Here's Why You Shouldn't Reuse Daily Contacts

7 sources cited
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Can You Reuse Daily Contacts?

You should never reuse daily disposable contact lenses. 

Throw them away immediately after removal, even if you only wore them briefly. If you prefer reusable ones, go for the daily extended-use contacts, which you can re-wear for up to 30 days.

Experts advise against reusing your daily contact lenses because they’re not designed to be cleaned and may endanger your eyes. 

We’ll discuss these risks below, but let’s first understand the concept of daily and extended-use eyewear.

Daily vs. Extended-Use (Monthly) Contacts

Daily disposable contacts, or dailies, are thin, soft lenses designed for single use.1 They’re removed and then disposed of, and a new pair is inserted every day. 

Their thin nature, coupled with the soft, flexible material (silicone hydrogel), makes the contacts more breathable and comfortable for the eye.2 

These lenses are available in various prescriptions and lens types, including torics, bifocals, and multifocals. They are preferred by many because:

  • They eliminate the cleaning hassle
  • They offer a full day of comfort
  • They’re ideal for traveling
  • They prevent dry eyes by holding moisture
  • They prevent allergies associated with reusable contacts

On the other hand, extended-use contacts are reusable for about 7 to 30 days, depending on lens type and professional advice. Extended-use contacts are also considered soft contact lenses because of the soft plastic material (silicon hydrogel). 

These contacts are thicker and sturdier, thus able to retain moisture and withstand scratches. According to the FDA, a few extended-use contacts are made of rigid gas permeable material (hard contact lenses) and are approved for overnight wear. 

Extended-use contact lenses should be cleaned and disinfected before reuse. If you’re not wearing them immediately after cleaning, store them in a contact case filled with fresh contact lens solution. 

Unlike reusable contacts, daily wear contacts are fragile, retain less moisture, and cannot withstand repeated disinfecting. Attempting to clean and reuse dailies risks the lenses falling apart while in the eyes. This can cause complications, such as a lack of oxygen nourishment (hypoxia) and infections.

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5 Risks of Wearing Daily Contacts More Than Once

Reusing daily contact lenses puts you at risk of the following:

1. Eye Irritation

Daily disposable contacts are prone to deposit buildup during use. However, they are not effectively cleanable. 

When minor irritants such as dust accumulate on the surface, reusing the contacts can cause eye irritation, accompanied by pain, itchiness, red eyes or eye infection.

2. Corneal Abrasion

Damaged contacts are likely to move, shift, or even injure your cornea (front of your eye). This is because they no longer match the cornea’s curvature. 

If the contacts break into fragments while in the eye, removing the fragments may cause an accidental painful scratch on your cornea (corneal abrasion), which will require emergency treatment.

3. Corneal Neovascularization

Reusing daily contact lenses degrades their quality, which affects oxygen penetration. If the cornea has an insufficient oxygen supply (hypoxia), the cornea may swell over time. 

This swelling is due to the growth of new blood vessels (neovascularization) as the cornea tries to get more oxygen.3 If severe, corneal neovascularization can cause blindness.

4. Infections

According to research, used daily contacts are likely to be contaminated with harmful bacteria or viruses, which can cause infection and inflammation.4 Common bacteria are Haemophilus influenza, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Staphylococcus aureus.5 

Conditions such as conjunctivitis (pink eye) and microbial keratitis are severe and can cause blindness. Common symptoms of contact-related eye infections include:

5. Poor Vision

Daily contacts are constructed to offer good vision within a day. Washing them can introduce scratches and material damage, reducing their effectiveness. 

If your lenses are not working as they should, eye strain may result. Repeated eyestrain may affect your vision over time.

What Else You Shouldn’t Do if You Wear Daily Disposable Contacts

If used properly, daily disposable lenses offer convenience and promote eye health. Observe the following if you want your daily contacts to serve you well.

Avoid Touching Contacts with Dirty Hands

Dirty hands will transfer harmful bacteria, viruses, or parasites onto the surface of the soft contacts. This will then be transferred to your eyes, causing infection. It may also introduce debris, such as dust, which can irritate your cornea. 

Wash your hands thoroughly with clean water and soap and dry them with a clean towel before removing or inserting your dailies. 

Don’t Insert a Dropped Contact

All new contact lenses are sterile. If your contact drops on the ground, it can pick up dirt and harmful bacteria. If you find it, discard it and get a fresh one that doesn’t put your eye health at risk. Luckily, dailies are not that costly.

Never Sleep with Your Daily Contacts

You should never sleep with contacts unless they’re FDA-approved for overnight use (dailies are not). Sleeping with contacts can reduce oxygen supply to your eyes (hypoxia) or cause ocular irritation, putting your vision at risk.

Don’t Insert Dailies Before Completing Your Morning Routine

Avoid wearing your dailies before completing morning activities like washing your face or showering, which can expose your contacts to tap water germs. 

Other activities like hair styling with sprays and aerosols can expose your contacts to chemicals that can irritate the eye. Some hair sprays can form a coating on your contacts, affecting your ability to see.

Don’t Wear Makeup Before Contacts

Research shows that 90% of makeup products are reservoirs for harmful bacteria.6 When applying, residues from your hands can easily get onto your contacts and potentially cause eye infections. To be safe:

  1. Apply makeup after inserting your daily contacts.
  2. While you apply, be careful not to get it on the lenses.
  3. If this happens, remove them with clean hands and replace them with new ones. 

When applying makeup like mascara, avoid touching the base of your lashes with the brush. For eyeliners, apply on the skin above your lashes and avoid moving too close to the inner lid. 

Avoid Daily Lenses if You have Irritated Eyes

If your eyes are irritated, wearing contacts can worsen the situation. Eye irritation may arise from allergies, infection, or injury. 

If your eyes feel like they’re rejecting the contacts, remove them and let your eyes rest before inserting a new pair. You may need to consult your doctor if the irritation persists.

Don’t Rub Your Eyes

Rubbing your eyes while wearing daily contacts can damage your cornea, worsening your visual problems. If your eyes feel itchy, try blinking to ease the itch. 

You can also remove the contacts, apply soothing eye drops, and insert a new pair once you feel normal. 

Exposing Contacts To Dirty Environments

Your new contacts should stay locked in their storage case when not in use. Do not leave the case open, as this will expose the contacts to external contaminants. 

To ensure your lens case is free from contaminants, wash it with the lens disinfecting solution and wipe it with a soft tissue. Then, air dry it upside down on a sterile surface.

Don’t Overwear Your Daily Lenses

Like any part of your body, your eyes need rest. Overwearing your daily contacts can limit oxygen nourishment in your eye, causing complications such as corneal swelling. 

According to experts, contact lenses should be worn for about 14 to 16 hours per day or according to your optometrist’s advice. 

Don’t Ever Put Contacts In Your Mouth

Your mouth contains about 700 species of bacteria, fungi, and more.7 These have the potential for infection if introduced into your eye. If your contacts drop on a dirty surface, it’s best to discard them and wear a fresh pair. 

Always carry an emergency pair in your bag to be prepared for such a situation.  Your eyeglasses may also save a situation if you’re away from home.

Don’t Use Old Lens Solution

Sometimes you may need to store unused daily contacts for later use. This should be done in a clean case with a fresh lens solution. Old lens solutions may contain bacteria and other contaminants harmful to your eyes.

When to Call Your Eye Doctor 

Call your doctor if you notice any issues arising from wearing daily contact lenses. These may include persistent irritation, red eyes, infection, or corneal injury. 

Also, consult your doctor if you think switching to extended-use contacts is more convenient. Your doctor will examine your eyes and recommend the most appropriate eyewear.

Summary

  • Never reuse daily contact lenses because they’re not designed to withstand washing and disinfecting.
  • If you need reusable lenses, go for the extended-use contacts, which are much thicker and can withstand scratches.
  • Attempting to clean and reuse dailies risks the lenses falling apart while in the eyes. This can cause complications such as hypoxia and vascularization.
  • Other risks of reusing dailies include eye irritation, infection, abrasions, and vision issues.
  • Avoid situations that expose your contacts to microbial contamination or risk of eye damage.
  • If you notice any issues with your daily contact lens usage, seek professional advice from your eye doctor.

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7 Cited Research Articles
  1. U.S. FDA. “Types of Contact Lenses,” www.fda.gov, 2018.
  2. Musgrave & fang. “Contact Lens Materials: A Materials Science Perspective,” National Center for Biotechnology Information, 2019.
  3. Kates &Tuli. “Complications of Contact Lenses,” American Medical Association, 2021. 
  4. Boost et al., “Contamination Risk of Reusing Daily Disposable Contact Lenses,”  American Academy of Optometry, 2011.
  5. Watson S, Cabrera-Aguas M, Khoo P. “Common eye infections,” National Center for Biotechnology Information, 2018.
  6. Bashir & Lambert., “Microbiological study of used cosmetic products: highlighting possible impact on consumer health,” Journal of applied Microbiology, 2019.
  7. National Institutes of Health. “Mouth Microbes: The Helpful and the Harmful,” newsinhealth.nih.gov, 2019.
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