Taking out your contacts at the end of a long day can feel like a challenge. And if you're already under the covers when you realize you still have them on, it might start to seem like an unnecessary challenge. What's the worst that can happen? you ask yourself, as you shut your eyes and surrender to exhaustion.
Well, here's the thing. Sleeping in your contacts is actually way worse for your eyes than you can imagine.
Vita Eye Clinic in North Carolina made this crystal clear by posting photos on Facebook of what can happen when you don't take out your contact lenses before bed. The disturbing images show a patient's eye being taken over by a Pseudomonas ulcer. Pseudomonas bacterium "explosively eats away at the patient's cornea in a matter of days leaving a soupy, white necrosis (dead tissue) in its wake," the eye clinic's post says.
Pseudomonas ulcers "are a direct result of sleeping in contact lenses," the Facebook post says. Pseudomonas bacterium "is an important cause of ocular morbidity, and its opportunistic characteristics quickly lead to permanent blindness," the post says.
Patrick Vollmer, the optometrist who treated the patient featured in the post wrote that he'd treated the condition three previous times at the eye clinic the patient ended up at. He urged readers to know the risks associated with sleeping in contact lenses.
The Facebook post says, "'I sleep in my contacts all the time, and I've never had a problem.' As an eye doctor, I literally hear this daily...To be very clear, I don't ever recommend sleeping in any brand of SOFT contact lenses. The risks outweigh the benefits every time. It takes seconds to remove your contacts but a potential lifetime of irreversible damage if you choose to leave them in. People need to see these images and remind themselves/family/friends to also be aware of contact lens misuse."
Luckily, the patient featured in the post didn't go completely blind. "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," he wrote.
Pseudomonas ulcers have also been linked to the use of contaminated eye makeup (yikes). Let this be a warning: If you have doubts about that mascara that's been in your medicine cabinet for ages, it might be best to toss it out.
We understand how ridiculously easy it is to end up falling asleep with your contact lenses in after a night out. But even when you're thinking you're too tired to get up off the couch, wash your hands quickly, and pluck out your contacts, try to remember what you might see in the mirror when you do wake up the next day.