Never Sleep in Your Contact Lenses by Kayla Akers, O.D.

March 8, 2020

Dr. Akers is an optometrist and ocular disease specialist at the Marietta Eye Clinic.

Contact lenses are an amazing feat of technology. They allow millions of people around the world to see clearly and be free of continuous use of glasses. Contacts can be used to treat many eye disorders such as nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), presbyopia (age-related loss of the ability to focus up close), and astigmatism (irregularly-shaped cornea or lens). We love providing these benefits to patients through accurate prescriptions and the latest in lens technology.

With any medical product or device, there are important use instructions that must be followed to avoid injury or permanent damage. In the case of contact lenses, the main areas of concern involve cleaning your lenses and the length of wear. Improper care and use of contact lenses can have serious consequences.

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

  1. Infection. Many contact lens wearers are tempted to wear their lenses beyond the recommended timelines due to convenience or cost. When combined with inadequate cleaning, there are major risks for infection associated with wearing contact lenses for longer than recommended. Eye infections can be severe. Some cases of contact lens misuse result in hospital admissions and require surgery. The risks are not worth the rewards. Eye infections can threaten your vision and health, both acutely and permanently.
  2. Corneal Abrasions and Ulcers. Extended use of your contact lenses can also lead to serious corneal issues that are difficult to treat. When improperly cared for, contact lenses can act as abrasive objects, causing damage and potentially leading to open sores on the cornea called corneal ulcers. Symptoms of corneal ulcers include redness, blurred vision, pus or other discharge, and severe pain or soreness. 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 in which corneal ulcers can leave permanent scars. The cornea is the outermost layer of the eye. It protects your eye by blocking out irritating debris and focuses your vision by controlling the way light enters the eye. Once corneal scarring occurs, it can only be eliminated with laser surgery, cornea transplant surgery, or artificial cornea implants. To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, keep your corneas healthy with proper contact lens use and care.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) conducted a survey in 2015 indicating that 99% of contact lens wearers in the U.S. admit to at least one bad contact lens hygiene habit, such as swimming or bathing with contacts inserted, cleaning contacts with tap water, not properly washing hands before handling contacts, or 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.

More About Ocular Disease Specialist Kayla Akers, O.D.

Dr. Akers is a primary care optometrist with the Marietta Eye Clinic. She also specializes in ocular diseases and works with eye surgeons to provide ocular surgery co-management. She serves the Kennestone and Towne Lake offices. Dr. Akers received her doctor of optometry from the University of Alabama School of Optometry. She completed an ocular disease residency with the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center and a low vision rehabilitation residency with the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital Blind Rehabilitation Center. She is a member of the American Academy of Optometry. Read more about Dr. Akers here.

References and Additional Resources

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) is the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons. It describes itself 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.” Its website is a great resource to learn more about how to care for your eyes.

The American Optometric Association (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. 

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