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How Long Can You Safely Leave Your Contacts In For? We Eyed An Expert

Can you sleep with them in? Or even shower? We need to know...

First things first.

Pity a 42-year-old woman in the UK who got a nasty shock earlier this year when doctors discovered she'd had a contact lens lodged in her eye for the past 28 years.

According to Inverse, the woman thought the lens had "fallen out" while she was playing a game of Badminton as a teenager.

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The MRI of the woman's head shows the lens sitting just above her eyeball. Source: BMJ Publishing Group LTD

But, instead, it became dislodged in her eye and a cyst ended up forming around it.

Yes, she was uncomfortable, but as she told the doctors, she never suspected a stray contact lens was behind the pain.

"The patient assumed that the RGP lens fell out and was lost," wrote her doctors in a case report in the British Medical Journal. "However, it can be inferred that the lens migrated into the eyelid and resided there asymptomatically for 28 years." Eventually, the symptoms showed up in the form of a droopy eyelid.

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The lens after its removal -- it appears cracked and damaged. Souce: BMJ Publishing Group LTD

As bizarre as the case sounds it's not the first time a stray contact lens has caused someone a few issues.

In 2015 US man Chas Groeschen started experiencing itchy eyes and symptoms of a sinus infection when he decided to visit his doctor. Oh, did we mention he also couldn't see out of his left eye?

Anyway, the doctor ended up discovering that he has a pretty serious bacterial infection which comes about when someone sleeps in their contact lens.

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Then, earlier this year,  there was the case of an 11-year-old Canadian girl who was left partially blind from coloured contact lenses she wore as part of her Halloween costume.

The girl's mother, Julie Turcotte,  told the Montreal Journal that her daughter had only worn them for a few hours and took before she went to sleep. But when she woke up her eyes were "burning like fire".

Everything turned out OK in the end, with the girl regaining her sight and the pain eventually subsiding.

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Then there was an Irish woman who ended up going blind after leaving her contact lens in while showering, which resulted in a parasitic worm eating its way through her cornea.

But the worst case would have to be from 2017, when doctors found 27 contact lenses in a 67-year-old patient's eye when she was being prepped for surgery at England's Solihull Hospital.

All these cases have led us to wonder how long is too long to leave in your contact lenses? To find out, we asked Jim Kokkinakis, who's an optometrist at The Eye Practice.

His response? Only during waking hours.

"My theory is, do you really need to see your dreams clearer?" he said. "I always recommend daily disposable lenses to my clients because it's more hygienic and you don't have to contend with cleaning solutions."

Kokkinakis said that he regularly treats people who have either left their lenses in overnight or have become allergic to the solution used to wash them.

For them, he has this advice: "Contacts are magnificent, but we need to respect them. They're a medical device, not a fashion statement."

Feature Image: Getty