Is it safe to wear contact lenses while showering or sleeping?
No. It’s absolutely not safe to wear contacts while immersed in water or when sleeping (unless you have contacts specifically intended for overnight wear).
Sleeping in your contact lenses can dry out your eyes and potentially harm your vision as a result of infection. Contact lenses should also be kept away from water as it’s a natural breeding ground for bacteria and microorganisms, which can get trapped under the contact lens, putting you at risk of a waterborne eye infection.
Why Does Sleeping in Contacts Increase the Risk of Infection?
To stay healthy, your corneas require hydration and oxygen. Blinking keeps your eyes wet, and the tears you produce allow oxygen to enter your eyes.
Sleeping in standard contacts limits the amount of oxygen and hydration that reach your eyes. 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 eye infection. Left untreated, infection can lead to corneal damage, and—in extreme cases—loss of vision.
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 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.
Furthermore, contact lenses can stick to your eye when exposed to water, potentially leading to corneal abrasions. These scratches may enable microorganisms found in non-sterile water to penetrate the cornea and cause an infection.
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, remove those 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 Michael L. Smookler, O.D. in West Roxbury without delay.
Who can wear contact lenses?
Almost everyone can wear contact lenses, no matter their age, prescription or lifestyle.
What if I accidentally fall asleep with my contacts?
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 drops until the surface of your eye is moist. That should make it easier to remove the lenses.