What Happens When You Wear Contact Lenses That Are Over Worn?

Many contact wearers consider contacts as regular merchandise, and not medical devices. Because of the health risks associated with improper care of contact lenses, it is imperative that consumers are educated about the importance of using them properly. One such error many people make is wearing contacts too long and the contacts eventually become over worn.

Many contact lens wearers have experienced wearing over worn contacts. Studies conducted on the side effects from long-term wearing of contact lenses, such as by Zuguo Liu et al., 2000, concluded that “Long-term contact lens wear appears to decrease the entire corneal thickness and increase the corneal curvature and surface irregularity.”, Excessive wear of over worn contact lenses can affect the eyelid, the conjunctiva, the various layers of the cornea, and even the tear film that covers the outer surface of the eye.(John Stamler, “Contact Lens Complications.” eMedicine.com.)

Long-term wear of rigid contact lens is also linked to a decrease corneal keratocyte density and increased number of epithelial Langerhans cells. (Zhivov A, Stave J, Vollmar B, Guthoff R, January 2007 “In vivo confocal microscopic evaluation of Langerhans cell density and distribution in the corneal epithelium of healthy volunteers and contact lens wearers.) As well, over worn lenses can irritate the eye because of the excessive dryness due to problems with tear production. The most probable risk of contact lens over wear is corneal ulceration, or infection. Corneal ulcerations occur more commonly in people who wear soft contact lenses because these lenses are comfortable to wear for extended periods of time, and therefore increasing the potential to wear them past the time that they should be worn. In the U.S., there are an estimated 12,000 corneal ulcers per year with people who wear contact lenses.

Another condition that can occur when wearing over worn contact lenses is the development of sensitivity of the eyes and lids. Symptoms include: increased mucus and redness of the conjunctiva. Abrasions of the cornea can occur as a result of the wearing of over worn lenses. Symptoms of corneal abrasions are moderate pain and tearing, stabbing pain, extreme sensitivity to light, and cloudy and blurred vision.

Extended uses of contact overwear results in lack of oxygen to the eye that can produce such conditions as:

Atypical blood vessels growing in the clear part of the cornea known as Neovascularization.
Thinning of the cornea.
Irregularities of endothelial cell size known as Polymegethism.
Irregularities of endothelial cell shape known as Pleomorphism.

One should stop wearing their contact lenses if their eyes become red or infected, if vision becomes blurred, or if the lenses becomes uncomfortable or too painful to wear. If symptoms do not resolve within a couple of hours, one should see their eye doctor.

Contact lenses wearers must take great care when wearing their lenses. Your eyes are precious and the last thing you want to do is develop an eye disease or possibly even lose your sight. Never wear contact lenses longer than directed.

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