Did you know that sleeping in your contact lenses is the single biggest risk factor for contact lens-related complications?  Everyday I see patients with red, painful eyes due to over wearing their contact lenses.  Some mistakenly think they just need a fresh lens, but what is going on is potentially blinding.

Your eyes only receive oxygen from the air.  When you wear a contact lens, the amount of oxygen getting through is reduced.  And although advances in contact lens materials have allowed more oxygen to pass than ever before, any lens lowers the ultimate amount.  And when your eye is closed, that amount drops to almost zero.  Your body tries to bring more oxygen to your cornea in the form of growing new blood vessels, which is why people who sleep in their lenses generally have redder eyes.  But theses new vessels are weak and can ultimately threaten your eyesite.

Another potential and more serious complication is a bacterial infection, called microbial keratitis. This infection is most commonly caused by a bacteria such as pseudomonas, which can live and grow on your lens.  Pseudomonas, for instance, can make a hole through your cornea within 24 hours.  If these infections are not treated seriously, scarring can permanently affect your vision and may even lead to a corneal transplant.

Anytime a contact lens patient, especially someone who sleeps in their lenses, has any redness or discomfort they need to see their eye doctor immediately.  With the potential for serious complications, contact lens wearers need to be responsible and alert.  The best predictor of good outcomes in these cases is early treatment and intervention.  If your eye is red or doesn’t feel right, do not put in your contact lenses, call your Optometrist promptly.

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