Are You Overwearing Your Lenses?
Why it might be time to check on your contacts
Dr. David Bauer | Bauer & Clausen Optometry
What does a drinking straw have to do with your vision?
When it comes to vision correction, contact lenses are a simple, comfortable and affordable option for many. Because contact lenses are so easy to get and use, we often forget that they are considered a medical device. When they fit and function well, we can almost forget they’re there – and that convenience can sometimes lead to over wear.
What is ‘over wear’?
Quite simply, wearing contacts longer than they were prescribed is ‘over wearing.’ For example, if you have daily replacement contacts and you wear them for multiple days rather than using a new pair every day, or you wear monthlies and use them more than 30 days, you are over wearing your lenses. It can be tempting to over wear contacts in an effort to save money, out of convenience or simply forgetfulness, but doing so is bad for eye health and can be painful and expensive in the long run.
Sleeping in contacts is also a problem with most lenses, whether you’re just taking a nap or sleeping all night. Not only are you wearing the lenses longer than recommended, doing so while sleeping can cause corneal ulcers, as your lenses are depriving your eyes of essential oxygen and hydration.
What’s the big deal?
Your eyes rely on oxygen to function. Unlike most systems in the body, the cornea (the transparent front part of the eye that covers the pupil) gets oxygen directly from the air – not from blood vessels. Contact lenses are specially designed to let air in; however, when you wear contacts longer than recommended, lens technology begins to break down.
Imagine oxygen delivery to the eye through contact lenses as being similar to drinking through a straw. New contacts deliver oxygen to the eye in big gulps, like a nice big soda straw. Over time, the straw begins to shrink, letting less and less air in – like a coffee stirrer straw. Not good. Ultimately, overwear can cause everything from mild discomfort to severe pain from infection.
But I cleaned them!
Over worn contacts can cause problems and put your corneal health at risk even if you’ve been diligent about cleaning them. Your eyes need oxygen and time to rest. Making that possible might feel inconvenient in the moment, but will save you money, pain and help you avoid permanent damage to your vision.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, remove your contact lenses immediately and see your eye doctor as soon as possible:
● Eye irritation
● Excessive tearing
● Blurred vision
● Redness in the eyes
● Contact lens intolerance
● Eyelid swelling
● Light sensitivity
● Eye pain
Depending on severity, some of these conditions can be expensive and time consuming to treat. However, in most cases, treatment is essential – not just so that you can wear your contacts, but so that you can see!
Follow your doctor’s orders.
You only get one cornea per eye during your lifetime. Protecting them by properly using and caring for your contact lenses should be a number one priority. Each lens manufacturer will make recommendations and you should rely on your doctor’s specific instructions; however, in general you should:
● Wash your hands diligently with soap and rinse thoroughly with water before handling your lenses.
● Clean and disinfect your contacts exactly as recommended, using the proper solution and container.
● Only use contacts for the duration prescribed.
● Keep track of your supply and re-order well before you run out.
● See your eye doctor for regular eye exams.
If your doctor is like most, you can’t get your contact lens prescription refilled unless you report for an eye exam. The reason is not just to ensure that your prescription hasn’t changed, it’s because we care about your lifetime eye health. Regular eye exams can reveal symptoms of diseases that might otherwise go undiagnosed. The sooner we can identify issues that interfere with your vision, the more likely we will be able to keep you seeing comfortably for as long as possible.
Now is the time.
If you wear contact lenses, take a moment to check your supply, ensure you’re following directions for use and, if you haven’t seen your eyecare provider in a while, make an appointment. Your eyes will thank you for it!