There are several things that you should do before falling asleep. One is get off the toilet and flush. A second is turn off the stove. A third is to take your contact lenses out of your eyes.
As this CBS Local news segment describes, an optometrist, Patrick Vollmer, OD, in Shelby, North Carolina, shared pictures on Facebook of what can happen if you don’t do the third thing:
Eye caramba. According to Vollmer’s Facebook post, the pictures are of an ulcer in a woman’s cornea caused by a Pseudomonas infection. Pseudomonas rhymes with “rude oh throne is” and is a bacteria that apparently was munching away at her cornea, the clear front part of her eye. The green stuff that you see in the pictures isn’t pus, alien slime, or the result of the infection but rather is fluorescein dye that Vollmer put on the cornea to better show the ulcer.
If you’ve ever been poked in the eye, you can sort of imagine how painful any type of scratch in your cornea may be. Now imagine something eating away at your cornea. Such an infection could have eventually left the woman blind. Vollmer said, “I was able to start this patient on fortified antibiotic drops around the clock and recently steroids to reduce permanent scarring. While this patient’s eye continues to drastically improve from baseline, she will very likely exhibit some form of residual vision loss even after treatment.”
Yes, keeping something in your eye while you sleep has its risks. It can lead to a variety of different infections from viruses, bacteria, amoebae, or fungi. And despite it’s name, fungi in your eye ain’t fun. Neither are the other microbes when they cause infections in your eye. One possible result of infection is conjunctivitis. This is also known unaffectionately as “pink eye,” which has nothing to do with the singer. It is an infection of the conjunctiva, the clear, thin membrane that covers the white part of your eye and the inside of your eyelids. This can leave your eyes red, itchy, or feeling gritty. You may experience tearing or a discharge from your eye. If you think you may have conjunctivitis, contact your doctor immediately, as such an infection could spread to your cornea.
Speaking of cornea, keratitis is when your cornea becomes inflamed and has nothing to do with Carrot Top. Your cornea is the clear, dome-shaped tissue covering the front of your eye where your pupil and iris are located. Keratitis is another risk of wearing your contacts while asleep. This can result from injury from something trapped under your contact lens or an infection. Keraitits can lead to scarring or ulcers on your cornea, vision loss, or even blindness. Symptoms include eye redness, eye pain, excessive tearing, eye discharge, a feeling that something is caught your eye, vision problems, and sensitivity to light. If you suspect you have keratitis, see your doctor immediately, or risk eventually seeing nothing at all.
Even if you don’t develop an infection or suffer direct damage from the contact lens, sleeping with contact lenses on can be like sleeping with tight underwear on your face. It can make it difficult for your cornea to “breathe”, starving it of oxygen. As a result, more blood vessels may grow to supply more blood and thus oxygen to cornea. These new blood vessels can cause problems, impairing your vision and resulting in inflammation that may damage and change the shape of your cornea. All of this can make it more difficult for contact lenses to fit in your eye, meaning that, horror of horrors, you have to go back to wearing glasses.
But, what about those contact lenses approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for overnight or multiple-day wear, you may ask in your most pretentious Ted Mosby voice? Ah just because something may be a little safer if you accidentally fall asleep in them, doesn’t mean that they are without risk. The longer and the more often you sleep with contact lenses on, the greater the risk. Do you really need to see anything when you are asleep? Why not just open eyes to remove those lenses before getting some shut eye.