- Vision & Eye Care
Sleeping in your contact lenses
Sleeping in contact lenses
Many years ago (before I was an optometrist) the FDA approved some soft contact lenses for overnight wear up to one month continuously. These lenses were not disposable lenses nor were they advanced in their design. And apparently there were a number of people who developed eye infections so the rule changed. Now we have FDA approval again for extended wear (overnight wear) contact lenses up to 6 days straight and a few other brands are approved for 30 days continuously.
Does this mean sleeping in your lenses is good? Yes and no. It's good for a couple of reasons. You don't handle the lens as much and reduce the likelyhood the lens will be tainted. And related to that is the solution required for storing is reduced or eliminated. And a big benefit for some is being able to see when they wake up in the middle of the night if needed.
The drawback to sleeping in your contact lenses is that the chances of developing an infection are significantly increased. The cornea (the clear part that the contact lens fits on) can suffer from lack of tears and oxygen. The cornea is clear so there are no blood vessels there like most other areas in the body. Blood brings oxygen and nutrients. If the tears are reduced in the eye and oxygen is reduced the corneal tissue may become compromised. An indication that overnight wear is not going so well is that the white part of the eye becomes red or other problem such as discharge and light sensitivity. That's a signal to discontinue sleeping in the lenses and may also require a visit to an eye care professional. The biggest concern of overnight wear is infection and for those that also smoke the studies indicate that the risk for an infection is even higher.
There are soft contact lenses approved for overnight wear as well as gas permeables lenses. One kind of gas permeable lens is also approved to sleep in and then removed upon awakening. That's another method of vision correction called orthokeratology and will be discussed in another report.
When you next visit your eye doctor you can discuss extended wear contact lenses as an option. You might find that some eye doctors can have varied opinions on extended wear contact lenses so it's best to discuss the risks and benefits with them to determine the best plan based on your needs and the health of your eyes.
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