All You Need to Know About Contact Lens Induced Dry Eye

Contact lenses can cause potential dry eye issues, if not used properly, especially if you are already prone to dry eyes.

Dry eye is a not uncommon problem experienced by people who wear contact lenses on a regular basis, so it’s important to understand the condition and what to do should it arise.

Complaints about dry eyes is a relatively common one with patients who wear contact lenses on a regular basis. While dry eyes is a problem experienced by people who don’t wear contact lenses as well, the symptoms can be more noticeable, more severe, and more irritating for one who wears contacts.Typical symptoms include itching, red eyes, and eye fatigue.

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What is Contact Lens-Induced Dry Eye?

The cornea, the front part of your eye, is unique in that it receives its oxygen directly from the air. Since contact lenses can partially block oxygen from reaching the eye, your eyes can get a dry, itchy feeling. Most modern contact lenses are designed to let as much oxygen through as possible, but this can still be an issue, especially after wearing the lenses for prolonged periods.

Contact lenses can also cause eye dryness by absorbing tears meant to keep the eye moist.

In either case, the condition is known as contact lens induced dry-eye.

Those who already have issues with dry eyes are most likely to have this problem with contact lenses, and it will likely be more of a nuisance for them. If lenses are not fitted properly, or worn for too long, this problem can be further exacerbated.



Symptoms of contact lens-induced dry eye can range in severity but at least tend to start off mild. Symptoms include:

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

How Can I Relieve Contact Lens-Induced Dry-Eye?

Fortunately, you have several options readily available when it comes to dealing with contact lens-induced dry eye.

  • Eye Drops: Eye drops are a very simple way to introduce more moisture to your eyes. However, you need to be careful to purchase drops that can be safely applied with contact lenses in your eyes. If over the counter drops aren’t doing the trick, your eye care professional might be able to recommend a more effective type of eye drops.
  • Eye Vitamins: Some vitamins, when taken orally, can both improve eye health generally and make your contact lenses more comfortable.
  • Daily Disposable Contact Lenses: Single use contact lenses can be a great option for people who have issues with contact lens-induced dry eye, since there is no risk of buildup on the lens or of the lens drying out over time. Since these are maintenance free, there is no risk of improper maintenance leading to an issue.
  • Low Water Contact Lenses: Somewhat counterintuitively, low water content lenses can be better for keeping the eyes moist than high water content lenses. This is because high water content lenses can, over time, draw water from the tear ducts, leading to the eyes drying out.
  • Scleral Lenses: These are large, rigid gas permeable lenses which fully cover the entire surface of the cornea, ensuring that it doesn’t dry out. The liquid reservoir between the lenses and cornea ensures a moist environment for the eyes and provides relief for those with dry eyes.
  • Silicone Hydrogel Contact Lenses: These lenses are made of an advanced, new material that is extremely breathable, much more so than standard lenses. This enables the lenses to be worn for longer periods of time with increased comfort and with less of a likelihood of irritating dryness.
  • Orthokeratology: This innovative treatment has the patient wear contact lenses only while asleep. These gas permeable lenses are designed to reshape the cornea while the patient sleeps and temporarily corrects nearsightedness and other refraction-related vision issues. This lets you operate during the day without contact lenses or glasses, removing the risk of contact lens-induced dry eye.

Our eye doctor can provide you with other recommendations for relieving dry eyes caused by your contact lenses.


How Can I Relieve Contact Lens-Induced Dry-Eye?
How Can I Avoid Contact Lens-Induced Dry Eye?

How Can I Avoid Contact Lens-Induced Dry Eye?

It is always better to avoid the problem before it becomes an issue. Fortunately, with contact lens-induced dry eye, there are several steps you can take.

  • Make sure that your contact lenses have been properly fitted by a professional.
  • Get your eyes checked for overall health, not just for vision.
  • Purchase high-quality contact lenses, and if you are naturally prone to dry eyes, choose an option that will be less likely to cause a problem.
  • Dispose of your lenses at the recommended times.
  • Try not to wear your lenses when you are suffering from a cold or flu, when you are more likely to introduce potentially irritating germs into your eyes.

If dry eyes are a problem for you, try to avoid wearing your contact lenses for extended periods of time unless absolutely necessary.

Have our eye doctor perform a dry eye exam to determine the underlying cause of your dry eye symptoms. Common causes include a blockage in the glands at the corner of your eye MGD, mites in your lashes, blepharitis, poor blinking habits especially when using a computer, medication, and lifestyle/age/gender. If you are predisposed to dry eye, then it is the underlying condition, not the lens type or maintenance, that needs to be addressed.

How Can I Avoid Contact Lens-Induced Dry Eye?

Consult Your Doctor

For any additional questions, consult with our eye doctors. They will be able to provide additional suggestions specifically tailored to your needs.

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Common Questions

Daily disposable contact lenses are single-use contacts that are discarded after one day’s use. With this design you open up a fresh new pack every day. Daily disposable contacts are more convenient because there is no lens cleaning required and they do not need to be stored in a solution or case. Daily disposable contact lenses are also healthier on the eyes since they are less prone to lens deposits accumulating and there is less of a chance to develop contact lens related eye infections. Daily disposable contacts are also sometimes found to feel more comfortable due to the thinner nature of the lens.
First it’s important to treat the patient’s dry eyes, but yes there are contact lenses for dry eye sufferers. Daily disposable contact lenses, specifically with a silicone hydrogel material, are the best type of soft contact lenses for patients suffering with dry eyes. These lenses, depending on the brand, allow for more oxygen permeability and are more hygienic on the eyes. With daily disposable contact lenses these are single-use contacts that are discarded after one day’s use, so they are less prone to lens deposits accumulating. Also, daily disposable contacts are sometimes found to feel more comfortable due to the thinner nature of the lens. Depending on the severity of dry eyes, there are also specialty hard contact lenses to help patients with severe dry eyes; such as scleral lenses.
Are daily contact lenses (dailies) better for eye allergy sufferers than monthlies? Answer: First it’s important to treat your eye allergies, but yes daily contact lenses are better than monthly contact lenses for patients who suffer with eye allergies. Dailies are single use contact lenses so you place a fresh new set of lenses into your eyes everyday. However with monthlies the same lens is used for 30 days so there is more protein and lipid deposits accumulating on the lens, and then when you place this lens on your eye it can cause irritation and discomfort. Dailies usually are also made of a thinner material so they feel more comfortable on your eyes than monthlies. Be sure to have a contact lens evaluation with your eye doctor to determine which lens is best for you.
Contact lenses may give better vision than glasses; especially for patients who have a high level of astigmatism or irregular corneas. Also for patients who have a corneal condition like keratoconus, hard rigid gas permeable lenses typically provide better vision than glasses. Also contacts tend to provide a wider field of view and cause less vision distortions compared to glasses which can affect your peripheral vision. However, it’s important to always have a backup pair of glasses in the event that you may have an eye infection or other eye condition where you need to stay out of your contacts until the condition is resolved, so in the meantime you should wear your glasses to see.
Depends on the type of contact lens you’re wearing. If you’re wearing a hard Ortho-K specialty lens, then this lens is actually designed to be worn when you sleep. Additionally, if you specifically have an extended wear lens, then these lenses can also be worn while you sleep. However, in most cases contacts CANNOT be worn while you sleep, this is because it can cause various contact lens associated conditions. For instance, it can cause your eyes to dry out, as well as cause new blood vessels to start growing on your eyes because your eyes are deprived of oxygen, resulting in irritation, discomfort and blurry vision. Be sure to talk to your eye doctor about proper contact lens hygiene.
Dr. Zurcher cartoon


Contact lens-induced dry eye is a not all that uncommon problem for people wearing contact lenses. However, you can take steps to prevent and treat it effectively. If you have any additional questions, contact us and our doctors will be happy to help. Patients with dry eyes visit our clinic from all over Washington, and we are proud to be a leading provider of dry eye care for patients from Olympia, Lakewood, Tacoma, and Lacey.



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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