Sometimes, you can get so used to wearing contact lenses that you forget you’re wearing them. While this is great in the sense that they don’t get in the way of your day-to-day activities, it can be a problem if you forget that you’ve been wearing them for too long.
How Long Is Too Long?
Before we get into what happens when you wear your contacts for too long, let us first take a look at how long you should be wearing them. The answer depends on what type of contact lenses you wear.
- Daily-wear lenses are reusable and are meant to be worn during your waking hours and removed before you sleep. They can be worn for 8 to 16 hours.
- Extended-wear lenses can be worn for much longer than daily-wear lenses, but are becoming less common due to risks of eye infection.
- Disposable lenses can also be worn for 8 to 16 hours, but should be discarded after that.
Additionally, there are specialty contact lenses that are designed to treat certain conditions. For example, orthokeratology (Ortho-K) lenses are used for treating myopia by reshaping the corneas, and are made to be worn during sleep.
What Happens When You Wear Your Contact Lenses for Too Long?
Wearing your contacts for too long can cause less oxygen to reach your cornea, resulting in dryness and increased strain. This leaves the eyes vulnerable to keratitis (inflammation of the cornea), conjunctivitis or pink eye (inflammation of the conjunctiva or the transparent membrane that lines the eyelid), and other symptoms that include itching and swelling.
Fortunately, problems caused by over-wearing can be avoided by taking note of when you’ve worn your contacts and taking them off on or before the prescribed time. You can set your phone to give you a beep after a certain number of hours so you won’t forget.
If you’re already experiencing the symptoms described above, remove your contacts and call your eye doctor. Keratitis or conjunctivitis may need several days to weeks to heal. Your eye doctor may prescribe wearing contact lenses with high oxygen permeability or recommend wearing glasses temporarily to facilitate healing.
Guilford Eye Center provides eye care services to customers in High Point, NC, and the surrounding communities. Give us a call at (336) 292-4516, or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.