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How Long Can You Wear Contacts? A Guide to Safe Usage

Close-up of woman inserting contact lense

Whether you just got your first pair of contact lenses or you’ve worn them for a few years, you may have some questions about using them. Either way, welcome to a whole new world of seeing clearly without glasses!

Many people ask questions like, how long can you wear contacts? Or, how do you know when it’s time to replace your contacts?

When worn correctly, contacts are a safe and effective means of correcting your vision on a day-to-day basis. Many contact wearers don’t follow the rules of use, however, which can cause them issues.

Here’s a brief guide to the safe usage of contacts, including how long you can wear them and how often they need to be replaced.

How Many Hours per Day?

How long can you wear contacts

In general, most people can wear contacts for 14-16 hours each day. Of course, this can range based on the person and their particular contact lens.

While some contacts provide the ability to last into the night, it's always best to remove your contacts prior to sleeping. This gives your eyes the much-needed opportunity to breathe without the contacts.

That being said, wearing contacts to bed should be avoided with regular contacts. This is due to the fact that wearing contacts overnight increases the risk of eye infections significantly.

There are contacts that have been FDA approved for safe usage overnight. They work by transmitting more oxygen to your eyes overnight. Even though these contact lenses are approved for use while sleeping, it’s still best to remove them and give your eyes a break. What’s there to see with your eyes closed anyway?!

For those who suffer from chronic dry eye, contacts should be taken out after a few hours of use. For these people, it's best to wear contacts for a period of the day and replace the contacts with glasses.

In general, the more time you allow your eyes to breathe without contacts the better.

How Many Days in a Row?

When you first get your contacts, you'll have a choice between contacts that are made for daily use, weekly use or monthly use.

Daily contact lenses are ideal for anyone who only wears their contacts occasionally. So, if you switch between contacts and glasses, opt for the daily lenses that are disposed of at the end of each day.

On the other hand, there are extended wear contacts that can be worn weekly or monthly. While it is best for your eye health to change your contacts daily, these contacts are designed for extended use. These are best for those that heavily favor their contact lenses over traditional glasses.

However, even though these contacts are intended for more long-term use, it's important to understand the potential risks. The FDA recommends removing and cleaning extended wear lenses at least once a week. Any contact that is worn on your eye for an extended period of time can lead to infection and vision loss if not managed properly.

The maximum time frame approved for continuous wear is 30 days. In no circumstance should a lens be worn for longer than this time period. Again, be sure that if you need to wear lenses long-term, they are specially made for continuous wear.

What About Your First Time?

For those new to contacts, you'll want to be extra cautious with your first time wearing them.

It takes your eyes an extended period of time to get used to your new contacts.

That being said, it's important to follow the specific instructions provided to you by your eye doctor. Some may recommend that you only wear your contacts for a few hours on the first day. Increasing the amount of time you wear your lenses by a little more each day will allow your eyes to slowly get used to them.

Some people may notice their eyes feel uncomfortable or turn red when first wearing their contacts. If this happens, be sure to discontinue use and speak with your doctor.

What Is the Lifespan of Contacts?

The lifespan of contacts depends on the type of contact lens that you have.

If your contacts are daily, these should be discarded at the end of every day and prior to sleeping. On the other hand, if your contacts are weekly, they can last for one week and must be discarded at the end of that period.

It can often be difficult to remember when it’s time to replace your contacts. This is especially the case because contacts worn beyond the time limit often do not feel very different. To best protect yourself, set an alarm or a calendar reminder for this date to avoid causing harm or even permanent damage to your eyes.

It's also important to note that unopened contacts also have an expiry date. On average, a contact lens will last about three or four years in an unopened package before it expires. This is to protect against contamination from a broken seal on the packaging.

What's the Deal with Cosmetic Contacts?

multicolored eye effect

Cosmetic contacts can range from different colored contacts to patterned contacts.

While these lenses are mostly worn decoratively, they follow the same rules as traditional contact lenses. These contacts are still considered to be a medical device for the eye and therefore must be treated with the same care and attention.

How Long Can You Wear Contacts, You Ask?

While wearing contacts is a safe and effective way to improve vision, there are some things to consider that can make your contacts work well for you. Not the least of which is answering the question, how long can you, personally, wear contacts?

You will be able to have those discussions with your eye doctor as you try different contact lenses. You may determine that daily wear contacts are right for you or you may feel more comfortable in weekly or monthly contacts.

Everyone is different, so take your time. Find the right fit for you. Hopefully, we’ve answered some questions you might have had, and that’s a great start to healthy eyes with better vision!

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