It's amazing how comfortable contact lenses can be these days. Even hard contact lenses are more comfortable today, thanks to new materials that are easier on the eye. Because of this, many people are enticed into wearing their contact lenses for longer than recommended. Today, more and more doctors find it necessary to warn their patients about contact lens overuse and its possible consequences, including potentially serious eye and visual damage, and future problems with your eyes and sense of sight. Dr. Gretchen J. Brewer, OD warns, “So long as they are used as instructed, contact lenses are a safe, effective, and often aesthetically pleasing alternative to eyeglasses. But they can be extremely dangerous, leading even to blindness in extreme cases, if they are not used as your Philadelphia eye doctor prescribes. Preventing contact lens overuse is extremely important, and generally quite easy.”
Keeping track of how many hours per week you have your contact lenses out of your eyes is a great first step toward reducing your risk of contact lens overuse. If you come in under 18 hours per week with your contacts out, you should be wearing your contact lenses less. Your eyes require oxygen, and having your contacts out any less than 18 hours per week denies your eyes the requisite amount of time they need to “breathe in” this valuable necessity. This may cause a process, called neovascularization, in which new blood vessels grow in your eye in an attempt to supply missing oxygen to parts of the eye that are starved of it. These blood vessels do not belong in that part of the eye, they will normally block your vision, doing potentially serious harm to your eye, and will not even succeed in bringing enough oxygen to your eye anyway.
One way to make sure that you hit the magic 18 hour mark is not to wear your contacts every day. Choosing your glasses over your contacts every so often will allow your eyes to recover from the strain inherent in contact lens wear. Once or twice a week is all that is needed to be sure that you are giving your eyes enough time to rest.
Dr. Brewer adds, “Even on days that you choose to wear your contacts, you should wear them for part of the day only. You should start each day by wearing your glasses straight out of bed. While preparing for the day, keep your glasses on and put your contacts in as the very last step before walking out the door. This is a good way to allow a small amount of extra time every day with your contact lenses out, without having to make any extra effort to do so. Also, do not wear your contact lenses right up until it's time to go to bed. Take them out a few hours before going to bed. This, again, will add just a few more essential hours for your eyes to recover until the next time you put your contact lenses in.”
Also, remember that while you have your contacts in, it is NOT nap time! Unless your doctor specifically tells you that your contacts are extended wear, and safe to wear while sleeping, leaving your contacts in overnight, or even for a brief nap during the day, can do serious damage to your eyes.
Finally, perhaps the most important and also most neglected point of all: Be strict about replacing your contacts based on their recommended wear time. If your doctor says to change your contacts every month, write it on your calendar. If they're daily wear lenses, DO NOT wear them for a second day. Many people are not cautious about this because they believe that as long as the contacts are comfortable, there is nothing wrong with the lenses. By the time the contacts are uncomfortable, however, it is quite possible that damage may have already been done.
For any questions and further tips, feel free to contact Dr. Brewer today.