After hours on a plane and a panicked trek through an unfamiliar airport, you’ve finally arrived on your beach vacation. You arrive at your hotel and begin to unpack your things when your heart sinks. You packed your contact lens case and solution, right? Oh no. They’re not here!
If you’re a contact lens wearer, then you’ve likely experienced something like this before, that is being stuck somewhere without your contact lens case, solution, or even both. Your first thought when this happens may be to simply sleep in your contacts, but this is never a good idea. Keep reading to learn why and to discover some alternative methods for temporary emergency contact lens storage.
Do NOT Sleep in Your Contact Lenses
Your corneas are very needy in that they need oxygen to stay healthy but are not vascular themselves, meaning no blood vessels run through them. During the day, your coreas get oxygen via the diffusion of the surrounding air, but this is not possible at night while your eyelids are closed. To get oxygen while you’re sleeping, your corneas must rely on the blood vessels in your eyelids, which diffuse oxygen over your corneas via your tears. When you sleep with your contacts in, you’re creating a barrier between your cornea and your eyelid, disrupting this process and potentially causing a number of eye health issues next page.
When your corneas are deprived of oxygen, your eyes may grow new blood vessels, which are meant to compensate for the oxygen deprivation. These new vessels grow around the cornea and are often misshapen, unusually sized, and very delicate. Eventually, these vessels begin to expand into the corneas, creating vision problems. Symptoms of this condition may not even be evident to you, but some people experience eye pain, engorged blood vessels in the eye, tearing, redness, sensitivity to light, blurry vision with their contact lenses in, and irritation after only wearing lenses for a short time.
Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)
Sleeping in your contact lenses can also cause viral infections, such as pink eye, an infection that occurs when your conjunctiva (the mucous membrane that covers your eye and lines your inner eyelids) become inflamed. Symptoms of conjunctivitis include redness, thick discharge (often crusts over eyelashes during sleep, causing the eyes to become “glued” shut), an increase in tear production, itching, burning, light sensitivity, and blurry vision.
Alternative Contact Lens Cleaning & Storage
I forgot my contact case!
If you’re ever in a situation where you’ve misplaced or forgotten your contact lens case, remember that it’s a bad idea to sleep in your lenses. Instead, figure out an alternative method for storing them overnight. Some wearers have used soda bottle caps as a viable alternative. Clean the caps thoroughly, fill them with enough solution to completely cover your lenses, and place something over the caps to keep the solution from evaporating. A clean glass placed upside down will work, or you can use any sort of airtight case, such a pill case, to safely store your lenses. The most important things to remember are to ensure your lenses are submerged and to prevent evaporation.
I forgot my contact solution!
If you forget or misplace your contact solution, the best thing to do would be to purchase new solution, which is specially formulated to keep your lenses clean and hydrated. Do not use tap water as an alternative to contact solution. Doing so can introduce microorganisms into your eyes, which can become trapped between your lenses and your corneas. Saline solution may be a reasonable alternative in the case of an emergency, but you should never make a habit out of storing your lenses in anything but contact lens solution.
If you take anything away from this article, we hope it’s a commitment to never sleeping in your contact lenses again. This is a habit that many wearers fall into, but it can interfere with your vision and actually make it inadvisable to wear contact lenses at all. Keep these alternative storage and cleaning methods in mind next time you forget your case or solution.