Contact lenses are a much more common and popular alternative to sight-enhancing lenses or glasses. Even though contacts can be more tedious to maintain than glasses, many of those who are visually impaired prefer the confidence that contacts can give them when they don’t want to wear glasses. Beyond just the maintenance required of contacts, there are other things to keep an eye out for when wearing them.
While contacts are obviously designed for wear, it is important to take the necessary steps in keeping your contacts in top condition. They need to be cleaned regularly, stored in a container overnight, and replaced when they are worn longer than the recommended time period and become expired. For some contact wearers, it can be hard to follow all of these steps day in and day out. It can even be tempting to skip some of these steps. Before you decide to skip some of these steps, we at Florida Eye Specialists and Cataract Institute want to go over the potential dangers of leaving contacts in for too long.
Give Your Eyes Some Space
Some contacts are designed to be worn at night, but if you fall under the majority of contact lens users, then you probably have standard contacts that are recommended to be taken out at night. Some of the reasoning behind this recommendation is the possibility of discomfort that can be caused by wearing your contacts for too long. Even if you don’t find discomfort yourself when extending the wearing time of your contacts, the major reason behind the recommendation against wearing them overnight is the damage they can do to your eyes.
Contacts create a barrier around your cornea, which prevents fluids like tears from reaching your eyes, drying them out. This can allow for bacteria to grow inside on your cornea, which can lead to an eye infection. Even though you may not feel any personal discomfort when you wear your contacts overnight, keeping them in too long can create irreversible damage to your eyes.
Hygiene is Important
General hygiene like bathing, brushing, and basic grooming all have profound health benefits, and they make you look, feel, and smell better. This same rule of thumb for hygiene applies to contact lenses. Regularly cleaning out your contacts will help fight off discomfort, eye damage, and bacterial infections.
It is important to clean your contacts regularly. The specifics on how often you should clean your contacts will depend on what kind and doctor directions. How often you clean them is just as important as what material you use to clean your contacts. While using tap water under the sink can seem like a harmless option, you may want to avoid using it. Your contacts come with a specific cleaning solution that’s designed to keep out bacteria.
Using standard tap water to rinse out your lenses can introduce unwanted bacteria to your lenses, which could then start to grow on your cornea once you put them on. You also want to be cautious of handling your contacts without first washing your hands. While it may seem minute, handling contacts with unwashed hands could be all bacteria need to enter your contacts and ultimately enter your cornea to grow and fester. It can be easy to forget, but always remember to keep your hands clean when handling contacts.
Other Potential Risks of Leaving Contacts in Too Long
Conjunctivitis – More commonly known as “Pink Eye”, conjunctivitis is the inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is the soft membrane that covers the whites of your eyes as well as the eyelids themselves. The most visible symptoms of conjunctivitis are the red puffiness of the eyes. Other symptoms of conjunctivitis include oozing, itchiness, and general discomfort.
Keratitis – This condition is similar to conjunctivitis, but only affects the cornea, which is the main artery in the eye for sight. This condition has similar side effects of conjunctivitis like itching and discomfort but also has more harmful effects. Keratitis actually causes internal damage to your eyes, which can lead to partial vision loss. It’s important to know that people who sleep with contacts overnight are much more likely to develop this condition than people who wear contacts for the recommended period of time.
Corneal Neovascularization – When you wear your contacts for too long, you’re sealing off your eyes from getting the fluids they need, but you’re also cutting off your eyes’ supply of oxygen. Because your eyes are getting less oxygen, they will try to grow new blood vessels in an effort to increase the flow of oxygen. These extra blood vessels prevent light from traveling through the cornea, which will ultimately cause vision damage.
All of these may seem minor, and the effects can seem minuscule and not worth worrying about. But while some of the symptoms may be small, the long-term effects can cause serious and irreversible damage to your eyes and vision. Taking proper care of your contacts can go a long way.
Other Ways to Protect Your Eyes
It seems with the abundance of knowledge accessible today, it can be impossible to determine what the right way is and what the wrong way is in terms of proper eye care. While we can confirm that the information is vast and we are always learning, we can also confirm that there are many ways to ensure you protect those eyes, and they’re all amazingly simple.
One of the best ways to protect your eyes is to throw away those expired pairs of contacts. For many wearers of contacts, it can be easy to overlook the expiration date and keep on wearing them, especially if they don’t cause any noticeable discomfort. However, there’s a reason professionals have put an expiration date on those contact lenses. When your contacts expire, it’s imperative that you throw them away and get new ones as soon as you can.
Cleaning your contact lenses with the right product is key to maintaining proper contact care. Your contacts come with a specialized cleaning solution that’s designed to not only keep out bacteria but also sterilizes your eyes. Regular tap water doesn’t contain the right materials needed to properly clean and to sterilize your eyes, so washing your contacts out with standard tap water simply won’t cut it. After you clean out your contacts, you want to be sure to place your contacts in an empty contact container to dry out before using it again.
Having regular eye exams is incredibly important for monitoring your eye health. You should contact your doctor about how often you should have eye exams and how to go about scheduling them. You want to be sure to be completely honest with your doctor during these exams and to ask any questions you might have. They’ve heard it all, so no question is too embarrassing.
In conjunction with getting regular eye exams, you’ll also want to watch for any changes in vision or eye comfort. Even if the change is just barely noticeable and doesn’t seem like a big deal, it can be. You should document the changes you notice and keep them so you can ask your doctor on your next eye visit.
Your eye health has a direct correlation to your overall body health. That gives you another reason to get regular exercise. You don’t have to hit the gym for two hours every single day, but studies have shown that regular exercise such as a light walk can reduce vision damage by up to 70 percent. You should also try to eat a healthy diet. It’s been proven that eating a diet rich in fruits and greens contains antioxidants, which fight cataracts and keep your eyes sharp.
We hope you’ve learned a lot about the dangers of keeping contacts in for too long as well as basic eye care. Even if you do not wear contacts or glasses, it is important to take the necessary steps towards proper eye care. For questions, concerns, or to learn about how to schedule an eye exam, visit us at floridaeye.org.