Contact Lens Health Week – Sleeping in Contacts
Focusing on Contact Lens Safety
There’s a day, a week, or a month to celebrate or recognize almost anything these days. Turns out, optometrists are just as serious about celebrations as they are about protecting your eyes from potentially severe complications associated with unsafe contact lens practices. Contact lenses are a truly incredible tool, but they need to be used responsibly to keep your eyes healthy and your vision clear.
The American Optometric Association and the CDC are out in force promoting this fourth year of Contact Lens Health Week, in an effort to focus on “reducing infections that cause pain and vision loss by encouraging proper contact lens hygiene.
“Healthy Habits Means Healthy Eyes”
According to a recent study by the CDC, “sleeping in contact lenses increases the wearer’s risk of developing a corneal infection.” Simply put, sleeping in contact lenses is not considered a healthy habit.
Researchers at the CDC and optometrists everywhere recognize that there are FDA-approved contact lenses for overnight wear; otherwise known as extended wear contact lenses. Even so, researchers have observed the incidence of eye infections was still considerably greater among people who slept while wearing contact lenses.
The FDA maintains that extended wear contact lenses be worn for no more than seven days. Despite that recommendation, many, if not most eye care practitioners have determined that any overnight wearing of contact lenses was just too risky, and they’ve been encouraging patients to always remove their contacts before going to sleep, even if the lenses were FDA-approved for extended wear.
Healthy Habit #1 – Remove contact lenses before going to sleep. Whether they are daily or extended wear contacts, it’s always safer to remove your contacts before going to sleep. If you happen to fall asleep with your contacts in, remove the lenses as soon as possible in the morning and give your eyes a day to rest without them.
The Risks of Sleeping in Contacts
Your eyes, like the rest of your body, require oxygen to stay healthy. Contact lenses reduce the supply of oxygen to the cornea. When you remove your contacts at night, you replenish the supply of oxygen to your eyes that is supplied by direct contact with your eyelids. Cutting off that supply of oxygen for too long can lead to serious problems.
Conjunctivitis is one of the most common consequences of sleeping in contacts. Commonly known as “pink eye,” conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, which covers the white of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelid.
Keratitis is inflammation similar to conjunctivitis. It affects the cornea, and can also be caused by sleeping in contacts. Keratitis can be itchy and oozy, like conjunctivitis, but it can also damage your vision long term. The Center for Contact Lens Research (CCLR) states that sleeping in contacts is associated with a 10 times greater risk of microbial keratitis.
In either case, sleeping in contacts traps bacteria and cuts off vital oxygen supply to the eye increasing the risk of these and other potentially serious infections and concerns.
Healthy Habit #2 – Purchase contacts from a trusted source. The right prescription and the quality of the lens are essential to the health of your eyes, and the quality of your vision.
Other Healthy Habits for Healthy Eyes
Contact lenses are one of the safest and most convenient ways to correct your vision. Convenience and disposability, however, doesn’t mean you can be careless with them.
Healthy Habit #3 – Do not over-wear contact lenses. Contact lenses get dirty and collect bacteria. Extended wear contact lenses should be cleaned regularly and thoroughly, while disposable contact lenses should not be worn any longer than recommended by the manufacturer.
Healthy Habit #4 – Avoid wearing contact lenses while swimming. Trapping water and bacteria behind contact lenses in contact with your eye can cause serious eye infections. Take your contacts out before you swim, or wear tight fitting goggles over your eyes.
Healthy Habit #5 – Clean your contact lenses properly. Avoid using tap water to rinse your contact lenses, or topping off contact solution from the day before with more solution. Only use fresh contact lens solution to clean, rinse and store lenses. Make sure your hands are clean when handling your contact lenses, regularly clean and replace your contact lens case at least every 3 months to reduce the risk of infection from bacteria.
The final and maybe the most important healthy habit for healthy eyes – have your eyes checked by your optometrist annually, to make sure you have the best prescription and top quality contact lenses, to keep your eyes healthy and your vision at its best.