Contact lenses can bring clear vision and freedom from glasses to millions of people around the world. The latest lens technology can treat many eye disorders, including but not limited to 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 that can results from improper care and use of contact lenses. With the exception of vision shaping treatment (VST), you should never sleep in contact lenses.
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 vision and health, both acutely and permanently.
Extended use and wear of contact lenses can lead to serious corneal issues that are difficult to treat. When worn for too long, dry lenses act as abrasive objects, creating 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.
Infections and ulcers are treatable, but sometimes they can leave permanent scars on the cornea. These scars can impede your vision and can only be eliminated with laser surgery, cornea transplant surgery, or artificial cornea implants.
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. Lows is a primary care optometrist with the Marietta Eye Clinic who also provides ocular surgery co-management. Dr. Lows received her doctor of optometry degree from the University of Missouri-St. Louis School of Optometry. She is a member of both the American Optometric Association and the Georgia Optometric Association. In 2014, she was named the Douglas County Sentinel Readers’ Choice Favorite Eye Doctor. Read more about Dr. Lows in her full 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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