Contact Lens Safety: How Wearing Contacts Too Long Can Cause Invisible Damage «

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Contact Lens Safety: How Wearing Contacts Too Long Can Cause Invisible Damage

[Editor’s note: This article was originally hosted on, our sister site.
It’s now featured here as part of our new general-health section.]

by Louise A. Sclafani, O.D., F.A.A.O.

Q. My ophthalmologist said I could wear my brand of disposable contacts for two weeks. What happens if I wear them longer? Also, why can you sleep in some disposables and not in others?

A. Putting a piece of plastic on your eyeballs requires a certain amount of tender loving care. But these days, not all contacts are made of the same kind of plastic. What they are made of determines the kind of care you have to give.

Determining Factors
Why you can wear some contacts longer than others

Two main factors that contribute to how long you can wear your lenses, both daily and over the long term, are how well they breathe and how much they like to collect stuff.

Books adYour eyes need oxygen to stay healthy. Contact lenses are made of different kinds of materials that allow differing amounts of oxygen to get through. This makes certain types of lenses acceptable for sleeping.

You may wonder why it matters how much oxygen your eyes get if they’re closed anyway. Actually, the outermost portion of the cornea (the clear dome covering the colored part and pupil) gets much of its oxygen in dissolved form from the tears! Contact lenses can block this process.

Some materials are also more prone to deposits, such as proteins and lipids, which are normal components of our tears. If they build up on the lens, they can cause problems, including infection. (Besides, nobody wants to look through a dirty window.)

Various products are available to clean and disinfect lenses; however, if you don’t use them properly, or if you wear the lenses longer than the prescribed amount of time, you put yourself at risk for complications such as corneal ulcers and inflammation.

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Hidden Changes
Why to listen to the rules—even if you think you’re OK

People who overwear their contacts are often not aware of changes that may be occurring on their eyes because you can’t see them without a microscope. They may only finally visit their eye-care professional after a problem has advanced to the point of causing severe pain or vision loss.

It’s important to have your lenses evaluated routinely to be sure the wearing schedule is working well for your eyes and that your corneas remain healthy. At these visits, your provider can also offer new materials or solutions as they’re developed.

, is an associate professor of ophthalmology at The University of Chicago, chair-elect of the American Optometric Association Contact Lens and Cornea Section and a team eye doctor for the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team.

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  • fen

    if you don’t have a lens in your eye would it be all right to your contact all of the time

    • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      No. But check with your eye doctor for your specific case.

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  • jessica

    Hey guys, I wear 2 weekly acuvue lenses but I use each pair for 2 months instead. I prob sleep in them half the week and try leave them out for a whole day once a week. Honestly I can’t afford to replace them once a month. Also I can never be bothered taking them out at night even though I know I should. I’ve done this for 2.5 years now and other than worrying about symptoms I havnt actually had any yet. Sometimes they sting for a few seconds when I first put them in but it’s literally seconds and very rare. Anyway I don’t have any advice and I’m more than likely going to carry on this way (I’ll try not to sleep in them as much) but I thought I’d just share incase anyone else does the same.

  • Lisa

    For me, this lesson was learned to little to late. I figured, what is the harm of stretching how often you change your contacts if you take really good care of them. I used the best solution out there, never slept in them, never touched them unless I washed my hands first, and always disinfected them daily. But now I find out that this behavior has damaged my eyes. They are infected with deposits from buildup of the contacts. Now I need eye drops to treat it. The eye doctor said the only thing that saved me from having serious eye problems was using the eye cleaner I did. She said it kept the contacts clean enough to avoid major mishap. I will never go beyond the recommended time frame for contacts again!

  • logan

    about six months ago i got prescribed a pair of 1 month contacts. in a week the right one ripped, so i just wore one. and i have overused that one since then. and now in the eye that im using the one contact in, is starting to devolop a bit of a lazy eye. is me wearing that one 5 month overused contact in one eye related to the hardly noticable lazy eye im getting?

    • bob ryan

      I’m not sure…. but maybe its because you’re using just one contactz? So one eye has perfect vision and the other eye isn’t as clear. So you just used one eye (not intentionally, but it just so happens) I would recommend wearing contacts inboth eyes if you are going to wear contacts. And what do you mean by overuse?? I’ve been wearing the same pair of long wear contacts for about 7months now and I had no problems with my eyes.

      • tomara

        I just went to the hospital over that and I’m looking up answered to if I lost my privilege and my eyes are so red and even after they gave me numbing drops and 1 pain pill it still hurts and what’s worse it’s so sensitive to the light that I can’t produce any tears from it because my eyes are so dry….very painful….I’m turning down. My cell phone light to type this….it’s that bad

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  • Kate

    I’ve been thinking about daily disposables (been using monthly disposables for about seven years). I got an eye infection last year, cleared up absolutely fine within less than 48 hours, no scars, but the ophthalmology registrar I saw is very anti-contact lenses, particularly hates monthly disposables. He advised daily disposables. I spoke to my optician about this, she sees no reason for me to switch. However, I’ve been thinking about it and just wanted to know the benefits of daily over monthly disposables and vice versa. I do wear my contact lenses much longer than I should (up to 18 hours every day) but never sleep in them. I do feel like they are quite drying at times. Would daily disposables help with the dryness at all? (I know to wear them less, know the risks of wearing them too much, but my optician isn’t concerned about my eyes – she knows how long I wear them).

    • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Kate, I’m no expert in contacts but from what I understand, different people like one type, others like another type. Why not try daily ones and see if you like them better. It’s really the only way you’ll know for sure.

  • vanuritha

    i have a doubt i use air ootix toric lens which is monthly disposable buh only wear them occassionally like only twice a month can i wear them beyond d expiry date like count the days when i wear them occassionally like that..

  • Flammable storage cabinet

    An baby must rest alone in a bed, convenient bed or bassinet. Those who breastfeed their kid in bed should create sure to put him or her returning in a bed, convenient bed or bassinet soon after providing.

  • gonzalez1

    my sister just ripped her contact about half an hour ago, their the monthly ones shes scared to tell my mom but what if she wears them for two months straight instead of 1 month? please answer

    • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Gonzalez. Not a good idea at all. If she doesn’t have enough contacts to last, she’s going to have to get another one, or wear glasses for a month. Those sort of things happen. She should tell your mom.