3 Costly Consequences of Sleeping in Your Contact Lenses

Posted on Monday, January 31st, 2022 by Dr. Binoy Jani

Contact Lenses Culpeper & Fredericksburg, VA

Many adults and teenagers who wear contact lenses make the mistake of sleeping in their contacts. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in three contact lens wearers admits to regularly sleeping in them, an act that increases your infection risk six to eight times.

The good news is, our eye doctors at Vista Eye Specialists in Fredericksburg and Culpeper may be able to  help you eliminate the need for contact lenses through LASIK laser vision correction.Why It’s Bad to Sleep in Your Contacts

No matter what kind of contact lenses you use — gas permeable, rigid, daily or extended wear — you are putting your vision at risk when you sleep or swim while wearing them. Too many patients of all ages, from teens to middle-aged adults, end up in emergency departments and ophthalmology offices every year due to infection or corneal injury from sleeping in contacts.

Your eyes need a break from contacts to allow oxygen and tear film to protect the cornea (the front surface of your eye). When you sleep or nap in your contact lenses or have other harmful habits such as swimming with contacts, your eyes can’t protect against bacteria and microorganisms because the lens blocks tear fluid and oxygen. That reduced oxygen can damage your cornea and the ability to regenerate cells.

Sleeping in your contact lenses can have severe consequences for your eye health, which may cost you more than a large medical bill — you could lose some or all of your vision. The most common eye problems caused by sleeping in contact lenses include:

1.  Eye Infection

Corneal infection is the biggest concern when you sleep in your contacts because you have a five-fold risk of microbial keratitis. Bacterial keratitis can lead to partial or total vision loss without treatment. While sleeping in contact lenses amplifies this risk, so does placing or removing your contact with dirty hands, re-using lens solution or using tap water in place of lens solution. Acanthamoeba keratitis and fungal keratitis can also happen and are more common in contact lens wearers. Contact our eye doctors as soon as possible if you experience redness, blurry vision, eye discharge, eye pain, swelling, itching, excessive tearing or burning eyes.

2.    Corneal Abrasion

The lack of oxygen and hydration from tear film when you sleep in contact lenses can harm your corneas. A corneal abrasion, or scratch, can occur due to the drier surface. This superficial damage may heal naturally or require antibiotic eye drops and ointment to help the eye heal. The cornea is a sensitive tissue, and the abrasion may make opening and closing your eye painful.

3.  Corneal Ulcer

An infection or corneal abrasion may cause a corneal ulcer. It is an open sore on the eye’s surface that is often accompanied by severe eye pain, a feeling of a foreign body in the eye, tearing, blurry vision, redness and eyelid swelling. Contact lens wearers are at elevated risk of corneal ulcers when they sleep in their lenses — particularly extended wear lenses. Treatment for corneal ulcers often includes antiviral, antifungal or antibiotic eye drops. A corneal transplant may be needed to improve your vision if the medication doesn’t heal the ulcer or a significant scar is left behind that impacts your eyesight.

Contact Vista Eye Specialists in Virginia

If you’re tired of contact lenses or experiencing worrisome symptoms after sleeping in your contacts, schedule a comprehensive eye exam with our experienced eye doctors. Contact Vista Eye Specialists in Fredericksburg and Culpeper, Virginia today.