Back to Living Better

How long can you safely wear contacts?

How long do you wear your contact lenses before taking them out? One day? Two days? Three weeks?

Some contacts are made to be worn for an extended period of time. But it’s important to understand that the risk of eye infection increases the longer you keep a single pair of contact lenses in your eyes. 

Risks of wearing contacts too long

Contact lenses that are left in too long can lead to the following conditions:

  • Corneal ulcers (infectious keratitis): An open sore in the outer layer of the cornea.

  • Hypoxia: A lack of oxygen that can lead to abnormal blood vessel growth into the cornea.  

  • Damage to corneal stem cells needed to keep the cornea clear for good vision.

  • Chronic inflammation that can lead to contact lens intolerance.

Three types of contact lenses

Soft lenses are the most popular contact lenses worn in the United States. Three types of soft lenses include: 

  • Daily wear lenses: Daily wear lenses are worn during the day and removed each night for cleaning. A single pair can be worn repeatedly and their length of use varies according to the manufacturer.

  • Disposable: Daily disposable lenses can be worn during the day and discarded at night. Programmed-replacement disposable lenses are worn and removed daily, but the lenses are replaced every two to four weeks.

  • Extended-wear lenses: Extended-wear lenses are worn continuously for one to four weeks before the lenses are removed and replaced.   

Which contact lenses are the least risky?

“The primary benefit of daily lenses is decreased risk of infection,” says Evan Loft, M.D., an ophthalmologist at Piedmont. “The risk of developing a corneal ulcer is 10 to 15 times greater in extended wear versus daily wear contacts.”  

If you do wear extended wear lenses, it’s best to take them out at least once a week.

“The FDA recommends that extended wear contact lenses be removed and not worn overnight at least once a week for overnight cleaning,” says Dr. Loft. “Overnight wear of contact lenses is the main risk factor for developing corneal ulcers.”

Contact lens safety tips

Contact lenses are a healthy vision option and are relatively easy to use when handled properly. To reduce your risk of infection:

  • Always wash your hands with soap and dry them with a lint-free towel before picking up lenses.

  • Clean, rinse and disinfect lenses when you remove them, following the instructions on the product label.

  • Only cleanse lenses with commercially prepared, sterile contact lens solution. Do not use water on lenses, because it can be a source of microorganisms.

  • Don’t wear contact lenses overnight, unless your doctor has prescribed them to be worn that way.

  • Regularly clean your contact lens storage case. And replace it as directed by your doctor.

  • Never wear contacts after they have expired.     

  • Report any eye irritations and infections to your healthcare professional.

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

Related Stories

Schedule your appointment online