Wearing contact lenses can be very exciting and liberating. Not only will you experience improved vision, but a whole new look that can give you the type of confidence you haven’t felt in years. If you’re new to lens use, then you may not know that you should take your lenses out before you go to sleep in order to avoid serious eye irritation and possible infection. In fact, many new lens wearers will forget to remove their contact lenses at some point during the first year of use. While some people may only experience some mild irritation from sleeping with their lenses in, those with very sensitive eyes can end up with a serious infection.
Sleeping with Your Contact Lenses in
Each night, lenses must be soaked in contact lens solution and stored in a special lens case while you sleep.
You may have already forgotten to remove your lenses at some point, and when you woke up in the morning, all you noticed was a little dryness, maybe some redness, and your eyes may have felt a little itchy. But this doesn’t mean that it’s safe to sleep with your lenses in.
According to the CDC, sleeping in your lenses can pose a serious risk to your eye health. This is because doing so will make it eight times more likely that you’ll develop an eye infection. A serious eye infection can result in significant damage to the cornea or a total loss of vision in rare cases. It’s important to keep in mind that these infections can develop whether you use basic colored contacts or contacts to improve your vision. Even though people with more sensitive eyes are more likely to get an infection, everyone is at risk.
The Role of the Cornea
The corneas are exposed to bacteria daily, which is why you must soak your lenses in the contact lens solution, in order to kill off the bacteria and prevent an infection. The cornea is basically the eye’s natural defense against bacteria. However, in order for the cornea to function correctly, it needs oxygen and hydration. Throughout the day, when you blink, you’re naturally keeping the eyes moist, while allowing oxygen to flow through the tears that are produced. A contact lens will fit over the eye’s surface, which has a major impact on how much oxygen the cornea receives.
When a person sleeps, the decrease in both oxygen and moisture is even more severe. Without an adequate supply of oxygen, the cells in the eyes will lose their ability to fight off bacteria.
Some types of bacterial infections are easier to clear up than others. However, regardless of the type of infection you have, you will not be able to wear your lenses while you’re undergoing treatment. You may even need to wait for a week or two after the medication has been finished, before your doctor will give the okay to start wearing your lenses again. This will ultimately depend on the type of infection and the severity.
When you sleep in your contacts, you can put yourself at risk of serious eye infections, such as:
This is a type of infection of the cornea that’s a result of either pseudomonas aeruginosa, or staph. Both types of bacteria are commonly found in the environment and in the human body.
If you use extended wear lenses, then you’re more at risk of these types of bacterial infections. You’re also at an increased risk if you’ve had a recent eye injury. These types of bacterial infections can easily be treated using eye drops; however, steroid drops may be needed in serious cases. If an infection is left untreated, then it can result in permanent scarring of the cornea.
This bacterial infection is caused by an amoeba that’s found in many water sources and it will usually develop at the same time as a microbial infection. If you’re guilty of using basic tap water to rinse out your lenses, or you sleep in them often, then you’re at a higher risk of developing this type of infection. To treat this infection, medicated eye drops will need to be used for an extended period of time. If the eye drops do not work to clear up the infection, then surgery will be the only alternative.
When you sleep in your lenses, you’re also at an increased risk of contracting fungal keratitis. Treating this type of infection quickly is crucial. If left untreated it may cause vision loss in the infected eye. In India, this bacterial infection is one of the leading causes of vision loss.
What to do if You Have Slept with Your Contacts in
Unfortunately, contact lenses and eye infections are all too common, especially when contact lens care is not followed. If you wake up and realize that you slept with your contacts in, then the first step is removing them as soon as possible. If you’re not able to easily remove them, you’ll need to use a contact solution. To avoid further irritating your eyes, apply several drops of contact solution in the eyes, then blink rapidly. Next, attempt to gently remove the lenses again. This type of extra lubrication will make it much easier to dislodge the dry contacts.
Avoid wearing your contact lenses for the day and monitor how your eyes look and feel. If you have red eyes from contact lenses, you should add some lubricating drops to help minimize any irritation.
Eye Infection Signs and Symptoms
If you notice any of the following symptoms, make an appointment with your eyecare specialist as soon as possible:
- Blurry vision
- Excessive tearing
If you believe you have an eye infection, avoid wearing your contact lenses until you meet with your doctor. Place the lenses in a plastic container and bring them with you to your doctor appointment. Your doctor may want to test the lenses.
Other Contact Lens Tips
- If your eyes begin to feel irritated with contact lens use at any time, make sure you take a break and wear your glasses for a day or two to avoid further discomfort. If the discomfort worsens, contact your doctor.
- Avoid swimming while wearing your lenses.
- Always wash your hands prior to handling your lenses.
- Soak your lenses in the proper contact lens solution. Avoid using tap water or saline solution.
- In order to clean your lenses before you place them in their storage container, make sure you rub them with a disinfecting solution.
- The disinfecting solution in the lens case should always be changed nightly.
- If you wear lenses that are disposable, never wear them longer than you’re supposed to. Many people are guilty of trying to squeeze out more use per pair, in order to save money. However, this can also increase your chances of a bacterial infection.
Treatment for Infection
If your doctor confirms that you have a bacterial infection, the first step is tossing out your lenses. You must follow your doctor’s care instructions and refrain from wearing your lenses until your doctor has given the okay. They may want you to come in for a follow up exam once your medication is finished. This will allow them to test your eyes and confirm that the infection has cleared up. Using your lenses before your treatment is over can worsen the infection and can cause significant irritation, pain, redness, and discomfort. It can also cause another infection if you wear them mistakenly believing that the infection has cleared up. Use the eyedrops, ointment, or other type of medication as directed, for the full cycle. In most cases, treatment is only required for one to two weeks. If you do not see any signs of improvement in two to three days, make sure you contact your doctor. They may need to change the medication or increase how often you use your medicated drops.
At some point, every contact lens wearer forgets to remove their lenses. However, there are other new lens users that don’t know the dangers of sleeping with their lenses in, or what can happen if they fail to get treatment if their eyes become infected.
So, why should you take your lenses out before you go to sleep? If you fail to remove your lenses at night, you’re cutting off the oxygen supply and the moisture to the corneas. This will have a major negative impact on the cornea’s ability to fight off bacteria, putting you at risk of getting an infection. Some infections are relatively mild. If you’re lucky, the first time you forget to take your lenses out, you’ll only end up with some mild irritation. Other lens wearers will not be so lucky. Infections that are not treated right away can end up causing permanent damage to your corneas, which will also affect your vision. By following the lens care instructions from your doctor, you can maintain eye health. If you accidentally sleep with your lenses in, remember to remove them and soak them as soon as possible and avoid wearing lenses for the day. You’ll also want to monitor for signs of an infection and contact your doctor if the discomfort or signs of infection worsen.