Forty-one million Americans wear contact lenses and a third of them reported at least one visit to the doctor because of red or painful eyes from not using contacts properly.
Baylor College of Medicine assistant professor of ophthalmology Dr. Sumitra Khandelwal said users should never: swim, mix old solution with new, extend daily contacts or sleep in them.
“There are so many subtle things besides just infections that can happen. You can have corneal blood vessels that grow. You can have contact lens intolerance, but you won’t notice it until it's too late,” Khandelwal said.
As an aircraft mechanic, Rebekah Fraser, 26, depends on her vision. Yet, for years, she slept in contacts, developing ulcers on her eyes.
"I had the kind of contacts that you were supposed to take out every night and clean them and let them sit in the morning, and I never did that. I just slept with them in,” Fraser said.
“All these things are like playing roulette. You never know if you're going to wake up one morning and have a corneal ulcer,” Khandelwal said, “And suddenly, rule out the possibility of any procedure to help your vision.”
Fraser was a candidate for Lasik. In her case, it reshaped her cornea and saved her vision.
"It's helped with everything. It still surprises me, like there will be days where I am like, yeah, I can still see. There's no problems with it. I can still see!” Fraser said.
Khandelwal said Fraser is lucky. Surgical repair is not always an option.
“Developing a contact lens ulcer can lead to needing a corneal transplantation and that's something that's going to change your life forever, because you're at risk for infection in the future. The transplant may fail in the future,” she said.
Khandelwal said that's why it's important not to miss eye appointments and be honest with your doctors about contact habits. She said sometimes, doctors can catch an issue when the patient isn't unaware of a problem and save their vision or save their eyeball.
She said people get caught procrastinating visits when they don't feel a problem, or they order contacts online, and the prescription lasts awhile, so they delay appointments.