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Contact lenses: Perception versus reality.

Elizabeth Lumb (BSc (Hons) MCOptom, FBCLA), European Professional Services Training Manager at CooperVision, discusses new research that provides insight on the changing behaviours and attitudes of contact lens wearers. Article 2 in a series of 4.


Would you believe it if I said that contact lens wearers are economical with the truth? This may sound a little critical but unfortunately it’s true! Years of clinical experience, compounded by valuable new research,  indicates that what our contact lens wearers say they do can be quite different to what they actually do.

Eye-opening wearer research.

Over the summer of 2015, CooperVision conducted research exploring the experiences and behaviours of 2,000 contact lens wearers across Europe.From a vantage point of anonymity, the results produced some very interesting data on wearer behaviour.

The progress-check: Napping or sleeping.

The risks of sleeping in contact lenses are well documented, with incidence rates of corneal inflammatory events five times higher in extended wear than daily wear.2 Our research identified that 60% of all contact lens wearers find themselves napping at some point during the day whilst wearing their contact lenses.

Turning the focus to daily disposable wearers, 22% admitted that they often sleep in their lenses at night. 

Whilst sleeping in contact lenses goes hand in hand with inherent risk, sleeping in hydrogel lenses is a bigger worry, as the severity of an inflammatory event can be five times worse than one caused by sleeping in a  silicone hydrogel lens.With over half of all daily disposable wearers admitting they regularly nod off in their lenses, these findings imply that those that wear hydrogel daily disposable lenses are potentially more at risk of a serious inflammatory event.

The progress-check: Wearing time.

As our primary focus is to keep contact lens wearers healthy, we, as eye care professionals (ECPs), will often remind patients of the appropriate wearing schedule for the lenses they have been prescribed. It is quite possible that patients may simply regurgitate this information when asked, in order to appear to seem compliant to their ECP, rather than divulge the truth.

Our research revealed that one fifth of wearers underestimated their wearing times to their ECP. The same research identified that one third of daily disposable patients wear their lenses for 10+ hours a day with 65% wearing their lenses four or more days per week.1

In addition, a separate study exploring compliance of daily disposable wearers, published by Kathy Dumbleton and colleagues in 2013, showed that the average wearing time for a daily disposable lens wearer was closer to 14 hours with 59% wearing their lenses for seven days a week.4

Addressing the reality.

As advances in contact lens manufacturing change the way we prescribe contact lenses, it’s helpful to remind ourselves that our patients’ behaviour doesn’t change in parallel. Not only is it likely that our patients will still nap in their lenses; they will continue to wear them for long periods of time. It’s also unlikely that they will be completely honest with us, certainly within the context of face-to-face appointments. Therefore, with daily disposability becoming increasingly popular amongst ECPs and patients alike, it’s best to plan for the worst case scenario and consider prescribing a lens, such as a daily disposable silicone hydrogel, where the modality and material is most suited to delivering a healthy and safe outcome for all concerned.

For more information on the 2015 CooperVision RFT insight studies, click here.
For further reading, with commentary from Sarah Morgan, click here.
Ask your CooperVision Salesperson about tools to facilitate ‘upgrade’ discussions with contact lens wearers, or click here to send a request.


1.    CooperVision consumer insights study, 2015
2.    Efron N, et al International survey of contact lens prescribing for extended wear. Optom Vis Sci. 2012;89(2):122-129
3.    Morgan PB, Efron, Hill EA, Raynor MK, Whiting MA, and Tullo AB. Incidence of keratitis of varying severity among contact lens wearers. Br J Ophthalmol. 2005 Apr; 89(4):430–436
4.    Dumbleton et al, A multi-country  assessment of compliance with daily disposable contact lens wear, Contact Lens & Anterior Eye 36 (2013) 304-312.