Contact lenses are an amazing feat of technology. They bring clear vision and freedom from glasses to millions of people around the world. The latest lens technology can treat many eye disorders, including near-sightedness (myopia), far-sightedness (hyperopia), presbyopia (age-related loss of the ability to focus up close), and astigmatism (irregularly-shaped cornea or lens). However, as with any medical product or device, there are important use instructions that must be followed to avoid injury or permanent damage. There are serious health consequences related to improper care and use of contact lenses.
It can sometimes be tempting to wear contact lenses longer than recommended. However, it is important to dispose of contact lenses after their intended length of use and never to sleep in them. A study from the journal Ophthalmology found that occasionally sleeping in contact lenses increased the risk of moderate to severe eye infection by 6.5 times. Eye infections can be serious, and cases related to contact lens misuse have led to hospital admissions and surgery. Infections can threaten your vision and health, both acutely and permanently.
Extended use and wear of your contact lenses can lead to serious corneal issues that are difficult to treat. When worn for too long, dry lenses can act as abrasive objects, leading to open sores on the cornea called corneal ulcers. These ulcers can cause red eyes, blurry vision, pus or other discharge, and severe pain or soreness, among other symptoms. Contact lenses must be properly cared for to prevent this painful condition, and that includes not sleeping in them.
Infections and ulcers are treatable, but there are some cases in which ulcers can leave permanent scars on the cornea. These scars can impede your vision. Scarring can only be eliminated with laser surgery, cornea transplant surgery, or artificial cornea implants. Ensure your corneas stay healthy and your vision remains clear with proper contact lens use and care.
Of all contact lens wearers, 1 in 3 admits to sleeping in their contact lenses, and thousands of people develop eye infections every year because of improper contact lens use. Infections, corneal ulcers, and scarring are all potential consequences of sleeping in contact lenses that can have lasting effects on your vision. Develop healthy lens habits to ensure the health of your eyes for years to come.
Dr. Augustine is a primary care optometrist who specializes in ocular disease and contact lenses and provides ocular surgery co-management. She earned her doctor of optometry degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry. She is a member of many professional organizations, including but not limited to the Georgia Optometric Association, the American Optometric Association, and the American Public Health Association. She has also served as a co-investigator for contact lens studies. She volunteers her services with the Georgia Lions Lighthouse Foundation, Camp Seale Harris, the Gift of Sight Vision Van, and Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity. Read more about Dr. Augustine in her bio.
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, optometric professionals, and optometry students.
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