Why You Should Never Sleep in Your Contact Lenses by Jung Ha Park, O.D.

March 3, 2020

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

Contact lenses are an amazing piece of technology. They bring 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 patients through accurate prescriptions and the latest in lens technology, with which 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 (irregularly-shaped cornea or lens).

As 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 are cleaning your lenses and the length of wear. There are serious health consequences related to improper care and use of contact lenses.

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 wear their contact lenses beyond the recommended timelines out of convenience or cost. When combined with inadequate cleaning, major risks for infection occur from wearing contact lenses for longer than recommended. Eye infections can be serious, and cases related to contact lens misuse have led to hospital admissions and surgery. The risks are simply not worth the rewards in this case. Infections can threaten your vision and health, both acutely and permanently.
  2. Corneal Abrasions and Ulcers. In addition to infections, extended use and wear of your contact lenses can lead to serious corneal issues that are difficult to treat. When not properly cared for, lenses can act as an abrasive object, causing damage and leading to open sores on the cornea called corneal ulcers. These ulcers cause redness of the eye, blurred 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.
  3. Permanent Scarring. Infections, abrasions, and ulcers are treatable. However, there are cases where ulcers can leave permanent scars on the cornea. The cornea, the outermost layer of the eye, protects your eye by blocking irritating debris from entering your eye and focuses your vision by controlling the way light enters the eye. Scarring can only be eliminated with laser surgery, cornea transplant surgery, or artificial cornea implants. Ensure your corneas stay healthy with proper contact lens use and care.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (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 Jung Ha Park, O.D.

Dr. Park is a primary care optometrist at the Marietta Eye Clinic who also specializes in ocular diseases and offers ocular surgery co-management. She serves the Kennestone, Towne Lake, and East Cobb locations. She earned her doctor of optometry from the Ohio State University College of Optometry. She then completed a residency in optometry at the Wilmington Veterans Affairs Medical Center. She is a member of both the American Optometric Association and the Georgia Optometric Association. Read her full bio 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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