Contact Lens Discomfort Caused by Dry Eyes

Published on
February 21, 2022

Dry eye symptoms are the main reason that most people stop wearing contact lenses. There are many causes and reasons why someone may start to experience dry eye symptoms and begin to have difficulties wearing contact lenses, although it is more common as you get older. Your eyes can tolerate almost anything when you are young.  After the age of 40, you may start experiencing more dry eye symptoms. This is why many people tend to wear their glasses a lot more. While there is nothing wrong with wearing glasses, if you want to wear your contact lenses more frequently and are experiencing dry eye or discomfort, then you must address the issue.


Why do contact lenses cause dry eye?


Oxygen & dry eye

The cornea, the front part of your eye, receives oxygen directly from the air. When contact lenses partially block oxygen from reaching your eyes, your eyes can feel dry and itchy. Despite the fact that modern contact lenses are designed to let as much oxygen through as possible, this can still be an issue, especially after prolonged use.

Contact lens friction and dry eye

Our eye is covered by a layer of lipids and water called tear film, when someone has dry eye they may have a deficiency in their tear film. When a person with a deficiency in their tear film wears contact lenses it causes friction, this friction causes feelings of discomfort, dryness, and pain. 


What are the symptoms of contact-lens induced dry eye?

Symptoms of contact lens-induced dry eye can vary in severity, but they tend to start out mild. They include:

  • Dry, itchy, or sore eyes
  • Eye fatigue
  • Red eyes
  • Eye soreness
  • Stinging eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Light sensitivity
  • Watery eyes


How is contact lens-induced dry eye treated?

There are several ways to treat contact lens-induced dry eye. 


Eye drops 

For moderate dry eye you can start with using over-the-counter eye drops, eyelid treatments, and good hygiene.  


Switching to daily lenses

Another way to treat dry eyes is to switch from monthly contact lenses to daily replacement lenses. They only need to last a day and they are typically a lot thinner. This allows for more frequent replacements, which helps with dry eyes. Dr. Levi Zurcher recommends Alcon's daily total 1s and precision 1s. Their outer layer contains high levels of water content and they're extremely slippery. They are designed in such a way that you barely notice you're wearing them. If you are thinking about stopping wearing contact lenses altogether, it is certainly worth trying these.



There are two main prescription drops used to treat dry eye called restasis and xiidra.


Check for Ocular Allergies  

Contact lens discomfort is often caused by allergies. Anti allergy antihistamine eye drops can alleviate this discomfort.


Change your contact lens solution

Sometimes changing the solution of your contact lenses is all you need to treat dry eyes. Using a high quality brand instead of a generic store brand, especially clear care’s peroxide based solution, can help with dry eye issues. 


Switching to Scleral Lenses

Scleral lenses are customized contact lenses that have a unique vaulted shape. This shape creates a pocket between the lens and the cornea. This pocket is filled with saline solution, which can make scleral lenses a solution for someone who wants to wear contact lenses but experiences dry eye. 


More advanced dry eye treatments

There are a variety of more advanced dry eye treatments that should be discussed with your eye doctor after a full dry eye examination. During the dry eye examination the eye doctor is looking at the underlying causes for your symptoms in order to offer the best treatment. 

These may include: 

Punctal Plugs

A few studies have examined punctal occlusion and how it affects contact lens comfort. According to one study, the amount of comfortable time spent wearing contact lenses in the eye where the plug had been placed greatly increased three weeks after it was placed.


Meibomian Gland treatments

There are a variety of specialized treatments that heat and express the glands in our eyes that are often the cause of poor tear film. 


Amniotic Membranes

For more severe corneal problems patients have experienced significant improvements with dry eye symptoms after having amniotic membranes used to heal their eye.


Such a nice optician. My grandson is only 4 and needs glasses. We were so sad, but he explained the issues, and we will follow up as he suggested.

Anna P.

I had such a good experience with the clinic. Very friendly staff and doctor, did not have to wait for long to be called, and was treated respectfully. Thanks, American Family.

June S.

Dr. Zurcher has gone above and beyond what any other eye doctor has ever done to figure out what is going on with my eyes. Very happy with American Family Vision.

Christine R.

Family Vision Clinic changed our lives! My daughter was frequently car sick, and she was getting headaches every day, often painful enough that they brought her to tears. We saw a string of doctors and therapists, but we made no progress. Finally, we found Dr. Levi Zurcher and his eye therapist Rain. After ten weeks of eye therapy my daughter no longer gets headaches, and she no longer gets car sick. Daily tears are a thing of the past. I really can’t say enough about this clinic. It was fascinating to watch Dr. Zurcher work. For the first time, someone who knew what they were doing was intently studying my daughter, really trying to figure out all of her eye issues, and his therapist Rain is one of the most patient and lovely people that I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet. We’re finished with eye therapy—yay!—and I have switched to American Family Vision Clinic for all of my family’s other eye health needs.

Lars Wulff

Very professional, yet kind and helpful. They do what they can to make the appointment comfortable. I was running a bit late, I made sure ti call. They were able to switch me with a patient who was already there, they treated me with respect, and helped my son have confidence by getting him the eye care he needed that day. Thank you so much! Would recommend to anyone. It's a blessing that they care enough to work with people who have all different types of insurance from work to state coverage.

Justin E.

The staff is friendly. The Doc is very knowledgeable. The office is family friendly and everyone is so patient with the little ones.

Amy Fagerness
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