While extended wear contact lenses are designed to make life easier, a new study published in the journal Annals of Emergency Medicine found that sleeping in your contact lenses can cause serious eye infections. The study in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the EMERGEncy ID Net reported that snoozing in your lenses can be lead to dangerous consequences for your health and can even cause irreversible eye damage.
"Sleeping in your contact lenses is risky and can lead to infections, or in some cases, permanent damage," Jon Femling, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and lead author of the study, said in a press release. "Falling asleep, or even napping, without removing your contact lenses can significantly increase the likelihood of serious health problems."
The study noted that at least 1 million doctor visits related to eye infections turned out to be bacterial or fungal microbial keratitis as a result of sleeping in contact lenses. Although some contact lenses are developed for continuous wear, even while sleeping, if your eyes are sensitive, it might be best to switch to contact lenses you remove and clean daily.
According to an article published on the 1-800-Contacts website, while there are lenses that are FDA approved for sleeping, studies have found that doing so can increase your rate of eye infections by 10 to 15 percent. The most recent study outlined several cases where people developed eye infections and injuries after sleeping in their contact lenses.
One teenage girl reportedly suffered a corneal ulcer and scarring in her eye after sleeping in non-prescription lenses from a chain drug store. In another case, a man who wore his lenses for two weeks straight was diagnosed with a perforated cornea and bacterial infection. He ultimately needed surgery to save his eye. While this doesn't happen to everyone who sleeps in their contacts, the risk seems high enough that snoozing in your lenses doesn't seem worth it.
As is referenced in the study, not everyone who falls asleep in their contacts is wearing lenses that are approved for extended wear. If this is you, 1-800-Contacts recommends removing them as soon as you wake up and giving your eyes a day to rest before resuming wear.
"If your eye is a little irritated or dry, use some artificial tears or lubricating drops. If you experience pain, light sensitivity, blurred vision, or extreme eye redness after sleeping in them, be sure to contact your eye doctor right away," optometrist Clay Mattson wrote for 1-800-Contacts.
While it's true that many people use extended wear contact lenses without any problems, everyone is different and not everyone reacts the same to keeping their lenses in overnight. This is why it's important to talk to you doctor about your medical history so they can assess your individual risk for using extended wear contacts. You don't want to mess around with your eyes, and though convenience is nice, being able to see for the rest of your life is better.
"Sleeping in lenses is one of the riskiest and most commonly reported behaviors for adolescent and adult contact lens wearers," Dr. Femling said in the press release. "If you want to avoid infection, and avoid a trip to the emergency department, proper eye care is a must." #TheMoreYouKnow