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Do Contact Lenses Dry Your Eyes

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A lady in a yellow shirt holding a small plastic dropper near her eye and dropping a solution lubricating her eye.

We know that with an increase in the usage of digital devices, a common complaint is dry eyes related to digital eye strain. But you can also experience dry eyes and irritation from wearing contact lenses. 

Dry eyes can be detected and diagnosed during a routine eye exam. An early diagnosis is crucial to protecting your vision and eye health. Read on to learn more about dry eyes, contact lens-related dry eyes, treatment options, and what contact lenses to wear for dry eyes. 

All About Dry Eyes

Dry eyes, also known as dry eye disease (DED) or dry eye syndrome (DES), is a condition caused by the lack of lubrication in the eye. Either you produce poor quality tears or insufficient tears, affecting your eye comfort and ocular health. 

The tear film should comprise water, mucous, and oil to keep the eyes moist and prevent your tears from evaporating. When there is an imbalance, you can experience dry eye symptoms. 

Symptoms associated with dry eyes include:

  • Burning
  • Eye pain, strain, & irritation
  • Redness
  • Blurry vision
  • Grittiness
  • Watery eyes
  • Light sensitivity

There are several causes of dry eyes:

  • Age
  • Certain medications 
  • Systemic Conditions
  • Hormones
  • Allergies
  • Environmental factors
  • Eye surgery
  • Prolonged screen usage
  • Long-term contact lens wear

Contact Lens-Related Dry Eyes

Contact lens discomfort (CLD) from dry eyes is the most common reason for contact lens wearer dropout. So what is contact lens-related dry eyes?

In eyes with healthy tear production, the contact lens sits over the tear film on the cornea (the clear dome on the front of the eye). Lack of tears or poor-quality tears affects this tear film and can lead to increased friction between the contact lens and the eye’s surface, causing discomfort. 

Contact lenses need to absorb tears to remain soft and maintain their shape. When the eyes lack stable, high-quality tears, contacts become less flexible and can cause irritation. Tears keep your eyes healthy and comfortable, so dry eye symptoms often worsen throughout the day because of the eye’s inability to stay hydrated.

Contact lenses can also cause discomfort and dry eyes because of:

  • Design
  • Material
  • Hygiene routine
  • Length of time worn

Treatment for Dry Eyes

There’s no cure for dry eyes, but there are treatment options that can help you manage symptoms. Dry eye therapy can include the following:

  • Artificial tears
  • Medicated eye drops and ointments
  • Warm compresses
  • Eye masks
  • Nutrition and diet adjustments
  • Environmental changes
A young girl in a white shirt is sitting beside her mom, with a contact lens on her fingertip trying to wear her contact lenses while facing in front of a mirror on the desk.

Contact Lenses for Dry Eyes

You may consider giving up your contact lenses because of dry eyes. But before you do that, here are some ways to achieve comfortable, clear vision with contact lenses:

Lens Material

Lens technology has come a long way, with a range of contact lenses available to suit almost everyone. Soft and hard contact lens materials can offer extreme breathability, allowing more oxygen to reach the cornea. Soft hydrogel contact lenses can keep your eyes comfortable longer.  

Daily disposable contacts are also extremely comfortable. Along with convenience, daily contacts help prevent protein buildup, resulting in more comfort without irritation and dryness.

Water Content

High water content in contact lenses can actually dry out your eyes. While they provide adequate moisture at the onset, they absorb more of the tear film. Your eye doctor can determine what lenses can work best for you. 

Lens Size

Most contact lenses sit on the cornea. Scleral contact lenses are specialty contacts that cover the sclera, the whites of the eye. These lenses can work well for people with dry eyes because they create a tear reservoir. 

Lens Solution

If the problem is not with your contacts, it can be your lens solution. Using lens solution with preservatives can irritate or dry your eyes. 

Always use the recommended solution for your contact lenses, or speak to your eye doctor about choosing a different type or brand. 

Measures to Avoid Dry Eyes with Contact Lenses

Here are some steps you can take to help avoid dry eyes when you wear contact lenses:

  • Have a contact lens exam and fitting with an optometrist to ensure you try the best lens style and fit for your unique eye needs.
  • Only wear high-quality lenses prescribed by your eye doctor.
  • Avoid wearing your contact lenses longer than the recommended time.
  • Maintain a thorough contact lens hygiene routine based on your contact lens type. 

Dry Eye Relief

If you experience dry eye symptoms, don’t be so quick to ditch your contact lenses. The River Heights Eye Care team is here to listen to your concerns and provide a treatment plan. Book an appointment today and get ready to say goodbye to dry eyes.

Written by Shazeen Manji

Dr. Shazeen Manji was born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, and attended the University of Alberta, where she completed her Bachelor of Science degree. She then went on to earn her optometry degree at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University, where she graduated with honours. Dr. Manji received her training in a vast array of clinical settings, including private practices and Veterans Affairs hospitals, where she focused on pediatrics and contact lenses. Though she enjoys all aspects of private practice, Dr. Manji has a particular interest in ocular disease and contact lenses. She completed her ocular disease externship at the Wilmington V.A. Hospital and has completed an advanced studies course in contact lenses, giving her unique insight into fitting specialty contact lenses. In 2019, Dr. Manji purchased River Heights Eye Care where she is now practicing.
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