When worn properly, contact lenses are a comfortable, convenient and healthy alternative to wearing glasses. Contacts offer a wider range of view, natural peripheral vision, and in some cases, better visual acuity, making it tempting to wear them longer than they should be worn.
However, contact lens overuse can cause severe damage to your eyes and lead to serious vision problems. To avoid damaging your vision, it’s important to know how much use is too much.
The 18 hour/week rule
Contacts should be taken out for at least 18 hours per week. Your eyes need time to rest. If you go without your contacts any less than 18 hours each week, you are overusing them. It helps to make a schedule of when you will put your contacts in and take them out each day.
Don’t suffocate your eyes
Your eyes need oxygen to remain healthy. Your eyes are the only part of your body that must take in oxygen from the air in order to function properly. Overuse of contacts denies your eyes the ability to breathe properly and can potentially do a great deal of damage.
Always carry a pair of glasses
Wearing contacts too much can cause a great deal of strain on your eyes, as well as headaches. When resting your eyes, use glasses as a substitute. This will relieve the strain and allow your eyes to breathe.
Never sleep wearing your contacts
Never wear your contacts while sleeping. Not only will it damage your eyes, it is the most dangerous way to deprive them of oxygen and hydration as well. Without moisture, your contacts can become dry and cause many potential problems, such as scratching of the cornea.
Replace your contacts as prescribed
Replacing your contacts as prescribed is important. These days, contact lenses are made of different materials made to be more comfortable and easier on your eyes. For this reason, many people wear them longer than prescribed or until they become uncomfortable. Typically, all contacts have a replacement schedule, usually daily, weekly and monthly. Your eye doctor should give you enough pairs to last one to three months. Each type has a different thickness and level of durability. Daily lenses are very thin while monthly lenses are thicker and more durable, making them last as long as they’re scheduled to. If you are prescribed weekly wear contacts, you should wear them for a week, discard them and put in fresh lenses.
The consequences of overuse
Extending your replacement time can do serious damage to your eyes and vision. If daily wear contacts are over-worn, they can tear because they are so thin, and can irritate or scratch your eye. Monthly wear lenses cause the majority of problems when overused. Because they are thicker and more durable, they have a higher risk of causing serious problems. A person that overuses monthly contacts is more apt to leave them in 24 hours a day for the whole month and is more likely to wear them past the monthly replacement time. If they aren’t taken out and cleaned, calcium and protein deposits can form, blocking your vision and irritating your eyes. Because of the thickness, your eyes won’t get the proper amount of oxygen and lubrication needed to keep them healthy and can eventually dry out and stick to the eye. This is known as Contact Lens Overwear Syndrome or tight lens syndrome. If you can’t rotate your contacts while wearing them, you need to take them out immediately, put them in saline solution and rest your eyes. Leaving them in can cause a severely dangerous condition in which your contacts will act like a suction cup and cause your cornea to extend outwards, deforming your eyes.
Upon receiving your contacts, your eye doctor should inform you of the proper way to wear and change your contacts, and of the dangers and consequences of overuse. Refraining from overuse is important to maintain the health of your eyes and prevent vision loss. As long as they are used as instructed, contacts can be safe and visually effective.