Doug, who asked to go by his first name, said he wore the same pair of contacts for three years.
The college professor said he shared the story because he thought others might find it amusing.
He said the response was a bit overwhelming as well as "a bad representation" of him.
Doug, a TikToker who asked to be identified by only his first name, went viral after sharing that he had left a pair of contacts in for three years — not even removing them to sleep or have eye exams.
"I put on a pair of contacts in 2012, and I didn't take them out until sometime in 2015," Doug, who goes by @catsupwithdoug on TikTok, said in a video with nearly 400,000 likes.
When Insider first reached out to Doug, he wasn't keen to comment on the video.
"Honestly, this TikTok does not show me in the best light. It has already garnered more attention than I anticipated, and the more attention it receives, the more insults and personal attacks I receive," he said by email.
But after agreeing to an interview, Doug said that the video had taught him that we shouldn't make snap judgments about content creators we see online. "That story is a bad representation of me," he said, adding that he had meticulous hygiene and was "a college professor who has never had a traffic ticket in my life."
@catsupwithdoug PSA: Take out your #contactlenses every evening and replace them at the recommended intervals. #storytime #fyp #catsupwithdoug ♬ original sound - Catsup with Doug
But Doug said he was also a storyteller who knew that "stories about minding your manners, being polite, and following all the rules would make terrible content."
Doug really did leave the contacts in for about 3 years
Doug was in his 20s when he left the contacts in for much, much longer than recommended. He said he was a responsible contact user until a friend mentioned that they had no problem sleeping in contacts.
"I was like, if he does it and is fine, I can do it too," Doug said. "And then it got to a point where it was like, I was fine not taking them out last night, I'll be fine leaving them in one more night, and that just repeated every day."
Doug had health insurance that covered eye exams, but he didn't want to replace the contacts that seemed to be working just fine. "As long as the contacts didn't rip or get a nick in them, I didn't see a point in throwing them out," he said.
If TikTok is any indication, Doug isn't the only one with less-than-ideal contact hygiene. "There have been a lot of people with similar stories or calling out their friends with similar stories," he said.
He said in his TikTok that constantly wearing contacts caused him to develop permanent astigmatism and "buildup" behind his eyelids. While the buildup healed after a year of wearing only glasses, Doug and his doctor agreed it was best for him not to wear contact lenses again. That was eight years ago.
Doctors say wearing contacts too long can cause long-term damage
Brad Boyle, an eye doctor, says it is important to follow the guidelines on replacing your contacts, even if, like Doug, you don't seem to notice any ill effects. Wearing contacts too long can cause the cornea — the tissue that protects the eye — to become inflamed. Over time, that can leave your eyes vulnerable to infection or a corneal ulcer, which can leave you with worsening vision and stinging eyes.
"Many people get away with it for short periods of time, but long term, it will always catch up to you," he said.
Years later, you might notice that you're no longer comfortable wearing contacts. Doug, for example, says he still sticks to glasses.
Boyle sees lots of patients wearing their contacts for too long despite that because they don't know about the risk or because they are trying to cut costs, he said. That's dangerous for anyone, but especially for parents who risk setting a bad example for their kids.
"If the parents extend and sleep in their contacts, it is very likely that their child will too," Boyle said.
Boyle recommends daily contact rather than longer-wear options because they got you in the habit of integrating contact changes into your hygiene routine. Whatever contacts you choose, stick to the recommended wear, he said, so that you wear contacts throughout your life.
"I always tell patients that do not feel the immediate effects of sleeping in contacts or extending the life of a contact that I am thinking down the road," he said. "In five, 10, or 15 years, do you want to be still wearing contacts, or are you OK with wearing glasses full time?"
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