dry eye

How You Can Manage Dry Eye While Wearing Contact Lenses

Don't let your Dry Eye Stop You from Seeing Clearer

Dry eyes can occur if you do not make sufficient tears to keep the eye lubricated. Having enough tears helps protect your eyes from dirt, dust, and infection.
The symptoms of dry eye can range from mild to severe. In severe cases, dry eyes can lead to inflammation and corneal abrasions that may eventually affect vision.
While most cases of dry eyes do not cause vision problems, symptoms are still bothersome. Symptoms of dry eyes include:

  • A gritty or scratchy feeling in the eyes.
  • Red eyes.
  • Stinging.
  • Sensitivity to light.
  • Blurry vision.

According to the National Eye Institute, millions of people in the United States deal with dry eye. Certain medical conditions, hormonal changes, and environmental factors can all play a role in developing dry eyes.
Wearing contact lenses can also increase your risk of dry eye. Fortunately, you don’t have to stop wearing contacts. There are several ways you can minimize your risk of dry eye while wearing contact lenses.

Best types of contact lenses for dry eye

The material of the lenses, water content, and duration of contact lens wear all affect which contact lenses are best for dry eyes. Consider the following types of lenses for dry eyes:
Daily contacts: Daily contacts are disposable lenses that you change every day. Contacts often develop surface deposits over time, leading to irritation and worsening dry eyes. But since you are replacing dallies, it may lower your risk of irritation.
Soft lenses: Soft lenses are typically a good option for people with dry eyes. They are usually made of a soft, flexible material that holds more water than hard lenses, such as silicone; this tends to reduce the risk of dry eyes.
Rigid gas permeable lenses: This type of lens – also called scleral lenses or hard lenses – sits on the white part of the eye instead of the cornea. Fluid accumulates in the space between the cornea and the lens. This fluid may protect the eye and reduce the risk of irritation and dry eyes.

Contact lenses to avoid dry eyes

Although everyone has their own unique experience with dry eyes, it is usually best to avoid certain types of contact lenses, including:
Extended wear: There are contact lenses available for overnight wear. But extended wear contacts may not be the best bet for people prone to dry eyes. They are more likely to lead to a buildup of surface deposits, which may cause increased irritation.
High water content: Contact lenses that have high-water content may increase dry eyes. It might seem unusual that higher water content could make dry eyes worse. High-water content lenses moisten the eyes when you first put them in but may dry out faster. The FDA has approved contact lenses with a water content between 38% - 80%. Try lenses with different water content to find something that works best for you.
Costume lenses: Costume contact lenses are sold without a prescription. This lens is used for cosmetic purposes to change the shape or color of the eye. These lenses can be harmful to anyone, but for people with dry eyes, they may lead to even more discomfort and irritation.

Tips for wearing contact lenses with dry eyes

Regardless of which type of contact lenses you determine is best, there are certain steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of dry eyes. Consider the following:
Always wash your hands: The best defense against irritation and infection is washing your hands before handling your contacts.

Change lenses as directed: Whether you wear dailies or extended-wear lenses, follow the manufacturer’s directions for changing lenses.

Do not swim in contact lenses: You should remove any contacts before swimming to reduce the risk of infection, which can worsen dry eye.

Make sure lenses fit comfortably: If your lenses do not fit properly, they can rub in the wrong places, leading to inflammation and worsening symptoms of dry eyes.

Change contact solution daily: Reusing the same contact solution can decrease its effectiveness. It can also increase the risk of bacteria getting into your eyes.

Use rewetting eye drops: Rewetting eye drops are a good choice to keep eyes moisturized throughout the day. Drops are made for people that wear soft contacts.

Give your eyes a break: Even if you love your contacts, consider giving your eyes a break every so often. For example, switch to eyeglasses in the evening for a few hours. Also, using your digital devices for hours at a time can increase dry eyes. Take a break from the cell phone and computer screen to prevent eye strain.

Talk with your eye doctor: If you have tried to treat dry eye at home without relief, talk with your eye doctor. Switching to different lenses or contact solutions may take trial and error to find what works best for you.

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