Contact lens overuse is an increasingly common eye condition that has significant potential to do serious damage to your eyes, and lead to major eye and vision issues in the future. Dr. Schwartz comments “Contact lenses represent a great way to enhance how you look and feel while allowing you to maintain your best vision. But, they pose a very real risk of damaging your vision if you don’t know how to care for and use them properly. It is important to know what to do to allow safe wear of your contacts and avoid this increasingly prevalent and dangerous eye condition.”
The 18 Hour/Week Rule
Your eyes require oxygen just like a person, and denying them the opportunity to breathe properly by overwearing your contact lenses can cause severe damage to your eyes. But, how much is too much when it comes to contact lens wear? To answer this question, eye care professionals have come up with a standard benchmark: If you come in anywhere less than 18 hours a week with your contact lenses out, you are overwearing your contact lenses. When denied oxygen in this way, the eye may attempt to supply oxygen through neovascularization. This process involves the growth of new blood vessels into parts of the eye that should remain clear and unblocked for your best vision. This can seriously hinder your ability to see, and do serious long-term damage as well.
Spare Glasses: Your First, Best Tool To Protect Your Vision
In working on reducing your contact lens wear, a spare pair of glasses can be your best friend. Studies have shown that wearing your glasses instead of your contacts as little as once or twice every week can significantly reduce your chances of developing symptoms of contact lens overuse by allowing your eyes to rest from the strain put on them by consistent contact lens wear.
Even on days when you choose to wear your contacts, it is possible to take steps to reduce your chances of over wearing your contacts. One easy way to do this is to wait to put your contacts in when you wake up in the morning. Wear your glasses during your morning prep, and put your contacts in as the very last step before leaving for the day. Taking your contacts out as the first part of your bedtime prep is another great way to help yourself. These two methods combined can significantly reduce your chances of contact lens overuse without having to make much conscious effort to do so.
Never Sleep With Your Contacts In
Sleeping with your contact lenses in is among the leading causes of contact lens overuse. This practice is among the most dangerous and damaging of the many poor lens wearing choices a person can make. Overnight contact lens wear, or even wearing them for a short nap during the day, may deny the eyes essential oxygen and hydration, possibly leading to vision threatening infections and a painful scratch on the surface of the eye called a corneal abrasion, which can cause eye pain, light sensitivity and excessive tearing. Removing your contact lenses, even for a short nap, is an essential step toward guarding your long term eye health.
Follow Instructions, Save Your Eyes
Possibly the most important part of preventing contact lens overuse is paying close attention to the replacement schedule prescribed by your doctor. Time lines for contact lens replacement are established to protect your eyes from the potentially harmful consequences of contact lens deterioration and calcium deposits that build up on your contact lenses over time. Many people believe that as long as their contacts are comfortable to wear, there is nothing wrong and no need to replace them. Optometrists have fought against this harmful myth for years. By the time contact lenses are uncomfortable, they may have already begun to damage your eyes in ways that may affect your sight long term. Whether in an attempt to save money or through simple inattentiveness, wearing your contact lenses beyond their prescribed replacement date is an incredibly harmful practice that could have serious long term consequences.