Man goes blind after sleeping with contact lenses, experts warn of irreversible damage

The one thing that allowed Chad Groeschen to see is the same thing took his sight.

Deceived by the “Night and Day” contacts, that suggests users can sleep while wearing the lenses, the Cincinnati man woke with excruciating pain in his eye, along with a loss of vision.

Groeschen developed a dangerous infection, likely caused by sleeping for repeated nights with the extended-wear lenses.

Now, the man who needs a cornea transplant is warning people to “maintain impeccable hygiene,” avoiding the same unfortunate fate.

Keep reading to learn why it’s important to remove your lenses before sleeping or showering!

In 2015, Chad Groeschen woke with unbearable pain in his left eye, which was also clouded with blindness.

“Halfway through the day my eyes started itching, and I thought it was probably allergies, so I popped them out. The next morning the vision in my left eye started to turn cloudy.” He continued, “The kind of contacts I have are called Night and Day’ contacts, and it was my impression you could leave them in for 30 days straight,” Groeschen told USA Today, explaining that he took his lenses out about once a week. “I figured the less I was messing with my eyes, the better.”

But it wasn’t for the better.

Though the lenses are marketed for “continuous wear” for from one to four weeks, a study by the American Academy of Opthalmology in 2013 shows that overnight wear, regardless of contact lens type, increases the likelihood of corneal infection.

When Groeschen, then 39, went to see a specialist he was told he developed a corneal ulcer infected with Pseudomonas bacteria, which doctors suspect resulted from sleeping in his extended-wear contact lenses. Groeschen explained that he was told by doctors that the contact lens acted like a petri dish, holding the bacteria that then attacked his eye.

Within days, Groeschen, a sculptor at a renovation organization, was unable to see out of his left eye and was told he would likely need a corneal transplant to restore his sight.

A study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reveals that the majority of the 41 million estimated contact lens wearers across the country do at least one risky thing that puts their vision in danger.

The same study shows that 82.3 per cent of people kept their contact lenses in longer than recommended, over half topped off rather than emptying the solution, and 50 per cent wore lenses while sleeping.

“Good vision contributes to overall well-being and independence for people of all ages, so it’s important not to cut corners on healthy contact lens wear and care,” says CDC Medical Epidemiologist Jennifer Cope, M.D., M.P.H. “We are finding that many wearers are unclear about how to properly wear and care for contact lenses,” she said.

With many people taking risks with eyewear, infections–oftentimes causing irreversible damage–happen more frequently than some are aware.

According to the CDC, an average of one out of every 500 contact lens users develops a serious eye infection that can lead to blindness every year.

In December 2022, Mike Krumholz, now 22, may be permanently blind after taking a 40-minute nap with daily disposable contacts still in his eyes. After the nap, he then showered, removed his contacts and went to sleep.

On December 19th I took a short nap in my contacts lenses, I woke up and took them out with just a feeling of bad…

Posted by Mike Krumholz on Monday, February 6, 2023
The next day, Krumholz woke with an itchy, “gunky” eye that was light sensitive. Like Groeschen, he, too, first believed it was allergies, but it was far worse.

Doctors explained that the Florida baseball player was infected by a rare parasite called Acanthamoeba keratitis, which can cause blindness. Krumholz said he was told that sleeping with contacts, even for a short time, may have allowed the microscopic Acanthamoeba organism to infect the cornea.

Sharing his story on Facebook, and hoping to warn others about the dangers of sleeping with contacts, Krumholz writes, “There is no pain out there that I could ever imagine worse than this. Even the strongest medicines do nothing. And the worst part is, I do not know if I will ever get vision back in my eye at only 21 years old.” The post continues, “I have not been able to step outside for 30+ days and I have my hurricane shutters up to protect me from light.”

Treated for the parasite, Krumholz, was told that the “best case” scenario is that he’ll be free of the parasite by late summer 2023, when he can have a corneal transplant to remove the part of his eye that was infected.

“I know that I’m never gonna see fully again, but I don’t know how much of my vision I’m gonna get back,” he said.

Tips to prevent eye infections (CDC):
Wash hands with soap and water and dry them well before touching contact lenses
Take contacts out before sleeping, showering or swimming
Rub and rinse contacts in disinfecting solution each time they remove them
Rub and rinse the case with contact lens solution, dry with a clean tissue and store it upside down with the caps off after each use
Replace contact lens cases at least once every three months
Avoid “topping off” solution in lens case (adding fresh solution to old solution)
Carry a backup pair of glasses in case contact lenses have to be taken out
Meanwhile Koerschner offers this warning: “If anything happens to your eye seek a specialist immediately and maintain impeccable hygiene when it comes to your eyes.”

Please always make sure you practice good eye hygiene! We understand that sometimes it feels unnecessary but we promise the time will be worth it.

Please share this story so others are aware of the dangers involved with sleeping while wearing contact lenses, along with other risky behaviors that can cause blindness!

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