Man Sleeps With Contact Lenses, Loses Eyesight: What Precautions Must You Take?
Doctors told the Florida resident that a rare flesh-eating bacteria had infected his right eye.
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In December 2022, Michael Krumholz (21), a Florida resident, took a quick 40-minute nap while wearing his contact lenses. When he woke up, he felt some irritation in his eye – but he dismissed it as 'inconsequential.'
A month later, in January 2023, doctors told him that a rare flesh-eating bacteria had infected his right eye. Acanthamoeba keratitis, a parasite, was the reason that Krumholz was experiencing trouble with his vision and excruciating pain, and the reason he needed an eye transplant.
Krumholz’s story raises certain questions about what wearing contact lenses to bed can do to your cornea or your vision.
FIT reached out to experts to answer all your FAQs.
Why wearing contact lenses while sleeping is dangerous?
Dr Arvind Kumar, Senior Consultant of Ophthalmology, Fortis Escorts Hospital, Faridabad, explains that when you wear contact lenses while sleeping, it puts your eyes at a higher risk of infection.
When you wear contact lenses, the oxygen supply to your eyes is reduced. This deoxygenation of the eyes can potentially lead to infections.
Dr Uma Malliah, Senior Consultant, Opthalmology, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi, says:
When you are awake, you’re constantly blinking your eyes, and the tears produced flush away any bugs, bacteria, or virus that may have entered your eyes.
But when you’re sleeping, this process doesn’t take place, making you prone to infections.
There’s a space between the cornea and the lens which the tears keep clean by washing away any alien material.
The bugs have ample time to grow when you’re sleeping with your contact lenses on which can result in nasty corneal ulcers.
Not even the lenses that have been approved for extended wear or sleeping?
No, not even those.
Dr Malliah says that even extended wear contact lenses need to be removed, especially when you’re going to sleep at night for 7-8 hours.
You may still be okay wearing them while taking, say, an afternoon nap. But not for longer durations. Your eyes need the time and space to breathe while you're sleeping.
What kind of infections can a contact lens wearer be exposed to?
While anyone can get eye infections, people who don't keep their contact lenses clean, who do not take care of their eyes well, or those who might go to sleep with contact lenses on are more likely to get corneal ulcers.
But rarer infections such as acanthamoeba keratitis are possible too. Other rare infections could include bacterial and fungal keratitis.
Are the impacts of these infections long-term?
They can be. Dr Malliah explains that some of the early signs could include:
Discharge from the eyes
But, if not treated on time, the infection will constantly get worse and can lead to a loss of vision.
Dr Kumar shares that an infection like acanthamoeba keratitis, though uncommon, can be extremely painful, and lead to a permanent loss of vision in the long term, and is resistant to common antibiotics.
What can one do to protect their eyes and vision?
But you can avoid these infections if you follow these simple do's and don'ts.
Ask your ophthalmologist and optician about how to clean your lenses, when to change them, and for how long it is okay to use them – all contact lenses come with different sets of rules.
Get your eyes examined by an ophthalmologist and find the right contact lenses for your eyes.
Follow a proper cleaning routine for your lenses.
If you see any symptoms, discontinue the use of lenses right away, and go see an ophthalmologist.
Replace your lenses and their storage unit after their recommended time duration is over.
Never go to sleep with contact lenses on.
Don't go swimming while wearing your lenses.
If you have dry eyes, don’t wear contact lenses.
Don't use water to clean your lenses.
Don't use the same solution more than once to clean your lenses.
How often should you change your contact lenses?
There are actually different stipulated time periods for different types of lenses – some have to be changed within a week, some are everyday disposable type, and some are extended wear. Check with your ophthalmologist on how often you must change them.
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Topics: Infection Contact Lenses eye condition
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