6 Risks Involved With Wearing Contact Lenses For Too Long 

Contact lenses are a popular alternative to glasses. But, while they’re a convenient solution, there are steps you need to follow in order to maintain good hygiene and keep your contacts in good condition. It can be tempting to skip through these steps, or avoid them altogether, such as wearing your lenses in for longer than advised. But in doing so, you could be leaving yourself vulnerable to infection.

Read on to discover six of the main risks you’re exposing yourself to if you leave your lenses in for too long. 

1. Dry Eyes

The first risk that comes from wearing your lenses for too long is discomfort. Your contact lenses create a barrier around the cornea, preventing fluids like tears from lubricating the eyes, which causes them to dry out. Over time, this can be incredibly uncomfortable. But even if you don’t feel discomfort, the damage caused to your eyes from repeatedly keeping your lenses in overnight could be irreversible. 

2. Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis is a condition that’s caused by bacteria, and it’s often referred to as ‘pink eye’. The infection causes the conjunctiva – the soft membrane that covers the whites of the eyes and the eyelids – to become inflamed, swollen and oozing. It’s an incredibly contagious infection that can be uncomfortable and can be caused or exacerbated by wearing your lenses for too long. This is because the surface of the lens becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, which is then transferred to your eyes. Giant papillary conjunctivitis, or GPC, is the most common form of this condition that affects contact lens wearers who repeatedly leave their lenses in for too long. 

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3. Keratitis

Similar to conjunctivitis, keratitis only affects the cornea which is the main artery for our vision. Keratitis also causes itching and discomfort, but it can be more damaging to the eyes than conjunctivitis. This condition leads to damage to the internal parts of the eye and can eventually cause partial vision loss. Sleeping with your contact lenses in overnight can actually increase the likelihood of developing keratitis.

4. Corneal Neovascularization

Wearing contact lenses for too long seals off the eyes from receiving oxygen. In an attempt to overcome this lack of oxygen, your eyes will try to grow new blood vessels to compensate, which leads to an overgrowth of blood vessels. The result of this is that the extra vessels prevent light from traveling through your cornea and over time, this can cause damage to your vision.

5. Corneal Ulcers

Ulcers on the eyes occur when an open sore, caused by a bacterial infection or a fungus, forms on the cornea. In severe cases, this can cause blindness, especially if it’s not treated quickly, which can only be treated via a corneal transplant. Wearing your lenses overnight increases the risk of bacteria and fungi from affecting the eyes, so it’s important that you remove them every day and either clean them thoroughly to be stored in a clean container, or dispose of them if you use daily lenses. 

6. Corneal Abrasion

Contact lenses pose a risk of scratching the cornea, which causes abrasions. The risk of this comes from lenses that are not fitted correctly or if your eyes are too dry. But sleeping with your lenses increases the risk of corneal abrasions, as your lenses will trap dirt and debris under the lens, which rubs against the cornea. If abrasions occur, they can cause tears and openings that allow bacteria and infections to seep in. 

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How To Protect Your Eyes

Eye care is essential at all times, but especially when you wear contact lenses, to prevent infections or damage to your eyes. Luckily, caring for your eyes is easy. The best way to protect your eyes from bacteria is to only use clean contact lenses which have not expired – your lenses will have an expiration date which you should adhere to. 

Daily lenses are a great way to ensure your lenses are always fresh and hygienic, but if you choose monthly lenses, ensure you thoroughly clean them after each wear and dispose of them after the month is up. You should only use clean, fresh saline solution, and never reuse solution. 

When you’re putting in your lenses or taking them out, make sure your hands are completely clean and thoroughly dry, to avoid transferring bacteria to your eyes or the surface of the lens. Your lenses shouldn’t come into contact with water, as it can harbour bacteria, so never bathe, swim or shower with your lenses in. 

Wear Lenses Safely!

To keep your eyes healthy and protect yourself from infections or vision problems, it’s important that you keep your lenses clean and don’t wear them for longer than the recommended period of time. But it’s also important that you get your eyes checked by your optician regularly, to pick up on any problems early so they’re easier to treat. Watch out for any changes to your vision or how your eyes look and feel, as these could be a side effect of a bigger problem and should be raised with your optician at your next check-up.