How Long Can I Wear My Contact Lenses?

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If you have been fit with two-week disposable contact lenses, you may wonder whether you really have to throw the lenses away after two weeks of wearing them. Is it safe to wear them longer so you can replace them less often?

The answer is that if your eye doctor suggests that you change your lenses every two weeks, then you should do so. Even though you may be tempted to wear them longer, doing so is probably not safe.

Your vision is one of your most precious of senses. Saving a little bit of money is simply not worth risking your vision or eye health. An eye infection or other condition that needs treatment is likely to cost more and result in far more inconvenience than replacing your lenses on schedule.

Contacts Have Changed

Many years ago, all conventional contact lenses were meant to be worn for a year or longer. However, many complications arose because of tear composition, hygiene habits, and certain living environments. Some people have more protein and other materials in their tears that attach onto the contact lens, allowing a place for bacteria and other toxic substances to grow and accumulate. Even patients with good hygiene habits had problems with irritation as well as comfort. Patients often reported red, inflamed, and irritated eyes.

Furthermore, wearing contact lenses comfortably was nearly impossible for patients with allergies.

Lens disinfection systems do a good job of making sure the lenses have no bacterial growth, but even the best system does not eliminate all the microscopic debris that can cause contact lens wear to be uncomfortable.

Disposable Contact Lenses

When disposable contact lenses came onto the market, the rate of complications for wearers dropped significantly.

Wearing contact lenses became much easier and more comfortable. Today, millions of people comfortably wear contact lenses every day instead of glasses. Disposable contact lenses are safe, affordable, and easy to remove and throw away.

However, if two-week disposables are worn much over the recommended wearing time, the transmission of oxygen through the contact lens to the eye drops to unhealthy levels. This greatly increases the chance of developing inflammation and infection. Also, in simple terms, you are defeating the purpose of wearing a lens you can dispose of every two weeks. Instead, you should ask your optometrist to fit you with a lens that is designed to be worn longer.

Contact lens manufacturers developed new methods to produce lenses in greater volume at a lower cost.  Because lens prices were lower, patients could afford to replace their lenses more often.

Daily Disposable Lenses

Doctors discovered that when the lens is disposed of in a more timely manner, serious complications become fewer and fewer. Daily disposables, contact lenses that are disposed of every day, are fast becoming the lens of choice for doctors and patients around the world. They require no cleaning, eliminating a step that some wearers may not be diligent at doing.

Daily disposables also seem to be a much better choice for patients with dry eyes or ocular allergies. Plus, it represents the best in hygiene. In many countries, most patients wear daily disposable lenses. In the United States, more and more patients are wearing this type of lens.

Millions of dollars go into research and development of contact lenses. Many lens types are available for people who need astigmatism correction. They are also available in a multi-focal design for people who have developed presbyopia. Presbyopia is the condition that occurs after the age of forty which cause humans to lose their near focusing ability.

A Word From Verywell

Listen closely to your doctor’s recommendations, as there are reasons behind all of them. Remember that contact lenses are medical devices. Be sure to follow proper cleaning and wearing instructions to keep your eyes safe and healthy. Developing an infection or a severe contact lens-related complication is simply not worth taking a chance trying to stretch out your contact lenses longer than the period for which they are designed.

Source:

Collier R. Calculating risk in use of disposable contact lenses. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2012;184(6). doi:10.1503/cmaj.109-4117.

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