Extended wear contact lenses: pros and cons
Want to wake up with clear vision instead of searching for your glasses every time your alarm rings? If so, extended wear contact lenses might be the right choice for you.
What's the difference between daily wear (DW) and extended wear lenses (EW)?
Contact lenses can be categorized into two types, based on how long they are approved to be worn before being removed:
- Daily wear (lenses you remove before sleep)
- Extended wear (lenses you can wear overnight)
Daily wear lenses are more convenient for some people than EW lenses, requiring very little maintenance and offering excellent vision. A daily wear lens is one that must be removed before sleeping because it's not FDA approved for extended (overnight) wear. Such a lens might be replaced daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly, depending upon the brand.
“Extended wear” is the designation given to a brand of contacts which have been approved by the FDA for wear at night.
EW contacts are thinner than daily-wear soft lenses or are made of silicone hydrogel material. This advanced lens material enables extended wear lenses to "breathe" better than regular soft (hydrogel) lenses. This is especially important when lenses are worn continuously for extended periods.
Most extended wear soft contact lenses are approved for up to seven days of continuous wear, depending on your eye care professional's recommendations. Some EW lenses are approved for up to 30 days of continuous wear.
Benefits of EW contacts
Extended wear contacts can be really helpful for:
- People with unpredictable or active lifestyles. For example, military personnel or outdoor enthusiasts, who aren’t always able to properly clean or handle their lenses. This is also true for emergency and shift workers which benefit from extended wear contacts that can be left in for long periods.
- People with binocular vision abnormalities. Some problems with binocular vision, including amblyopia, are better addressed with continuous vision correction.
- People with especially bad vision. Some wearers with high refractive errors (near or farsightedness or astigmatism) find it extremely helpful to be able to see clearly at all times, especially when waking up unexpectedly at night.
It's important to note that some people's eyes cannot tolerate any overnight wear of contact lenses. During your contact lens fitting and follow-up, your eye doctor will advise you whether you can wear EW contacts overnight and how many days of continuous wear your eyes can tolerate.
Risks and other considerations
Wearing contact lenses continually (day and night) increases the risk of keratitis, conjunctivitis, lid irritation or discomfort because bacteria and other potentially dangerous microorganisms can adhere to the lenses and get trapped between the lenses and your eyes.
Needless to say, eye infections are very dangerous. If your eyes get irritated, red, or uncomfortable and taking your contacts out doesn't resolve the problem, go see your doctor.
Contact lenses reduce the oxygen supply to the front surface of your corneas, so your eyes are less able to fight off corneal infections. If you wear EW contacts continuously for several days, your risk of these problems increases significantly.
Wearing contact lenses during sleep still carries a greater risk of complications than removing your lenses daily. For this reason, most eye care practitioners now recommend daily wear contact lenses as the preferred alternative to extended wear lenses.
It should be noted that not all contact wearers should use the extended wear option, so make sure to ask your eye doctor. Once approved, we recommend checking out these brands of extended wear lenses.
Brands of Extended Wear Contacts
Air Optix Night & Day Aqua
This is the most prescribed and generally accepted as the leading lens when it comes to extended wear. Air Optix Night & Day Aqua can last as many as 30 days without removal. This incredible wear time comes from having an extremely high rate of oxygen transmissibility of any soft contact lens.
Air Optix Aqua
Also in the Air Optix family, the simple Aqua brand benefits from extended wear but at a more manageable price. These lenses can be worn for 6 nights of extended wear before needing removal and cleaning.
Biofinity is a classic monthly lens from CooperVision that can be worn for 6 consecutive nights. These lenses are made of a breathable material that allows oxygen to freely flow through the lens helping to keep your eyes moist, clear and comfortable. The secret is the Aquaform technology which optimizes the relationship between oxygen and water creating a more flexible lens.
Bausch & Lomb ULTRA
This lens received its extended wear designation in 2018 and can now be worn for 6 nights before cleaning. Moisture Seal technology makes Bausch & Lomb ULTRA ideal for frequent screen users. 90% of the ULTRA lens wearers indicate that they experience fewer dry eyes after working a day with digital devices.
Last but not least, Purevision 2 matches Air Optix Night & Day Aqua’s durability as it too is approved by the FDA for 30 nights of consecutive extended wear. These lenses are specially developed to reduce any reflections, glares and halo's and offer you exceptional comfort.