Night wear? More like nightmare.
Cincinnati resident Chad Groeschen didn’t think much of it when his eyes began to itch while he was at work one day. He was prone to allergies, and besides, whose eyes don’t itch from time to time?
But then the next day he woke up with more severe symptoms—what felt like a sinus infection. His vision was a little clouded, but he was still unconcerned. He picked up a prescription from the doctor and went on with his day.
The morning after, Groeschen woke up in agony. His left eye was intensely painful, and he could barely see at all. He visited a specialist who informed him that he’d contracted a bad case of Pseudomonas bacteria.
The white of his eye had turned an angry red, and even more disturbingly, his pupil had taken on a shade of teal so bright and unnatural, you’d think it was a bad photoshop.
Groeschen was told that he’d developed the infection as a result of sleeping overnight with his contacts still in. Even though the contacts in question were “extended wear,” the American Academy of Ophthalmology warns that “overnight wear, regardless of contact lens type, increases the likelihood of corneal infection.” The contact, in this case, acts like a petri dish.
As it turns out, Groeschen would remove his contacts only about once every week. That may sound like extreme carelessness on his part, but anyone who’s worn contacts for a time without incident is liable to slip up from time to time (though hopefully not to such an egregious degree).
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In Groeschen’s case, the damage has been sadly permanent. He’s lost his vision completely in his infected eye, though doctors hope that a cornea transplant will help him regain his sight.
And this is not an isolated case: it happens far more frequently than any of us can imagine. Some patients make a quick recovery, while others fare less well.
The worst part? Sleeping in your contacts isn’t even the only way you can contract an infection. Others include not replacing contacts frequently enough, washing contacts in anything other than contact solution (we're looking at you, tap water), and swimming with contacts still in. A recent study found that 99% of contact wearers are practicing such habits and others that put them at risk for infection.
So remember, contact wearers: the luxury of being able to hit your pillow as soon as you get home is not worth the long-term risks. Just don’t do it.
And if you’re not sure that you can always remember to use your contacts responsibly, there’s always glasses. Four eyes are better than one.