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Is It Really That Bad to Sleep or Shower In Contact Lenses?

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Is it safe to re-use contact lenses after swimming with them?

Short Answer: No. It’s absolutely not safe to continue to re-use contacts that have been exposed to swimming pool, lake, or ocean water.

Contact lenses should generally be kept away from non-sterile water as it’s a natural breeding ground for bacteria and microorganisms, which can get trapped within the contact lens, putting you at risk of a waterborne eye infection.  If you are wearing single-use (1 Day) contacts, you can swim in them, and then dispose of them after swimming.

Why Does Sleeping in Contacts Increase the Risk of Infection?

To stay healthy, your corneas require hydration and oxygen. Blinking keeps your corneas wet, and the tears you produce allow oxygen to pass through from the air to your corneas.

Sleeping in overnight-wear contacts limits the amount of oxygen and hydration that reaches your corneas -with your eyes open, and even more so when the eyes are closed. As a result, your corneas are more dry and susceptible to corneal abrasion, and they have a harder time fighting bacteria, causing your eyes to be more prone to infection.

If, after sleeping in contact lenses, you experience blurred vision, discharge from your eyes, redness or watering, you may have an contact lens-related infection. Left untreated, infection can lead to corneal damage, and—in extreme cases—loss of vision.  You should only follow the guidelines given to you by your eye care physician for safe sleeping in contacts.  Never take it upon yourself to "try it" without the direction of a physician.  It might feel fine for a while, and then suddenly develop a problem.

What are the Risks of Showering While Wearing Contacts?

Contact lens wearers are more likely to develop keratitis, an inflammation of the cornea, if their lenses come into contact with shower water. Left untreated, keratitis can cause vision loss.

In microbial keratitis, microorganisms invade the cornea and cause an infection of the eye. The microorganisms that cause these infections can be found in a variety of water sources, including rivers, lakes and streams, showers, tap, a pool or jacuzzi. Normally, the antimicrobial properties of tears protect your eyes, but that process is hindered by contact lenses.

Contact lenses can cause minor surface damage to your corneas, and water-borne microorganisms can use these defects as an entry port for corneal infection.  It is best not to shower with contacts in.

Eye Care Tips for Contact Lens Wearers

  • In order to avoid eye infections, it’s important to follow the tips below. However, do not consider these tips as medical advice. Always speak to your eye doctor for individual advice on wearing and caring for your contact lenses.
  • Avoid water while wearing contacts. Keep your contacts away from water. Make sure to remove your contacts before showering, bathing, or swimming. Don’t rinse or store your contacts in water, and if it does occur, make sure to throw away or disinfect them thoroughly.
  • Don’t sleep in your contacts. Avoid wearing your contacts when sleeping, unless you have special overnight lenses or your eye doctor has told you that it’s safe to do so.
  • Use clean hands. Always wash your hands and dry them thoroughly before touching your contacts.
  • Follow product instructions. Always follow the directions when cleaning or disinfecting your contacts.
  • Store contacts properly. Make sure your contacts are exclusively stored in fresh contact lens solution. Never reuse old solution.
  • Wear contacts for the proper length of time. Avoid wearing your contacts for longer than the recommended time period.

So, as a general rule, remove daily wear contact lenses before going to bed and showering. If you experience symptoms like eye pain, discharge, or sensitivity to light, immediately remove your lenses and consult Lifetime Vision Care in St. Petersburg without delay.


Frequently Asked Questions with Dr. Jeffrey and Susan Phillips

Q: Who can wear contact lenses?

  • A: Almost everyone can wear contact lenses, no matter their age, prescription or lifestyle.

Q: What if I accidentally fall asleep with my contacts?

  • A: If you fall asleep with your contacts on, you may wake up with them attached to your eye's surface. If they don't come out easily, blink and apply lens rewetting drops until the surface of your eye is moist. That should make it easier to remove the lenses.

Quality Frames For Prescription Eyeglasses & Computer Glasses In St. Petersburg, Florida. Visit Lifetime Vision Care for an eye exam and eyeglasses that match your style.