3 Serious Reasons to Never Sleep in Your Contact Lenses by Brittany McNeely, OD

May 24, 2019

Brittany McNeely is an optometrist at the Marietta Eye Clinic.

Contact lenses are truly an amazing technology bringing millions of people around the world the gift of sight, freedom from continuous use of glasses, and numerous other benefits. We love providing these benefits to patient through accurate prescriptions and the latest in lens technology where we can treat many eye disorders such as nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), presbyopia (age-related loss of the ability to focus up close), and astigmatism (irregular shaped cornea or lens).

As with any medical product or device, there are important use instructions which must be followed precisely to avoid injury or permanent damage. In the case of contact lenses, this is primarily related to the cleaning of your lenses and the length of wear of your lenses. There are some serious health consequences related to improper care and use.

Here are a few of which you should be aware to ensure your eyes stay healthy and to avoid permanent damage to your eyes:

  1. Infection. Many people are tempted to continue to wear their contact lenses beyond the recommended timelines because of the convenience. When combined with inadequate cleaning, major risks for infection occur. Eye infections are serious and cases related to contact lens misuse have led to hospital admissions and the need for eye surgery. The risks are simply not worth the rewards in this case as infections can threaten your vision and health both acutely and permanently.
  2. Corneal Abrasions and Ulcers. As with infections, extended use and wear of your contact lens can lead to serious and difficult to treat corneal issues. Lenses can act as objects causing damage when not properly care for and act as an abrasive object leading to open sore on the cornea called a corneal ulcer. These ulcers cause redness, of the eye, blurred vision, pus or other discharge, and sever pain or soreness among other symptoms. While convenient, contact lenses must be properly cared for to prevent this painful condition.
  3. Permanent Scarring. Infections, abrasions, and ulcers are treatable; however, there are cases where ulcers can leave permanent scars on the cornea. The cornea is the outermost layer of the eye and plays the vital functions of blocking irritating debris and controlling the way light enters the eye, protecting your eyes and focusing your vision. Scarring can lead to the need for laser surgery, cornea transplant surgery, and implantation of artificial corneas. Ensure the proper and healthy function of your vital cornea through proper contact lens use and care.

Picture of Corneal Ulcer

Sleeping in your contact lenses can cause ulcers in your eye.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) conducted a survey in 2015 which indicated 99% of the 45 million contact lens wearers in the U.S. admitted to at least one bad contact lens hygiene habit. Common bad habits are swimming or bathing with contacts inserted, cleaning contact with tap water, not properly washing hands before handling contacts, and reusing cleaning solution. We highly encourage you to develop healthy contact lens habits. Please reach out if you need any advice on how to best avoid the serious consequences discussed above.

References and Additional Resources

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) is the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons. They describe themselves as a “global community of 32,000 medical doctors who protect sight and empower lives by setting the standards for ophthalmic education and advocating for our patients and the public.”  Their website is a great resource to learn more about how to care for your eyes.

The American Optometric Association (AOA) The AOA describes itself as the leading authority on quality care and an advocate for our nation’s health, representing more than 44,000 doctors of optometry (O.D.), optometric professionals, and optometry students.

  1. Why You Should Never Sleep in Your Contact Lenses at https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/why-you-should-never-sleep-in-your-contact-lenses.
  2. What Is Corneal Abrasion? at https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-is-corneal-abrasion.
  3. What Is a Corneal Ulcer? at https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/corneal-ulcer.
  4. 5 Steps to Healthy Contact Lens Use at https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/5-steps-to-healthy-contact-lens-use.
  5. Six Steps to Avoid Contact Lens Infections at https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/6-steps-to-avoid-contact-lens-infections.
  6. Contact Lens Wearer Demographics and Risk Behaviors for Contact Lens-Related Eye Infections — United States, 2014 at https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6432a2.htm?s_cid=mm6432a2_w.

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