How Long Should I Wear My Contacts?

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Please note that the below information is intended to be observed as guidelines, and is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your eye doctor with any questions you may have regarding contact lens wear or a medical condition.

If you’re one of the estimated 45 million Americans who wear contact lenses, odds are that you may not be wearing them safely.

According to the CDC​, between 40-90% of contact lens wearers do not properly care for their contact lenses, resulting in a higher risk of inflammation and severe eye infections.

The problem here isn’t contact lenses themselves, which can be a safe alternative for vision correction—it’s the care (or lack thereof) that they receive from their wearers.

For both new and veteran contact wearers, it can be difficult to know how to properly care for your lenses, and, by extension, your eyes themselves.

How long you can wear your lenses and how often they need to be cleaned depend on what type of lenses you’ve been prescribed.

How do I safely get new contacts during the COVID-19 outbreak?

During the COVID-19 outbreak, Medical Eye Center can reorder your contact lenses as long as you have a valid prescription.

We will order them for you and either have them shipped to your house, or brought to you in the safety of your car for curbside pickup from our parking lot.

How to Wear Soft Contact Lenses

Daily Wear Lenses

Daily wear contact lenses are worn during the day and removed each night for cleaning. A single pair can be worn repeatedly, and their length of use varies according to the manufacturer.

Can I wear Daily Wear Lenses overnight?

No. Wearing these lenses overnight can increase your risk of corneal infection.

How long can I wear Daily Wear Lenses?

Daily Wear Lenses can typically be worn comfortably for 8-16 hours at a time depending on your own lens sensitivity.

Disposable Lenses

Daily disposable lenses are worn during the day and discarded at night.

Can I wear Daily Disposable Lenses overnight?

No. Due to their disposable nature, these lenses are made of a different material than other contact lenses, and are much more prone to bacteria build up over time, which can lead to irritation, inflammation, and infection. Only wear disposable lenses for the amount of time recommended by the manufacturer.

How long can I wear Daily Disposable Lenses?

Daily disposable lenses can typically be worn for 8 hours at a time depending on the manufacturer and the recommendation per your doctor. Check the care instructions provided with your lenses for more details on how long you should wear your specific pair.

Extended Wear

Extended wear lenses are worn continuously for one to four weeks before the lenses are removed and replaced.

Can I wear Extended Wear Lenses overnight?

No. Even though some contact lenses are FDA-approved to sleep in, removing them overnight is still the safest practice. Our providers never recommend wearing contact lenses overnight due to the risk of infection.

How long can I wear Extended Wear Lenses?

Depending on the manufacturer and the advice of your doctor, extended wear lenses can be worn continuously anywhere between one and four weeks. However, it’s important to note that ​not all eyes can tolerate​ wearing contacts continuously for the maximum four week period. During your contact lens fitting, your doctor will advise you regarding the optimal amount of time you should wear your extended wear lenses.

Risks of Improper Contact Lens Care

Although some contacts are made to be worn for an extended period of time, it’s important to understand that the risk of eye infection increases the longer you keep a single pair of contact lenses in your eyes.

Contact lenses that are worn too long can lead to the following conditions:

  • Corneal ulcers​ (infectious keratitis): An open sore in the outer layer of the cornea
  • Hypoxia​: A lack of oxygen that can lead to abnormal blood vessel growth into the cornea
  • Damage to corneal stem cells needed to keep the cornea clear for good vision
  • Chronic inflammation that can lead to contact lens intolerance

How to Care for Your Contact Lenses

Contact lens care may seem daunting at first, but is actually relatively simple. To reduce your risk of infection or inflammation, follow these tips to properly care for and use your contact lenses:

  • Always wash your hands with soap and dry them with a lint-free towel before picking up lenses.
  • Clean, rinse, and disinfect lenses when you remove them, following the instructions on the product label.
  • Only cleanse lenses with commercially prepared, sterile contact lens solution. Do not use water on lenses, as it can be a source of bacteria and microorganisms.
  • Don’t wear contact lenses overnight unless your doctor has prescribed them to be worn that way.
  • Regularly clean your contact lens storage case and replace it as directed by your doctor.
  • Never wear contacts after they have expired.
  • Report any eye irritations and infections to your eye doctor.

Alternatives to Contact Lenses

If you’re worried about the risks associated with contact lens wear, there are other alternatives for vision correction.

One of the most popular and long-term alternatives to vision correction is LASIK. LASIK actually carries ​less of a risk of vision loss​ than contact lenses do, and is a safer and faster procedure than ever due to the rise of new LASIK technology.

To learn more about LASIK, and to see if you’re a candidate for LASIK at Medical Eye Center, click ​here.

To learn more about contact lenses, click ​here​.

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