Sleeping while wearing contact lenses increases the risk of dangerous infections of the cornea, warns the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In cases described in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report of August 17, 2018, some people who slept with their lenses in developed corneal ulcers, scarring, or perforation, and most were left with permanent visual impairment.
Sleeping in lenses—whether inadvertently, occasionally, or as part of a prescribed wearing schedule (that is, extended-wear lenses)—increases the risk for contact lens–related eye infections six- to eightfold, according to the CDC. These infections, known as microbial keratitis, might require surgical intervention and result in corneal damage and possible permanent vision loss.
Symptoms of microbial keratitis include eye pain, redness or discharge, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, and excessive tearing. If you experience any of these symptoms, remove your contact lenses and call your eye doctor right away. If left untreated, microbial keratitis can result in vision loss or blindness.
Follow your eye-care professional’s recommendations for contact lens use, including use during sleep. Because contact lenses are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as medical devices, contact lens–related corneal infections should be reported to the FDA’s MedWatch program.