Doctors Agree: Don’t Overwear Your Contact Lenses

November 19th, 2018
doctor consulting patient

Wearing your contact lenses for longer may seem like a good way to budget money or time, but overwearing contact lenses can have a serious impact on your health.

For millions of Americans, contact lenses are an easy way to improve vision without the hassle of glasses. While contact lenses offer wearers a range of benefits – instant vision correction, for example – they’re not without their own challenges.

Indeed, certain patient behavior has doctors worried. While it may be tempting to save money or time by wearing your contact lenses for longer than their suggested use, you may be exposing yourself to adverse health effects. From overwearing your contact lenses to sleeping in them, the American Optometric Association warns that ignoring the manufacturer’s recommendations can put you at risk.

What Can Happen When You Overwear Your Contact Lenses

Even if you follow hygienic best practices with your contact lenses by rinsing them regularly with contact lens solution, contact lens overuse can cause complications with your eyesight. This is because protein deposits, microorganisms, and allergens build up on your contact lenses over time – no matter how well you clean them. Eventually, this build-up can result in blurred vision, dry eye, redness, eye irritation, light sensitivity and cause a burning sensation when you insert your contact lenses.

Corneal Hypoxia

Contacts can transmit a healthy amount of oxygen, but extended lens wear can compromise the lenses through contact lens deterioration. The eyes can undergo corneal damage from a lack of oxygen.


Extended wear for days or even weeks past their recommended use, sleeping in your contact lenses can have serious side effects. When you sleep in your contact lenses, you’re preventing oxygen from filtering into and out of the eye. Because you don’t blink regularly while you’re asleep, this creates conditions in which bacteria can easily spread.

Eye Infection

Combined with the gradual breakdown of contact lens material that occurs past the recommended period of use, you may contract microbial keratitis. Keratitis is a type of eye infection that inflames your cornea, causing pain in your eye and putting you at risk of vision loss.

Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis

Another effect of contact lens overwear is giant papillary conjunctivitis. This occurs when the eyes form an inflammatory response to prolonged contact exposure. It causes a feeling of sandiness or grittiness and sometimes redness, soreness, and blurry vision. It is sometimes treated with artificial tears but in other cases, the contact lens wearer has to stop wearing contacts.

Contact Lens Do’s and Don’ts

Ensure that you follow all of the instructions your contact lens manufacturer gives you. If you use daily disposables, for example, don’t wear them for a week. If you wear lenses that are designed for extended use up to weeks and months, keep track of exactly when you need to get rid of them.

Additionally, avoid sleeping in your contact lenses. Even if they purport to be designed for overnight use, repeated wear while you sleep puts you at risk of eye infection and microbial keratitis. Some eye care specialists even recommend taking your lenses out for naps, but a few hours won’t be a problem.

Consult with an Eye Doctor

Contact lenses offer benefits for patients who want to avoid wearing glasses, but that doesn’t mean they’re hassle-free. From disposing of them after their recommended period of use and securing replacements to cleaning them regularly in solution, a lot goes into wearing contact lenses day in and day out.

If you’re tired of contact lenses and worried about the potential side effects of extended use, you may want to consider LASIK. By scheduling a consultation with the Swagel Wootton Eye Institute, you can speak with an eye care professional at our Mesa or Chandler locations to learn whether this procedure is right for you.