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Sleeping in Contact Lenses: How Bad Is It for Your Eyes?

Contact lenses are a modern blessing for an estimated 45 million people across the United States. However, roughly one-third of these people are sleeping with contact lenses in their eyes.

This is pretty harrowing news, especially since sleeping in contact lenses can lead to some pretty serious consequences.

Luckily, most people will wake up with nothing more than a bit of dry eye. But for some unlucky individuals, even a quick nap with lenses in can turn into a nightmare.

What Are the Risks of Sleeping in Contact Lenses?

Contact lens care is a serious business. Ignoring the instructions from your eye doctor and choosing to sleep in your contact lenses can ruin your vision if you’re not careful.

Some associated risks include things like:

Bacterial Keratitis

Bacterial keratitis is a fancy name for eye infection. Specifically, an infection of your cornea.

Corneas are the dome-shaped outer layer of the eye, designed to cover and protect the iris and pupil. When it becomes infected, it can cause eye irritation, decreased or blurry vision, and redness or cloudiness of the eye.

The good news is, most mild cases of bacterial keratitis can be effectively treated by your eye doctor. However, untreated cases can become serious. In some cases, it may even result in blindness and permanent scarring of the cornea.

Acanthamoeba Keratitis

Another type of corneal infection, acanthamoeba keratitis is caused by an amoeba that is commonly found in water sources. It is often the result of unhygienic contact lens practices, such as:

  • Rinsing lenses in tap water
  • Swimming or showering with contact lenses
  • Sleeping in contact lenses

Sleeping in contact lenses, in particular, traps bacteria in the eye. Oxygen has a harder time reaching the eye. This makes it harder for the eye to flush out anything that shouldn’t be in it.

This type of infection is treated with a particularly long course of eye drops. If left untreated, or if the infection is serious, you may require surgery.

Fungal Keratitis

If you live in an area with tropical weather or mild temperatures, you may be more susceptible to fungal keratitis. Sleeping in your lenses can increase your risk for fungal keratitis, as well.

However, most cases of fungal keratitis come from eye trauma involving plant matter, such as branches and sticks.

When left untreated, fungal keratitis can lead to permanent blindness.

Which Contact Lenses Can You Sleep In?

The short answer: none of them.

Some contact lenses are specifically marketed as “safe to sleep in.” However, according to the CDC, you’re taking a gamble every time you fall asleep with your lenses in.

No matter what kind of contact lenses you wear, sleeping in them will make you 6-8 times more likely to suffer an eye infection. Eye infections can have devastating consequences, such as:

  • Surgery
  • Long, expensive treatments
  • Long- or short-term corneal damage
  • Permanent vision loss

The risk is high no matter what kind of contact lens wearer you are. From teens to seniors, anyone can suffer an eye infection due to poor contact lens hygiene.

What If I Accidentally Fall Asleep With My Lenses In?

It can happen to anyone. Maybe you doze off while reading a book and your contact lenses are still in your eye. Don’t panic.

Instead, lower your risk of infection by taking the proper steps.

1. Remove the Lenses

Remove your lenses as soon as you wake up. Remember to wash your hands before touching your contact lenses.

It’s important to remove the lenses gently. Odds are your eyes are going to be dry. Instead of tugging at the dried lenses, lubricate them with a few drops of sterile contact solution.

Oftentimes, the extra lubrication can help keep the contacts from sticking to your eye. Tugging on dry lenses can not only damage your contacts, but it can also scratch up your corneas.

2. Avoid Your Lenses For a Day

After falling asleep in contact lenses, it’s best to let your eyes breathe for a bit. Avoid wearing contacts for a full day after falling asleep in them.

This will help your eyes flush out any bacteria that may have built up. Oxygen helps the eyes produce tears, which helps to keep them clean.

Throughout the day, pay close attention to how your eyes look and feel.

3. Check for Signs of Infection

There are some telltale signs of an eye infection. These include:

  • Blurry or reduced vision
  • Redness
  • Itchy or irritated eyes
  • Excessive watering
  • The feeling that there’s something lodged in the eye
  • Discharge coming from the eye

If you notice any of these signs, talk to your eye doctor right away. You should also bring your contact lenses with you to your appointment. This way your doctor can test them for any harmful bacteria.

It’s essential to seek treatment for an eye infection right away. Prompt treatment usually means you’ll experience much less devastating consequences.

Quick Tips You Need to Remember

You’ve only got one set of eyes for the rest of your life. Take care of them as best you can by following these tips:

  • Don’t swim, shower, or sleep in contact lenses
  • Always wash hands before handling contacts
  • Clean your lenses in disinfecting solution before storing
  • Change the disinfecting solution in your contact case every single day
  • Replace contact cases at least every three months
  • Never use a cracked or broken contact case
  • Visit your eye doctor annually for a check-up

Each of these steps will help keep bacteria away from your eye, limiting any chance of infection. Your eyes will thank you.

Protect Your Eyes With Proper Hygiene

Sleeping in contact lenses is just one of the ways you can get a serious eye infection. You should always remove your lenses appropriately before sleeping. Remember, even a quick nap can lead to serious long-term damage if you aren’t careful.

If you’re looking for a trusted eye doctor in Cedar Park, contact our office. Our team of professionals can ensure your eyes remain healthy for years to come.

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908 W Whitestone Suite 100, Cedar Park, Texas, 78613
Phone: (512) 259-2020