You have probably been there numerous times. Watching a long movie while falling asleep in your contacts, staying away from home overnight and forgetting your contact case and solution, or just taking a nap in your contact lenses.
What is the big deal, right? You may have slept in your contact lenses numerous times without any issue and assume that everything is fine. But in reality, sleeping in your contacts can be very harmful to your eyes. Let us tell you why.
The healthy cornea and tear film obtain oxygen from the air with each blink. When wearing contact lenses, the contact moves on the cornea about a millimeter with each blink to allow oxygen to enter through the cornea to supply nutrients that keep it clear and healthy.
When you sleep in your contacts, the barrier of the contact lens alone inhibits nutrients and oxygen from entering into the cornea since no blinks occur when the eyes are closed. If there is a lack of oxygen, the cornea will start to develop tiny, new blood vessels that grow onto the cornea, and these blood vessels can start to damage the cornea by causing persistent inflammation, irritation, scarring and potentially lead to vision loss.
Sleeping in contacts also allows for microbes and bacteria from the contact lens or elsewhere to multiply overnight. Preventing the oxygen and nutrients from entering the cornea, the contact acts like an incubator for bacteria while you sleep. This can lead to even further complications, like a corneal ulcer, which can be vision threatening and lead to the need for a corneal transplant.
As a testament to the severity and dangers of sleeping in contacts, read a real-life example of a bride who was unable to see out of both of her eyes on her wedding day due to years of sleeping in her contacts.
The good news is this bride regained her vision over the duration of two months, although her vision is still poor.
The bad news? The bride had to wear sunglasses throughout her entire outdoor wedding due to her sensitivity to light, had to cancel her honeymoon, and went four days without sleep because she had to apply eye drops every 30 minutes for four days straight to save her vision.
A recent study from the CDC showed that 99% of contact lens wearers who participated in the survey reported at least one poor hygiene habit that puts them at increased risk for eye infection:
Each night you sleep in your contacts, you are decreasing the corneal nerve sensation, therefore you may not “feel” the problems that are actually happening on your cornea. So, even though it seems ok and does not feel uncomfortable in the morning, you likely are causing continued damage on the cornea.
That is why continued eye exams (especially for contact wearers!!) is critical to keeping your corneas and eyes as healthy as they should be. So, the next time you feel like you don’t want to take out your contact lenses out at night, think again!
If you’d like to learn more about proper contact lens care, contact Providence Eye today and schedule an appointment with our optometrist. Dr. Vanessa Mills is now accepting new patients over the age of 10 for general eye care.