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What's the big deal? Waking up with your lenses in is a bigger issue than just dry eyes. "I've treated hundreds of infections over the years and 95 percent of them are due to people sleeping in their contacts," says Robert Cykiert, MD, a New York–based ophthalmologist at NYU Langone Medical Center. "You have anywhere from a 300 percent to 1000 percent increased risk of developing serious infections of the cornea by sleeping in contacts." He's seen it all, from bacterial infections that cause cornea scarring and result in permanent vision reduction to more severe cases where an infection leads to having to get a cornea transplant. Sleeping in your contacts also makes you more susceptible to giant papillary conjunctivitis, where you develop an allergic reaction to contact lenses.
Break it: Keep your peepers in pristine condition by practicing good hygiene. Always wash your hands before putting your lenses in and use new disinfectant solution every time you take them out. "I've seen people add new solution to their old, used solution," says Dr. Cykiert. "It's like taking a bath and using the same water the next day." Just by practicing these two simple things you reduce your risk should you happen to fall asleep wearing your contacts, since you won't have bacteria trapped on your eyes all night. If you wake up and your eyes are irritated, wear your glasses the following day to give yourself time to recover. If symptoms persist for more than 24 hours, see an ophthalmologist. And if you still have trouble remember to clean your lenses properly, get daily disposable ones that you wear for one day and toss at night.