If you wear contact lenses, consider this a cautionary tale.
A man on a 2-day hunting trip kept his contact lenses on during the night. On the third day, after developing eye pain, he bought some eye drops but the symptoms kept worsening.
Two diagnosis and treatments later, the symptoms were getting worse. Until one day, when in the shower, he wiped his eyes with a towel and heard a pop sound followed by searing pain in his left eye.
Turns out that a bacterial infection had been developing.
It had caused his cornea to develop an ulcer that swelled and finally popped, leaving behind an injury that compromised his vision. He needed immediate corneal transplant and later cataract surgery.
This is one of six accounts reported by the CDC describing the risks of sleeping and napping with your contacts in.
A surprising number of people who use contacts don’t take the basic preventive measure of removing them before bedtime.
While you may have been doing this for years without any negative effect, you are still risking your vision.
What about Napping?
Perhaps you are careful to remove them before you go to bed in the evening but frequently nap with them in.
You are not alone. Most people tend to forget they have they contacts on when taking a 15-minute nap on their clic clac sofa bed.
Napping with your contacts in is not as harmful as going a full night. A nap now and then won’t cause any harm.
But if you nap every day, it’s too risky. Just take them off before you close your eyes. It’s better to be safe than deal with a serious infection.
What’s the Big deal?
Why do you need to keep taking out your contacts anyway? Aren’t they clean and safe in your eyes?
Unfortunately, no. Contacts collect grime, dirt and harmful bacteria all day long. Keeping the contacts in overnight increases the risk of infection. An infection can cause permanent eye damage.
Wearing contact lenses overnight also blocks oxygen from reaching the cornea, which can impact its health and function (the cornea doesn’t have blood vessels and gets oxygen directly from the air).
This can lead to a condition called corneal neovascularization (formation of new blood vessels into the cornea) that can prevent you from ever wearing contacts again.
There are certain contact lenses that are advertised as safe for extended wear and some are certified safe for overnight use.
But even those pose some risk.
So unless you absolutely need to have your contacts in at night or a practitioner has told you it’s safe to do so, do not sleep with them.
A nap now and then is okay but for daily naps, remove the contacts.
How to prevent an infection
It’s essential that you keep your contacts clean to avoid infection.
The first thing is to make sure you actually wear the right lenses for your needs. Do not buy contact lenses without a prescription.
Also check when the contacts expire and get new ones on time.
Make sure your hands are clean and dry when you handle your contacts and follow the doctor’s instructions on cleaning them (never use tap water or saliva).
If the contact falls, clean it before putting it back in.
It’s also a good idea to let your eyes rest after wearing contacts for some time, even if it’s not yet bedtime.
During this time, switch to prescription glasses. This will give your cornea time to breathe in some oxygen and recover from any irritation.
What if you really need to sleep with your contacts?
Consider sleeping with your glasses instead. Make sure they are prescription glasses to avoid damaging your vision.
If that’s not an option, as your doctor to prescribe contacts that are safe for overnight use.
But as I mentioned, these special contacts don’t completely eliminate the risk of an infection or some other complication.
But they greatly reduce the risk. Make sure you follow other precautions to avoid an infection.
And if you ever start feeling some discomfort when wearing your current contact lenses – redness, itching, some pain etc. – see a doctor immediately.
It could be something serious developing. They might be able to treat it successfully if they catch it in time.