important to slide the lens away from the center and onto the white part of your eye (because if you accidentally scratch or pinch the white of your eye it is not as bad as if you accidentally pinched the center). The problem is, you have a very small window of opportunity to pinch the lens after sliding it. Because if you wait too long, or take your finger off, the lens goes right back to the center, exactly where it is designed to fit. Practice getting the slide and the pinch in a single, continuous motion.

If you need more practice, we are here for you! Don't hesitate to make another appointment for more in-office training!

One more thing: Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands.

It's my job to tell you that and to show you this photo from a study done at the University of Waterloo after handling contact lenses with washed and unwashed hands.

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Updated: Apr 1, 2019

In celebration of Earth Day, this month's post is about how to make environmentally conscientious choices with your eye wear. In elementary school we learned to REDUCE! REUSE! and RECYCLE! Here's how we can apply that to our eyewear choices.

1. Reduce the amount of plastic we purchase. This brings us to the question, what takes less plastic to manufacture, glasses or contact lenses? The chart below shows the amount of plastic in a year's worth of contacts vs. glasses.

Just like you'd guess, glasses are the winner. Keep in mind too, if you're only wearing contacts about half the time- we can cut that number in half on the daily disposable chart, bringing it down to 477 grams- just under the year's supply of monthly contact lenses. (I know what you're thinking, we should be cutting the monthly wear number in half too, but that's not the case; when worn properly, even if worn every other day, you'd still need 12 pairs, 12 cases, and 12 bottles of solution). To be the most environmentally friendly, stick with glasses. If you do want to wear contacts, and you wear them every day, go with the monthly kind. If you wear contacts every other day or less, go with daily disposables. We can even do one better to reduce plastic production. Consider frames made of biodegradable materials such as cotton acetate, like that used by the brand Monkeyglasses, instead of the usual zylonite cellulose acetate.

2. Reuse frames more than once. If your frames are in good condition, don't waste them. Frames can be re-used again and again by simply updating the lenses with your most current prescription. Some frames, such as STATE frames, have a lifetime warranty! If you are ready to move on to a different style, we recommend donating your old glasses through the Lion' Club. When I was a student, I participated in mission trips to both Nicaragua, and Oaxaca, Mexico with hundreds of pairs of glasses donated from the Lion's Club. Being able to give theses glasses to people who live in poor villages without eye care- well that's just about the best thing you can do with them. Please remember it is NOT a good idea to reuse your contact lenses for longer than their FDA-approved lifespan.

3. Recycle contact lenses and their packaging materials. Contact lenses are a surprisingly significant pollutant for two reasons: They can't be recycled traditionally because they are too small for recycling facilities to process, and when rinsed down the sink or toilet, they end up in waterways. Yes, people do that. Believe it or not, about 20% of contact lens wearers dispose of contacts down the drain or toilet. This is the WORST way to dispose of contacts. Contacts are particularly dangerous in waterways for a few reasons: 1- the plastic is designed to be durable so they don't biodegrade easily and 2- they are so small they slip through filters used to keep non-biological material out of waterways. According to the American Chemical Society, it is estimated that six to 10 metric tons of plastic contact lenses end up in wastewater in the U.S. alone each year. Contacts tend to be denser than water, which means they sink, and this could ultimately pose a threat to aquatic life.

So if you don't want your contacts in waterways or landfills, but you can't just thrown them in your recycling bin, what options do you have? They need to go to a specialty recycling center. We've found the easiest one to use is Terracycle because they can be shipped free with printable shipping labels. We are 100% on board.

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Very often I have the following conversation with patients:

ME: So tell me about those glasses you have. What do you use them for?

PATIENT: Oh these are just drug store reading glasses. I use them for tiny print but I try not to use them too much.

ME: Why's that?

PATIENT: I don't want to get dependent on these. I want to make my eyes do the reading sometimes. You know, so they don't get lazy.

I've said this before and I'll say it again: That's not a thing.

But I can see why you would think that. After all, if I stopped using my left arm entirely the muscles would atrophy and pretty soon I wouldn't be able to use my left arm. If I stop doing yoga, one day I'll wake up and be 55 and unable to touch my toes. Exercise your body, we've been told. Work your body regularly to keep everything functioning to its full potential. But this logic does not apply to presbyopia, or that near vision blur we get when hit our 40's, 50's, and so on.

A better analogy is this: When I was 15 I used to listen to my headphones loudly. Like really loudly. And my dad said, "Ali, turn that down you are going to ruin your ears." To which I'd (freshly) reply, "No, Dad, I'm making my ears work harder so they can be strong." Flawed logic. Same goes for your resistance to reading glasses.

Presbyopia occurs due to changes in the crystalline lens inside our eyes as we age. A young person is able to physically change the shape of the lens inside the eye. When the lens shape changes, it acts like a different power- almost like "dialing-in" the reading glasses prescription internally. This ability is best around age 10, and gradually decreases until around age 70. So in theory, a 10 year old kid could hold something riiiight up to his face and with some effort make it look perfect. I, on the other hand, can only hold it about 6-8 inches away before it looks blurry (I'm 31). And as we age, this distance that things look clear becomes further and further away. Because that internal lens loses its ability to change shape. Becomes less flexible, or less elastic, so to speak. This happens at a rate that is very predictable and has been repeated in studies time and time again. There is no evidence that the rate is different in those who wear reading glasses compared to those that don't.

But wait, I know what you're thinking. You have a friend/parent/aunt/co-worker who is like 60 and STILL DOESN'T NEED READING GLASSES. She has not escaped presbyopia. There are a few reasons for this:

1. She is in denial.

2. She is, in fact, blurry up close but doesn't mind.

3. She is naturally nearsighted. Nearsighted people see blurry far away but are naturally in focus up close (hence the word near-sighted). So a nearsighted person a lot of times can remove her glasses and see perfectly for reading.

4. She wears multifocal contact lenses. I can hook you up.

My advice is this: Embrace the reading glasses. Be reassured that your vision may continue to change whether you wear the glasses or don't wear the glasses. So instead of suffering through blurry vision, tired eyes, headaches, pushing things back as far as your arms go, and pulling out your flashlight at restaurants because you're afraid your glasses are doing you harm- don't. Don't struggle unnecessarily. Don't make things harder for yourself.

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