Contact lenses are generally easy and convenient solutions for people who have bad eyesight. As glasses are not exactly always the best solutions if you have to wear thick lenses for higher prescriptions, a pair of contact lenses are the easy alternative. However, there are several important reminders when it comes to wearing contact lenses. One of the most notable is to never sleep with them on.
According to Dr. Rebecca Taylor, spokesperson of the American Academy of Opthalmology, wearing contact lenses while you sleep is “not ideal for oxygen exchange.” As it works, your cornea needs oxygen for nourishment, but when your eyes are closed when you’re asleep, it gets its necessary lubrication and nourishment from your accumulating tears and the fluid known as the aqueous humor. While awake, contact lenses are designed to move around a little bit so oxygen can be received by the cornea, but when you’re asleep, the space between your cornea and eyelids gets cramped, making it impossible for oxygen to enter. As Dr. Taylor puts it, “it’s like having a plastic bag over your head when you sleep,” if you nod off with your contact lenses still on.
While this may not sound too threatening to some, there are several dangers to wearing contacts to sleep. Swelling, itching, and additional blurred vision can occur after leaving your contacts on overnight, but this is just the least of your worries. Abrasions are highly likely to be incurred, which can really be painful and even damage your eyesight further. Infections can also easily take place, as even microscopic abrasions could introduce parasites to the eye.
From here, it’s all up to the wearer whether the infection will worsen, as proper caring, like regular cleaning and removal of the contact lenses could help minimize the problem. However, issues can also fester and become a bigger problem with poor hygiene. Corneal ulcers caused by bacteria and fungi can be severely painful and alter your vision, albeit treatable. Another issue, like in the case of the student who became blind after wearing her contact lenses for six months straight, involves acanthamoeba, a single-cell amoeba present in dirty water, soil, swimming pool, dust. This particular parasite can burrow and breed into the eyeball if the conditions are right and damage eyesight completely. While the case is a severe example, it doesn’t take away the fact that it can happen.
With today’s technology, it’s not impossible to find special contact lenses made for extended use. You should still check with your doctor, though, whether sleeping with these eye accessories on is ideal for your situation. However, taking some extra precautions in caring for your eyes will not hurt anyway, so taking off your contacts before you doze off may just be a more ideal practice.