An alternative to eyeglasses, contact lenses are widely used across the globe. Contact lenses provide the inconspicuous clarity many people desire, and the wide array of materials used to make lenses coupled with the assortment of styles of contact lenses have helped to make them more comfortable than ever before.

It may seem like contact lenses are a relatively recent invention, but they’ve actually been around far longer than one would think. As far back as 1508, Leonardo da Vinci illustrated the concept of contact lenses. Three hundred years later a British astronomer named Sir John Herschel conceptualized the practical lens design. First designs of contact lenses covered the entire eye and were made from glass. By 1948, plastic contact lenses came on the scene and were designed to cover only the eye’s cornea. Through the 20th century, contacts continued to evolve. It is believed that now more than 30 million people in the United States alone wear contact lenses. Two-thirds of those wearers are female, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Because contact lenses come in direct contact with the eye, maintenance is especially important. Medical professionals say that teenagers as young as 13 may be able to wear contacts. It’s never too early to share the proper care procedures. The following are contact lens care guidelines, courtesy of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

• Wash hands with soap and water and dry with a lint-free towel before handling contact lenses.

• Never store lenses in water (tap or sterile). Contact lenses must be stored in special disinfecting lens solution.

• Saliva is not a sterile solution and should not be used to moisten dry contacts.

• Minimize lenses’ contact with water. Remove them before swimming.

• Always follow the recommended lens cleaning and storage guidelines from an eye care professional and the contact solution manufacturer.

• Many professionals advise you to rub and rinse contact lenses even if the solution used is a “no-rub” variety.

• Leave empty contact cases open to air dry.

• Replace storage cases and contact lenses as advised by the manufacturer or your eye care professional. Cases can be a source of contamination if they are cracked, dirty or damaged.

• Do not allow the tip of the solution bottle to come in contact with any surface, and keep the bottle tightly closed when not in use.

Following these recommendations and adhering to proper hygiene can prevent eye infections and injury.