RGP contact lenses
Properly-fitted Rigid Gas Permeable (RGP) contact lenses provide excellent vision and are associated with a lower risk of eye infection than soft contact lenses (even daily disposables). However, they still need to be effectively cleaned and sterilised before you wear them. Here’s how:
- Wash your hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap or hand-wash (avoiding moisturising soaps and hand-wash, which can smear your lenses).
- Alcohol-based hand-wash is best of all (and surprisingly gentle on your skin) and can be purchased from your pharmacy.
- To minimise bacterial load, hands should be washed for at least 15 seconds – or the length of time it takes to sing the Happy birthday song! (30 seconds is even better).
- Air dry your hands or use a lint-free towel or paper towel.
Insertion and removal of RGP contact lenses
Some people get this quickly and easily. But many people take a while to develop their technique. If young kids can learn how to do this, so can you!
- Use paper towel to set up a clean working area.
- Remove lenses from the cleaning solution case.
- Some people prefer to rinse with saline but if your lenses have been disinfected with hydrogen peroxide, you can put them straight into your eye PROVIDED they have been soaking for a minimum of 6 hours beforehand. This time is required for the peroxide to neutralise to saline.
- Watch the very informative video above (and please excuse the ads) for a range of techniques for both insertion and removal of RGP contact lenses. NOTE!! We prefer you DO NOT use the conditioning solution as shown in the video, as it contains preservatives. Instead, we prefer if you insert the lens directly from the overnight disinfection solution, which is pure saline once six hours have elapsed. If you must add solution to your lenses for insertion, used non-preserved saline.
Tips for insertion and removal of RGP lenses
- Always insert, remove and clean your right lens first to avoid mixing up your lenses.
- If you drop your lens, even onto the paper towel, use saline solution to rinse.
- Allow your lens case to air dry while you’re wearing your lenses and replace with each new bottle of solution.
- If using a suction plunger to remove the lens, make sure you slide the lens off to avoid breaking your lens. Air filled suction tools can simply be squeezed to release the lens.
- If the lens lands on the white of your eye, rather than the cornea (central, coloured part), make sure you look in the opposite direction to where the lens is sitting. You can move your head so that you are still looking in the mirror in this new position. Then you can either remove the lens with the suction tool and try again, or, use your eyelids to guide the lens into the correct position.
- If your lenses sting or hurt after insertion, remove immediately and rinse with saline. If using a peroxide system, check that you have allowed at least 6 hours for neutralisiation. Try inserting again and if pain or stinging persists, remove the lenses and contact your practitioner.
- When adjusting to RGP lenses for the first time, you can expect a certain amount of discomfort, as if you have something in your eye (you do!) Build up wearing time gradually over a week, adding an extra hour each day. Properly-fitting RGP lenses should be comfortable once this initial breaking-in period is complete.
Cleaning your RGP lenses
Lenses should always be cleaned as soon as they are removed from your eyes. Effective cleaning is essential to safe, comfortable contact lens wear.
We recommend peroxide-based contact lens solutions (such as AOsept and Oxysept) as our first choice for our RGP contact lens wearers. This is because these solutions are very effective against pathogens AND they are completely non-preserved. By the end of the cleaning process, your lenses are immersed in sterile, non-preserved water, which means you are not putting anything toxic into your eyes.
Is there any difference?
- Traditional cleaning and disinfecting solutions (such as Boston) are also very good for RGP lenses but we do not recommend them for people with allergies or sensitive eyes, or those suffering from keratoconus. This is because the preservatives in the solutions can add to the problem.
- Regularly inspect lenses for scratches, chips or cracks as these can provide surfaces for bacteria to grow and can make contact lens wear uncomfortable.
Tap water and contact lenses...
NEVER use tap water as a substitute for disinfecting solution. Even clean tap water contains tiny bugs called acanthamoeba, which are usually harmless to your gut but can cause sight-threatening eye infections in contact-lens wearers.
If you're desperate and have to remove your RGP contact lenses and don't have your case or solution with you, you can store them dry in a clear paper towel until you get home.