What Does Sleeping in Contact Lenses Do to Your Eyes?

Tips to cut eye infection risk

Eye Infection

Do you ever fall asleep while wearing your contact lenses? If you’ve done it, you know the morning struggle to get those dried out lenses unstuck from your eyeballs.

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It happens a lot. Sleeping in lenses was the most common offense reported by people who wear contacts, according to a new report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

You know it’s bad for your eyes, but how bad is it?

Risks of sleeping in contact lenses

Sleeping in daily wear contacts doesn’t only increase your risk for eye infections.

“You can also irritate your eyes and experience other problems with your cornea, the front surface to the eye,” says Allison Babiuch, MD.

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Despite some contact lenses being approved for overnight wear, Dr. Babiuch says she still doesn’t recommend them. “It’s important to give the eyes a break and let the cornea breathe,” she says.

 CDC researchers found that six out of seven contact lens wearers reported at least one risky lens-related behavior.

Besides sleeping in contact lenses, other common bad habits included swimming in lenses, and not replacing disposable lenses and cases frequently enough.

Advice for safe contact lens wear

To reduce the risk of developing an eye infection, Dr. Babiuch has the following recommendations:

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  • Always wash hands with soap and water before handling contact lenses.
  • When it comes to washing and rinsing lenses, only use contact lens solution. Dr. Babiuch recommends rubbing lenses gently to remove bacteria and debris – even if the lens packaging advises against it.
  • Replace cases every three to four months to reduce bacteria.
  • Store lenses in a clean case with fresh solution each day.

Signs of infection

If you experience decreased vision, redness, watering and discharge, you may have an infection.

If removing a lens doesn’t help the irritation, it’s time to visit an eye doctor — and don’t forget to bring the problematic lens too.

“Take the contact lens out, but keep it, don’t throw it away,” says Dr. Babiuch. “Put it in a contact lens case and bring it with to your appointment because if we do see signs of an infection we can culture the contact lens itself also.”

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