Contact lenses are an incredible innovation that can help correct a wide range of vision problems. Most of us who wear them are familiar with the routine of caring for them: we rinse them thoroughly in contact solution before each use, store them safely away in a sterile container between uses, and replace them regularly. And, most importantly, we know to take our lenses out each night before we go to sleep.
For some, however, it can be tempting to skip steps. What’s the harm in wearing a pair of disposable contacts for longer than recommended, anyway? Why do we have to clean them in contact solution rather than plain water? Why shouldn’t we wear them overnight? These recommendations can seem overly prescriptive, and it’s easy to wonder why they’re so important.
However, as this article from Florida Eye Specialists and Cataract Institute will show, removing your contacts and cleaning them between uses is essential for your continued eye health. We’ll tell you why.
The Risks of Leaving Contacts In
Although there are certain kinds of contact lenses intended to be worn at night (these are known as extended-wear lenses) the majority of lenses should be taken out and stored in a sterile container before going to sleep. But why?
Contact lenses create a physical barrier between your eye and the surrounding atmosphere. This reduces the supply of oxygen to your cornea, which gets oxygen both from air during the day and from your eyelids’ blood vessels at night.
If you wear your contact lenses 24/7, you are effectively cutting off your eyes’ supply of oxygen until the next time you take them out. And even if you notice no ill effects right away, you could be doing lasting damage to your eye health if you continue this practice over time.
Additionally, you could be increasing your risk of developing an eye infection by failing to remove your lenses before bed. During the day, pollutants can enter your eye and become trapped between your cornea and your lenses. The oxygen-starved environment created when you sleep in your lenses is ideal for bacterial and viral infections to thrive.
Simply put, removing your contact lenses before bed is one of the easiest ways to slash your risk of preventable eye diseases.
What Can Happen to My Eyes if I Don’t Remove My Lenses
Everybody who wears contact lenses has forgotten to remove them before bed at least once or twice, and the likelihood is high that you’ll experience no ill effects from the occasional lapse like this. But if you make a happen of leaving your contact lenses in while you sleep, here are just a few of the potential consequences:
Conjunctivitis: Commonly known as “pink eye,” conjunctivitis is inflammation of the conjunctiva, the delicate membrane that covers the whites of your eyes and the insides of your eyelids. Typically caused by a viral infection, this condition can cause itching, discomfort, and oozing.
Keratitis: This condition is similar to conjunctivitis and affects the cornea, the clear part of your eye that you see through. But in addition to the inflammation and unpleasant cosmetic side effects, keratitis can actually damage your vision, and people who sleep in their contact lenses are at ten times greater risk of developing this condition.
Corneal Neovascularization: If you wear your contact lenses to bed long enough, your eyes will begin to grow new blood vessels in an effort to increase their own oxygen supply. This is problematic because those extra vessels prevent light from traveling freely through the cornea, impeding your vision.
Some of these conditions may seem minor, but if left untreated they can lead to further complications including permanent vision loss. The message is clear: It simply isn’t worth it to risk your sight by sleeping in your contact lenses.
What Can I Do to Protect My Vision?
We’ve already established that removing your contact lenses before bed is key to protecting your eyes, but what other steps can you take to ensure that your vision remains intact?
– Throw away your reusable lenses regularly. It can be tempting to keep a pair that causes no noticeable irritation, but lenses come with an expiration date for a reason. If they’ve outlived their life expectancy, get rid of them and put in a new pair.
– Clean your lenses only with contact solution. Plain water can’t sterilize your lenses and may in fact contain microbes that can lead to infection if they enter your eyes. Make sure to rinse your lenses in contact solution before wearing and store them in a clean lens container between uses.
– Have regular eye exams. To schedule an appointment, contact us at Florida Eye Specialists and Cataract Institute. We look forward to hearing from you!