How Often Should I Change My Contacts?
August 16th-21st is Contact Lens Health Week. So there is no better time than this to discuss the importance of replacing your contact lenses!
How often should I change my contacts? Especially if you’re a new wearer of contacts, this is a very common question. However, the answer has become more confusing over time as more and more types of contacts have become available. Some contacts are replaced once every two weeks, others are replaced every month, and some are even replaced daily! It’s important to know the lifespan of your contacts so that you can treat them well and keep your eyes healthy.
First, check the box of the lenses that you were prescribed by your optometrist.The manufacturer should have provided a “recommended usage,” which will help you know how long your contacts should last. If you can’t find this information, don’t be afraid to consult your optometry office for help.
All contact lenses must be replaced frequently, even those that are perfectly maintained. If contact lenses are not replaced frequently enough, protein deposits and contamination may build up on the surface of the contact, increasing your risk of developing an eye infection. Most people use soft contacts, which are especially susceptible to deposits and contamination. Gas permeable contact lenses can last a year or longer before requiring replacement.
Remember that the wear schedule provided is for a maximum amount of time. So if your contact lens is beginning to irritate your eye or you notice a tear before you’ve reached the end of the wear schedule, throw the lens out and open up a new lens. Always put the health of your eyes first!
The Lifespan of Contact Lenses
When it comes to lifespan, there are five general types of contact lenses:
- Daily Disposable: Daily disposable contacts are replaced after one day of wear.
- Bi-Weekly Disposable: Contact lenses are replaced after two weeks of wear.
- Monthly Disposable: Contact lenses are replaced monthly.
- Gas Permeable/Scleral: With proper care, gas permeable lenses can last for years. Scleral lenses are very similar, except they go over the cornea to bypass irregular amounts of astigmatism.
About 40 percent of Americans who wear soft contacts are prescribed monthly contacts, about 35 percent use daily contacts, and about 24 percent use contacts that must be replaced every one to two weeks. Only 1 percent use contact lenses that can be replaced annually.
Why It’s Important to Stick to Your Replacement Schedule
We know how easy it is to forget when you need to replace your contacts. For some people, it’s also tempting to continue wearing contacts past their expiration date if they aren’t showing wear and tear. Be sure to mark the date on your calendar or add an alert to your phone because it’s dangerous to wear your contacts past their prime. Even if your contacts don’t feel uncomfortable and your vision isn’t blurry, stick to your contact replacement schedule. In addition, even if you didn’t wear your contacts for the full use period (let’s say you opened up 30-day contacts, wore them once, and then wore your glasses for a week), you should still replace your contacts 30 days after you first used them.
If you don’t change them out, your contacts will accumulate protein deposits over time, reducing the amount of oxygen that can reach your eyes. This will make your eyes more prone to a variety of issues, including irritation, infections, blood vessel growth, and inflammation. Over time, these symptoms can lead to contact lens intolerance, permanent eye damage, or even vision loss.
Sleeping in your contacts is also quite dangerous if your lenses are not designed for overnight use. If it happens once, shrug it off but if you make a habit of wearing your contacts longer than they’re intended to be used, you could experience mild side effects like discomfort, red eye, or more major health concerns like corneal hypoxia (during which the eye is starved of oxygen), which can cause a corneal ulcer. In rare cases, this could even cause a severe infection.