We know just how tempting it can be to throw caution to the wind and leave your contact lenses in overnight. It may seem convenient, it may save you those agonizing minutes prodding at your eyeball in the mirror, and mamas know better than anyone that after a long day, even the smallest hassle can get blown out of proportion! Beware, though: It is estimated that keeping those contacts in overnight can greatly increase your chance of infection!
According to the British Contact Lens Association, sleeping in your contact lenses overnight increases the risk of infection by about four times, regardless of what kind of lens you wear. There's a reason hygiene is stressed during that initial eye exam: Without proper hygienic practices, those contacts are bound to become germ-infested in no time!
During the day, our eyes are just as active as the rest of our body. Whether we're blinking constantly, keeping an eye on our kids, reading a book, or picking out paint samples, our eyes are in continuous motion. This allows plenty of oxygen to enter, and the combination of air and movement keeps those contacts squeaky clean. However, at night our eyes are completely stagnant, and the amount of circulating oxygen is reduced. In essence, any germs that are in our eyes are not able to escape. Instead, they are trapped between our lenses and our corneas, which can contribute to the spread of infection.
There are several common types of infection that could affect your eyes, should they become irritated to overexposure to contact lenses. These include:
- Bacterial keratitis: A corneal infection that can produce pain, reduced vision, light sensitivity, and tearing or unusual discharge from the eye.
- Fungal keratitis: Also an infection of the cornea that can cause the same symptoms as above, but can also develop very rapidly and may cause blindness if untreated.
- Herpes keratitis: A viral infection in the eye caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). (via Eye Smart)
If you suspect that you are suffering from one of the above conditions, it is vital that you visit your doctor for treatment options. If ignored, symptoms can worsen and cause permanent corneal damage.
>> Read more: What Your Eyes Can Tell You About Your Health
If you're desperate to save yourself the time and energy, or you know you are going to forget all about those pesky lenses, we highly recommend talking with your eye doctor about extended-use or continuous-wear contacts. While they are not 100 percent free of risk, the likelihood you will suffer from an infection does decrease significantly. For more information on the damaging effects of prolonged contact usage, check out our sources here: British Contact Lens Association, Huffington Post, Everyday Health, and Eye Smart.