Why Wearing Your Contacts Too Long Is A Big Deal

contact lens 548158 1920True story: A young man came to our office with a raging eye infection. After examining him, the ophthalmologist asked him how long he’d been wearing his contact lens in that eye. The patient said he hadn’t worn contacts in many months, but the doctor showed him that he did indeed have a contact lens in that eye. He’d forgotten it was there, and wearing it for so long had created the eye infection.

Maybe you know that you wouldn’t forget you have a contact lens in your eye, but do you try to extend the life of your contacts by wearing them longer than is recommended? This is still a problem, and you’d be surprised by how many people we see each week who’ve developed eye infections, corneal ulcers, or other issues due to wearing contacts longer than they should.

While it’s great that contact lenses have come a long way in terms of comfort and wearability, this unfortunately contributes to too many people wearing their contacts much longer than they should. Many of them shrug and say, “What’s the big deal?” However, wearing contacts too long is a big deal when you consider that it can damage your eyes and your vision.

Wearing contacts too long is called “overwear,” and it can result in some serious issues:

  • Red or irritated eyes
  • Eye pain
  • Eye infection
  • Blurred vision
  • Excessive tearing
  • Corneal abrasions
  • Light sensitivity
  • Eye ulcer

These issues develop because the eye receives less oxygen the longer a contact is worn, and oxygen is crucial to the health of your eyes. The contact lens covers the cornea, which is protected by a thin layer of cells. These cells become weakened when deprived of oxygen for too long, which then exposes the eye to bacteria because that protective layer isn’t as strong. On top of that, if your lenses are not allowing oxygen in they are also not letting bacteria out.

Over time, the contact lens becomes like a bandage. Removing it actually takes off cells of the eye, so then the eye hurts and feels scratchy. Plus, contact lenses eventually will collect debris which cannot be removed by cleaners, so don’t try to extend the life of your contacts by wearing them too long.

Only keep the lenses as long as recommended by your prescriber or the manufacturer. For example, one-month contact lenses should be replaced 30 days after opening the package.

Also, give your eyes a break from wearing contact lenses from time to time so that they can rehydrate with oxygen. And do not sleep with your contact lenses in. You’re 20 times more likely to develop a corneal ulcer or eye infection if you do.

Be sure to clean the contacts as instructed, and store them as instructed when you’re not wearing them. Remove your contacts immediately at the first hint of any redness or discomfort.

And if you do suspect you have an eye infection or another issue due to contact lens overwear, please don’t be too embarrassed to come see us. We see it all the time, and we’d rather help you resolve the issue before it progresses to a more serious condition.

East Tennessee Eye Surgeons specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of both the common and more complex eye diseases. With two locations at 7800 Conner Road in Powell and 744 Middle Creek Road, Suite 200 in Sevierville, East Tennessee Eye Surgeons delivers the highest quality eye care in an exceptional setting. Visit our website to learn more about us, or call us at 865-546-1464 (Powell) or 865-908-7008 (Sevierville).