There’s a whole range of contact lenses out there, including both daily wear and continuous wear lenses. The more commonly available type is for day use only, which are worn while awake, removed at the end of the day and either thrown away (known as ‘daily disposables’) or cleaned and stored overnight in a lens case (twice-monthly or monthly disposables).
With these types of lenses, it’s important to never leave them in overnight, as this can result in pain, blurred vision, red eyes, watery eyes, light sensitivity, and other more serious complications like infections.
If you want the convenience of not having to remove your contacts while you sleep, there are special night and day lenses designed for continuous wear: continuous-wear contact lenses, also known as extended-wear contact lenses.
Air Optix plus Hydraglyde for Astigmatism
These monthly toric lenses have been specifically designed for those with astigmatism who also are regularly inconvenienced by dry eyes.
The HydraGlyde® Moisture Matrix technology means the lenses retain more water for longer, boosting comfort and eye health.
Easyvision monthly aquayes
Approved for overnight wear, these lenses benefit from silicone hydrogel, allowing you to wear them comfortably throughout the day and night.
What are continuous (extended) wear contact lenses made of?
Continuous-wear contact lenses, also known as night and day lenses, are thinner and made from silicone hydrogel, a technologically advanced lens material that allows more oxygen into the eye.1 This oxygen permeability or ‘breathability’ is important when you’re going to leave the contacts in for a long time because a lack of adequate oxygen makes the cornea susceptible to infection and inflammation.1 As a result of their enhanced oxygen transmission, continuous wear contact lenses can be worn overnight, for up to seven days, or even longer with some types.
Benefits of extended-wear contacts
Apart from the obvious benefit of not having to constantly remove the lenses, extended-wear contact lenses can be useful for people with:
- Busy, unpredictable or highly active lifestyles
- Who aren't always able to properly clean or handle their lenses such as military personnel, outdoor enthusiasts, emergency and shift workers.
- Binocular vision abnormalities
- High refractive errors (near- or farsightedness or astigmatism) - some find it extremely helpful to be able to see clearly at all times, especially when waking up unexpectedly at night
What vision problems do extended wear contact lenses correct?
Extended wear contact lenses can be used to correct vision problems such as short-sightedness, long-sightedness and astigmatism.
Are continuous wear contact lenses the right choice for me?
Continuous wear contact lenses are ideal for people who wear contacts for a long time every day. They save the time and hassle of putting on and taking out the lenses, as well as cleaning and storing them every day. This is a considerable advantage if you lead a busy, unpredictable life. They are also a good choice if you spend a great deal of time outdoors without an opportunity for proper lens care.
This lens type can also benefit individuals with binocular vision problems, like amblyopia, where there’s a need for continuous vision correction.1 People with exceptionally poor vision and high prescription numbers may also find them useful because they provide vision correction at all times.
Are continuous wear contact lenses safe?
Continuous wear lenses are designed to be worn continuously. However, they do carry a risk of infection, which can lead to serious problems, such as an increased risk of neovascularisation (formation of new blood vessels) that occurs in response to the reduced availability of oxygen.1
To use continuous wear contact lenses safely and comfortably, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s and optician’s instructions exactly. You must remove them according to the recommended schedule (every seven days, every month, or as directed) for cleaning and/or replacement. And, of course, you should never wear expired contacts.
If you already wear continuous wear lenses, and they’ve dried out, it’s best to pick up a new pair to avoid irritation and injury to the eyes. Good hygiene is essential for avoiding infection, so if you’re experiencing a gritty feeling, remove them and rinse them out in cleaning solution before re-inserting them. If the irritation persists, visit your GP or optician as soon as possible.
How long can you wear continuous wear contact lenses?
Some day and night contact lenses can be worn for six nights and seven days in a row. Others can be worn continuously for a month . Besides your lifestyle and preferences, your optician will help you decide which lens option is best for you. This will depend on how tolerant your eyes are to overnight lens wear, and there may be an initial adjustment period in which your eyes will need to be monitored to make sure the continuous wear contact lenses are appropriate for you.
Even though some continuous wear contact lenses are approved to be worn 30 days in a row, it may not be appropriate for you to wear them this long without a break. Your optician may recommend a shorter, customised schedule for you. It’s important to always follow this schedule and never leave the contacts in longer than recommended.
Can you sleep in extended wear contacts?
Conventional contact lenses should be worn for between 10 and 14 hours — depending on their oxygen permeability. With extended wear lenses, they have a high oxygen permeability which allows you to wear these throughout the day and night, providing your ophthalmologist or optician has given the approval to do so.
How do you keep continuous wear contact lenses hygienic?
To reduce the risk of irritation, inflammation, and infection, it’s a good idea to remove even continuous wear contacts before sleeping, whenever possible. This gives the eyes a chance to ‘breathe’ and absorb the oxygen necessary for good eye health. Always wash your hands before handling contacts, and try to avoid smoke, dust, and dry air environments as much as possible. And, don’t forget to remove the day and night contacts before you go swimming. If you need to remove your continuous wear contacts, store them safely in a lens case with the recommended cleaning/storing solution.
Can you shower with continuous wear contact lenses?
The biggest advantage of night and day contact lenses is that they’re exceptionally convenient. They are designed to be worn continuously, which is true for most situations. However, it may be best to avoid showering with these lenses in. Shower water contains bacteria, and if you wear them while showering, you may be putting yourself at a greater risk of eye infections.2 To play it completely safe, you should avoid showering with any type of contacts, including continuous wear ones.
How frequently do I need to get my contact lenses checked if I have continuous wear lenses?
All day-all night lenses are worn for longer, so your optician will schedule aftercare appointments more frequently than if you wear soft lenses. It's essential to keep these appointments — you can expect to be asked to return after one week, three months and six months after your lenses have been fitted, and every six months thereafter. The contact lens optician might also want to check your lenses after the first night and first month of wear too.
- Cooper Vision. (no date). Extended Wear Contact Lenses. [Online]. Available at: https://coopervision.com/about-contacts/extended-wear-contact-lenses [Accessed 18 October 2019].
- Perfect Lens Canada. (no date). The Truth About Showering with Contact Lenses. [Online]. Available at: https://www.perfectlens.ca/articles/truth-about-showering-with-contact-lenses [Accessed 18 October 2019].