Reader Question: What Are the Symptoms of Over-wearing My Contacts?


Dear America’s Best:

I’ve worn contact lenses for almost a decade, and I have to admit that I think I’ve grown a little lax in my contact lens care. Lately, I’ve been really busy, and, instead of taking my extended wear lenses out every night, I’ve been sleeping in them. My eyes seemed fine for the first few days I tried this, but now my eyes are red and they hurt. Could it be that I have over-worn my contact lenses?


Jen in Florida


Dear Jen:

While only your optometrist could tell for sure as to whether or not you are suffering from contact lens over-wear, I can say that there is a good possibility that is the case.

Contact lens over-wear happens when contact lenses are worn for too long. So it sounds like your usage habits, if you’ve been sleeping in contacts not intended for overnight wear, may be the culprit.

As you may know, when you wear your lenses for too long, the amount of oxygen that the cornea receives decreases, and this leads to cornea problems. The first symptoms one would notice of contact overuse normally come after you remove a lens. Sometimes the eye pain or dryness feeling from overuse may even wake you up in the middle of the night. Usually this pain is pretty significant and would cause you to know for certain that something was wrong.

Other signs of overuse may include blurred vision (due to corneal swelling, also called “edema”) or sensitivity to light.

Before you even consider putting your lenses back in, I recommend making an appointment at your closest America’s Best to have your eyes examined by a licensed optometrist. The doctor will be able to not only help you with prescription eye drops or other treatment if you are still suffering but also help you find some new types of contact lenses that will better suit your busy lifestyle (like lenses you can wear for a week and then remove).

While you are there, take the opportunity to make sure that you have a pair of designer eyeglasses in your current prescription. I believe the number one reason that so many people over-wear their contact lenses is that they don’t have a pair of eyeglasses that they love. Find yourself a great deal on a pair of great fashion frames that look great on you, and you’ll be happy to give those contacts a rest every so often.

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