A common question for contact lens wearers is whether it’s OK to sleep with their contacts in overnight. “One of the first questions I always ask my contact lens wearers is whether they sleep in their contact lenses,” South Florida Ophthalmologist Inna Ozerov, MD says. “As a cornea specialist, some of the worst corneal infections I have treated were directly related to poor contact lens hygiene habits.”
According to the All About Vision website, the FDA first approved certain contact lenses for overnight wear in 1981. These lenses were approved for up to two weeks of wear without removal but shortly after this approval some lenses received FDA approval for up to 30 days of continuous wear. As time passed, researchers found that the incidence of eye infections was greater among people who slept while wearing contact lenses so the FDA changed the maximum extended wear period back to seven days.
Many eye care professionals still feel strongly that overnight wear is too risky, and that includes Dr. Ozerov. She says that even though there are contact lens brands that are FDA-approved for overnight use, she always warns her patients against potential dangers. “A central corneal ulcer can progress fairly quickly over 24 hours and can have potentially devastating consequences on a person’s vision,” she says. “The more virulent type of organisms that invade the cornea thrive in a dark, moist, low oxygen tension environment. These are precisely the conditions that occur on the ocular surface when we sleep. The lens may allow micro-organisms to adhere to the lens, therefore increasing the likelihood of infection.”
Ozerov says that contact lens users need to remember that a contact lens is a medical device, and requires proper care. “I also remind my contact lens wearers they should always have a pair of glasses to fall back on.”
Sleeping regularly in contacts (especially those not made for overnight wear) is just one of many mistakes contact lens wearers make that can damage their eyes. Here are more secrets your eye doctor won’t tell you.