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What Are Extended Wear Contacts?
One of the more popular options of contact lenses is extended wear contacts. As its name suggests, this type of lens lets people wear soft contact lenses overnight and/or for many days. These lenses differ from daily contact lenses, which must be taken out before falling asleep.
Extended wear contact lenses are available for purchase for overnight or continuous wear. Continuous wear will range according to your eye care professional’s recommendations and the product itself. Contact lenses for continuous wear can last from one to six days, or even up to 30 days.
Convenience and versatility are two primary reasons why many people in the United States prefer extended wear contact lenses. The material that makes up soft contacts lenses allows for improved oxygen permeability (increased flow of oxygen to the eye) and more comfort. This material comprises soft, flexible plastics like hydrogel and silicone hydrogel. Of the two plastics, silicone hydrogel delivers more oxygen to the cornea.
Ninety percent of Americans wearing contacts use soft contact lenses.
While this type of soft lenses can provide many benefits, it is important to understand that wearing lenses for extended periods can lead to a serious eye infection. Eye care specialists recommend that individuals sleep without the contact lenses in for at least one night before using the next set.
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Types of Extended Wear Contacts
Individuals can opt for contact lenses that are made for either overnight or continuous wear. The type of lens wear will vary according to purpose and material.
Some of the most common brands include:
- ACUVUE 2 from Johnson & Johnson offers a two-week daily wear (or one-week extended wear) for those seeking comfort and clear vision. Its INFINITY EDGE™ Design allows the lens to fit the eye more precisely. This type of soft lens wear also protects the eye from UV radiation with Class 2 UV Blocking properties.
- ACUVUE® VITA® with HydraMax™ Technology is another set of contact lens wear manufactured by Johnson & Johnson. It boasts of being the only monthly lens with Class 1 UV Blocking. In order to maximize and maintain hydration, the continuous wear contacts use a non-coated silicone hydrogel to deliver superior comfort.
- Bausch + Lomb PureVision®2 is a suitable option for those who suffer from refractive ametropia (myopia and hyperopia). These lenses can last up to 30 days and provide clear vision in low-light conditions.
- Biofinity from CooperVision offers a family set of extended wear products to treat different eye conditions, like astigmatism, refractive ametropia, and presbyopia (aging of the eye that makes focusing on close objects challenging). All Biofinity lenses use Aquaform® Technology (naturally hydrophilic silicone hydrogel) to help keep eyes white and hydrated, even during periods of less blinking.
- Air Optix Night and Day. The most popular brand is Air Optix night and day, Bausch and Lomb Ultra are also approved for extended wear.
Who Should Use Extended Wear Contact Lenses?
Extended wear contact lenses is a safe, usable option for those who want to correct refractive errors (nearsightedness, farsightedness, trouble reading small print) without compromising convenience.
It is important to consult an eye care specialist before using this type of lens wear. Extended wear of contact lens can increase the risk of infection and serious eye health conditions. An ophthalmologist will determine if the eye’s tolerance for overnight wear makes an individual eligible to wear these contact lenses.
Benefits of Extended Wear Contact Lenses
Extended wear contact lenses can offer many advantages to those who use the lens wear, including:
- FDA approval for up to 30 days in some cases.
- No need for removal for up to 6 nights.
- Little or no cleaning in extended-wear disposable contacts.
- Availability in tints and bifocals.
- Increased flow of oxygen to the cornea for ensured comfort and less irritability.
Risks & Complications of Extended Wear Contacts
Wearing extended wear contact lenses may lead to serious eye health conditions. Some of the complications are as follows:
- Keratitis is a type of inflammation that can be caused by an infection from wearing contact lenses. The cornea (the clear, outer layer of the eye that covers the iris, pupil, and anterior chamber) becomes inflamed or swollen. Those who suffer from the condition will experience difficulties with their vision. In more severe cases, keratitis can result in blindness or the need for a corneal transplant.
- Corneal neovascularization occurs when new blood vessels invade the cornea due to either inflammation or hypoxia (when not enough oxygen reaches the eye). In less severe cases, there may be persistent inflammation and scarring that affect corneal transparency and vision. In more advanced stages, individuals may permanently lose their vision. For those with corneal grafts, corneal neovascularization may result in rejection.
- Pink eye (conjunctivitis) arises when the transparent membrane (conjunctiva) that borders the eyelid and covers the sclera (white outer layer of the eyeball) becomes infected. The tiny blood vessels in the membrane experience inflammation and create the reddish or pink appearance in the sclera.
- Corneal ulcers, which is a type of infection that is commonly associated with contact lens use.
To minimize the likelihood of infections or complications, it is important to follow proper care lens instructions. Inadequate cleaning/hygiene practices and inconsistent replacement of contact lenses and contact lens cases have been associated with a higher risk of complications.
Daily Wear Contacts vs. Extended Wear Contacts
When compared to one another, both soft daily wear and extended wear contacts have benefits and drawbacks.
Daily wear contacts is ideal for those who maintain active lifestyles and do not have a tolerance for overnight wear. Daily wear contacts do not pose the same risk of developing eye conditions as extended wear contact lenses do. However, unlike extended wear contact lenses, daily wear contact lenses do wear out and must be replaced more frequently.
Similarly, while daily wear contact lenses do not need a long adaptation period, extended wear contact lenses require handling that may be more challenging at first.
Regardless, wearing contact lenses is not the same as wearing eyeglasses. Contact lens wear can influence how the eye functions. Even though many do not experience problems with wearing contact lenses, it is important to consult an eye care health specialist, especially before purchasing extended wear contact lenses. Eye care professionals will be able to assess the eye’s tolerance for overnight wear and explain the benefits, risks, and alternatives.