When you first get your contact lenses, you're told over and over again that hygiene is key. And importantly, you're told not to sleep with your contact lenses in.
And to make that point even stronger, Dr. Patrick Vollmer, an ophthalmologist from Vita Eye Clinic in Shelby, North Carolina, recently took to Facebook to share extreme photos of a patient's cornea being eaten away by bacteria after she slept in contact lenses.
In the Facebook post, which has received over 300,000 shares since it was posted several days ago, Vollmer says that he often hears patients sleep in their contact lenses.
"'I sleep in my contacts all the time and I’ve never had a problem.'"
"As an eye doctor, I literally hear this daily. The pictures below show a referred case from the local urgent care, a subsequently cultured pseudomonas ulcer, and are the direct result of sleeping in contact lenses. Pseudomonas (bacteria) is an important cause of ocular morbidity and its opportunistic characteristics quickly lead to permanent blindness. This will be the 4th case of cultured pseudomonas that I’ve treated in my clinic."
"The bacteria explosively eats away at the patients cornea in a matter of days leaving a soupy, white necrosis (dead tissue) in its wake. I was able to start this patient on fortified antibiotic drops around the clock and recently steroids to reduce permanent scarring. While this patient’s eye continues to drastically improve from baseline, she will very likely exhibit some form of residual vision loss even after treatment."
Vollmer goes on to warn that people shouldn't sleep in their contact lenses under any circumstances.
"To be very clear, I don’t ever recommend sleeping in any brand of SOFT contact lenses. The risks outweigh the benefits every time. It takes seconds to remove your contacts but a potential lifetime of irreversible damage if you choose to leave them in. People need to see these images and remind themselves/family/friends to also be aware of contact lens misuse."
If a follow-up post, Vollmer explains that the eye is green because of "the fluorescein dye that is instilled in the eye." That dye collects in the site of the ulcer.
He also explains that this case only took 36 hours to develop. "This patient presented to urgent care on Tuesday afternoon and was noted to have a 'small ulcer,' Vollmer wrote. "I examined her the following day (photos above) with a massive ulcer and vision that was reduced to light perception only."
The comments on the post were full of people who had developed infections sleeping with their contacts lenses in.
"I don't know about this but i have wore contacts for over 20 years and I used to sleep in mine every night for months," one user wrote. "I got an infection about 3 years ago. My eyes itched. Couldnt stand for contact to be in. Had to wear old glasses until I could get new ones. It was several months before I could wear contacts again."
Another added: "I used to sleep in mine all the time, I ended up with an ulcer, fortunately it wasn’t pseudomonas. I had to wake up every hour for 2 days to put drops in my eye, then every 2 hours for 2 days. Now, I won’t even wear my contacts for a 12 hours shift."