Last weekend was homecoming weekend for all of my friends from grad school, and of course with any homecoming celebration comes a football game, and preceding the football game, of course a tailgate. As we were all getting ready to head out for the day, one of my dearest friends came running up to me in a panic because her eye was “red and puffy.”
After a game of 20 questions, the verdict became very clear. My friend sleeps in her contacts. Not only does she sleep in her contacts, she basically has lived in them for months. I remember the days before I had LASIK when this didn’t seem that bad or strange among friends. However, knowing what I know now about what can come about because of this habit, I couldn’t help but shake my head at her in disapproval.
“But what do you mean I have to take my contacts out?! Do I have to tailgate in glasses?? I didn’t even bring glasses! Can’t I just put some drops in” Does this sound familiar? Maybe not before a tailgate but a party? Or prom? Or a date?
After consulting the fabulous doctors where I work, I got the cold, hard facts. It is important for you and everyone you know who wears contacts to know how serious it is when your eye doctor tells you, do NOT sleep in your contacts.
When you do not take your contacts out, your eye can develop something called “Corneal neovascularization” that occurs because of the lack of oxygen to the eye. If the vessels grow too much, doctors may consider not fitting you in contact lenses anymore. Yes, you read correctly, this translates to: by wearing your contacts to sleep, you may end up never being able to wear contacts again. In other words: Glasses only!
Sometimes, because of this condition, your eye doctor may have to consider fitting you in Gas Permeables only. Gas permeables are hard contact lenses. Another condition can arise from lack of oxygen or “hypoxia” to the eye which is called: Corneal microscysts.
If you sleep in your contacts, another common thing that can happen is called “CLARE”- contact lens acute red eye. The symptoms are: Eye pain, redness, and light sensitivity.
The biggest complication that comes out of this habit is called a Corneal Ulcer. A corneal ulcer is an eruption on the cornea caused by an infection that can lead to blindness. Symptoms include vision changes, eye redness, eye discomfort or pain, and excessive tearing. It is considered the biggest complication because if it's an aggressive microbe, the patient could lose vision permanently and the scar that occurs could require corneal transplant.
A corneal transplant is one of the most serious eye surgeries that a patient will have to undergo. The fact that sleeping in contact lenses can end up putting you in that situation is pretty scary.
There is also a condition called GPC which stands for “giant papillary conjunctivitis”. It consists of bumps under the upper eyelids. GPC causes mucous discharge and itching, especially after lens removal. It causes the lenses to fit poorly since the bumps pull up on the contact lens.
Other conditions that can arise from sleeping in your contacts include: conjunctivitis and Acanthamoeba keratitis. Acanthamoeba keratitis is a rare disease in which amoebae invade the cornea. It may result in permanent visual impairment or blindness.
So basically, my friend had to tailgate with one eye. Okay, that sounds a little dramatic, but you know what I mean, she only had one contact on. It was very blurry and she confirmed that it definitely 100% affected her homecoming day experience.
So the moral of this story is even though some of these conditions just seem gross, there are some really scary, serious consequences to being lazy and continuing this habit. Advice: Do not wait for the day when your eyes decide to get revenge. Never sleep in your contact lenses, it’s just not worth it!