Creating the Extraordinary Student Experience

How long can I leave my contact lenses in?

Posted: February 20, 2013

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Q:  Is it okay if I put my contacts in at 8:45 pm and take them out at 6:00 pm? 

A: The length of time a person can wear their contact lenses safely and comfortably varies with each individual. Each contact lens brand also has its own FDA-approved guidelines for how often you should replace them and how long you can keep them in (i.e. daily wear vs. overnight wear).

Many factors, including certain corneal conditions, tear film instability, dry eye symptoms and eyelid inflammation can lead to a decrease in contact lens wear time for some people. Your eye care professional should be able to tell you the appropriate amount of time you may safely wear your contact lenses based on the type you have.

Because improper use of contact lenses can put you at risk for eye infections and corneal ulcers that have the potential to cause blindness, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued guidelines for their safe use:

  • Always wash your hands before handling contact lenses to reduce the chance of getting an infection.
  • Remove the lenses immediately and consult your eye care professional if your eyes become red, irritated, or your vision changes.
  • Always follow the directions of your eye care professional and all labeling instruction for proper use of contact lenses and lens care products.
  • Use contact lens products and solutions recommended by your eye care professional.
  • Do not use contact lens solutions that have gone beyond the expiration or discard date.
  • Rub and rinse your contact lenses as directed by your eye care professional.
  • Clean and disinfect your lenses properly following all labeling instructions provided with your lens care products.
  • Do not "top-off" the solutions in your case. Always discard all of the left over contact lens solution after each use. Never reuse any lens solution.
  • Never use non-sterile water (distilled water, tap water or any homemade saline solution). Exposure of contact lenses to water has been associated with Acanthamoeba keratitis, a corneal infection that is resistant to treatment and cure.
  • Do not put your lenses in your mouth to wet them. Saliva is not a sterile solution.
  • Clean, rinse and air-dry your lens case each time lenses are removed. You may want to flip over your lens case while air drying so excess solution may drain out of the case. Contact lens cases can be a source of bacterial growth.
  • Replace your contact lens storage case every 3 to 6 months.
  • Do not transfer contact lens solutions into smaller travel size containers. This can affect the sterility of the solution which can lead to an eye infection.

If you are experiencing abnormal eye symptoms or would like to discuss eyeglasses or contact lenses, be sure to contact the Student Health Services Optometry Department - we're here to help!

Julia Geldis, OD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University

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