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A Guide to Extended Wear Contact Lenses

Extended wear contact lenses allow the user to go up to thirty days without changing their contacts. This means the user can wear the extended wear contact lenses while sleeping. The convenience of not having to take out and clean contacts every day make these a popular addition to the contact lens roster.

Extended Wear Contact Lenses – The Past

Many times convenience comes with a price; the price attached to extended wear contact lenses is infection. When eye infections and ulcers became too common in the 1980’s, the extended wear contact lenses were pulled from shelves. The FDA responded to the outbreak by only allowing seven day lenses to be worn.

Extended Wear Contact Lenses – The Present

In late 2001, after a yearlong study of 697 people, the FDA approved a thirty-day extended wear contact lens. These new and improved extended wear lenses are generally made from silicone hydrogel. Silicone hydrogel allows up to six times more oxygen to pass into the cornea than disposable contacts. Contacts deplete the eyes of oxygen, which fosters an environment ripe for infection.

The other change for extended wear contact lenses was disposable contacts. Disposables helped with the infection problem as people had the flexibility of removing them and tossing them out. It also allowed people to wear them only during times when they may not have access to cleaning solutions, like on vacations.

Extended Wear Contact Lenses – Managing Risks

If you haven’t noticed, using extended wear contact lenses involves some health risk. During the FDA testing five-percent of the 697 people in the study developed infilrative keratitis, which is an inflammation of the cornea.

There is a greater risk of complications with extended wear contact lenses than with contact lenses only worn during the day. The way to manage these risks is simple: follow the instructions on wear, don’t wear them longer than you should and contact your eye care professional if an issue arises.

Extended wear contact lenses can be a perfect alternative for people not wanting the hassle of cleaning. They also work when carrying contact solutions, like vacations or business trips, are more trouble than they’re worth.


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