With the flood of marketing lately for extended wear contact lenses, eye doctors are hearing questions from their patients for their take on wearing contact lenses overnight. Some patients can, some cannot. Some contact lenses are approved for extended wear, some are not. It can become confusing. This article will summarize the different options in extended wear and discuss some of the issues your eye doctor will consider when designing your next pair of contact lenses.
What are the risks of Extended Wear Contact Lenses?
All contact lenses carry some risk of eye infection. After all, you’re putting something on the eye after you touched it with your finger, so even in the cleanest of environments there is an increased risk of infection. This is true for daily wear contact lenses and extended wear contact lenses. For the lowest risk of infection, choose single-use contact lenses which are replaced every day. The highest risk of infection accompanies extended wear contact lenses. Extended wear lenses are worn longer and cleaned less frequently, so the risk is greater.
Every contact lens has to be approved by the FDA. Testing is done to determine if the lenses meet the requirements for extended wear. If the requirements are met, the lenses are approved for up to one week or extended wear, and a few lenses are approved for up to one month of extended wear. Your doctor will examine your cornea, tear film, vision needs, and hygeine prior to designing any contact lenses, but for extended wear all of these parameters need to be stellar. Just because a contact lens is approved for extended wear does not mean the patient is approved for extended wear.
What can I do to reduce the risk of infection?
The best patient is a compliant patient. Listen carefully to the instructions provided by your eye doctor and their staff. Ask questions if you aren’t clear about how to take care of the contact lenses, what solutions to use for cleaning and disinfecting. Pay attention to potential complications and signs of infection. And, always call your doctor’s office if you experience pain, redness, discharge, or a decrease in vision.