Raise your hand if you have ever worn contact lenses longer than prescribed! Unfortunately, almost all of us have probably done this from time to time. Maybe to save money? If you’re a little tight before your next paycheck, what’s the difference if you leave the lenses in for a few more days?? Or you wear monthly lenses and only wear them a few days a month. Sure you can then wear them longer than the intended 30 days, or? Or, probably the most common reason, you simply forgot the change time. Already understood, life is stressful. However, it is important to always remember the lenses and to keep the intended wearing time. Wearing your lenses for extended periods of time can cause discomfort, blurred vision and, in the worst case, infection. Let’s find out why this is a no-go and what the risks are.
What happens to the lenses when you wear them longer?
Daily, weekly and monthly lenses are not designed to last longer than their intended wear time. Daily disposable lenses are soft and thin with a less complex fit. Therefore their structure is less durable. Weekly lenses are already a bit thicker and monthly lenses are usually the thickest type of lens, so they also "last" the longest. But don’t let them convince you that they are invincible.
All soft contact lenses are made to allow a healthy amount of oxygen to pass through to the cornea (oxygen permeability). But if you wear the lenses beyond their intended "lifespan," the channels that allow oxygen to pass through can break down. After a short time, they will dilate and the fit of the lenses, susceptibility to debris/dirt and oxygen permeability will be negatively affected. The possible consequences would be:
Poorly fitting contact lenses
Do you know the feeling of a fresh, clean pair of contact lenses? Correct, there is none. Modern lenses are designed so you don’t notice you’re wearing them. But if the lenses are worn beyond their "lifespan", you can be warped. Warped lenses are uncomfortable and can quickly lead to irritated, painful eyes.
Lenses can rupture, even under the best of circumstances. But as you get older and therefore more brittle, they tear more easily. If a lens tears in your hand it is a bit uncomfortable. However, if this happens in your eye, you have a serious problem. You need to remove any pieces you can get your hands on and immediately see an eye specialist who will remove any remaining debris to avoid further discomfort and infection.
Lack of oxygen
It’s important for eye health that the retina, cornea and other parts of the eye get enough oxygen. The oxygen permeability has steadily increased over time for each lens type. However, if the prescribed wearing time is exceeded, the microscopic structures responsible for oxygen supply break down and cannot provide the eye with sufficient oxygen. This leads to red, irritated eyes, a burning sensation and potentially serious long-term damage.
Dirt and other pollutants are called deposits. Unfortunately, these deposits form immediately after the lenses are removed from their sterile packaging. Regular cleaning (of weekly and monthly lenses) is therefore essential, but there is no solution that can remove all residues and deposits 100%. If debris builds up, your vision can be blurry, and last but not least, dirty lenses can be toxic and cause discomfort and serious inflammation.
Many contact lens wearers ignore the recommendation that lenses should not be worn longer than prescribed, either intentionally or unintentionally. Although the consequences of wearing expired lenses should not affect you immediately, you must always remember that you may be causing long-term damage to your vision. In short, our advice and the advice of specialists is as follows:
– Do not wear your lenses longer than prescribed. Replace monthly lenses after one month and daily lenses after one day.
– Don’t wear contact lenses 24 hours or while you sleep. Only certain lenses allow this, and even then, you should only do so with the approval of your eye doctor or optometrist.
– Don’t wear your contact lenses past their expiration date. Expired lenses no longer meet quality standards and are almost always already damaged.
It’s just not worth the risk of wearing your lenses for a few extra hours, days or weeks. Contact lenses can be replaced, your eyes cannot. So take good care of them and be mindful of how long you wear your contact lenses!