Do contact lenses cause you to experience pain, gritty or sandy sensations, redness, or other symptoms of dry eye?
Dry eye is a common complaint by wearers of contact lenses. While dry eye is a common problem among non-wearers as well, contact lenses can exacerbate dry eye symptoms. This is because, as the lenses themselves dry out, they make the eyes even drier than they might’ve been before. Additionally, some products associated with contact lenses, such as contact lens solution, can irritate the eyes of people already suffering from dry eye.
Fortunately, solutions exist, with products specialized for people with dry eye, and ways to mitigate symptoms while still being able to wear convenient, helpful lenses.
As with any eye issues, the first step is to come see your optometrist, who will be able to evaluate your dry eye symptoms, and determine the cause and then the ideal treatment plan to help relieve your symptoms and allow you to resume wearing your contact lenses in comfort.
There are specialized types of contact lenses designed for people who experience discomfort while wearing regular contacts. Additionally, in some cases it is the products associated with contact lenses, such as the lens solution, that can be irritating your eyes, opposed to the contacts themselves. That is something the doctor will be able to determine, and in those cases, switching your lens solution or cleaner can alleviate your symptoms.
There are several different companies making contact lenses specifically designed for people who suffer from dry eye while wearing normal contacts.
There are several different popular brands which make soft contacts for people with dry eyes, including DAILIES TOTAL1, Biofinity, Dailies Aqua Comfort Plus, Acuvue Moist, Airoptix Aqua, Proclear, Acuvue Oasys, Acuvue Trueye, and Precision1, and while they have their differences, each focuses on keeping the eyes moist to provide relief from symptoms and to make the lenses comfortable to wear for extended periods.
The way these contact lenses work is by using advanced lens materials that allow for the contact lens to retain more moisture and reduce the friction and discomfort on your eye.
For some more details on the nature of these lenses, and how they relate to dry eye:
Scleral contact lenses are another option for people suffering from dry eye. Scleral lenses are larger than standard contacts, and rest on the sclera of the eye as opposed to directly on the cornea, and they move around less than standard contact lenses. This helps keep the front of the eye from drying out, and avoids irritating sensitive eyes. Additionally, scleral lenses can be custom made to fit over irregularly shaped corneas to provide better vision assistance.
Orthokeratology, or othro-k) lenses are specially designed to be worn only while you sleep. While asleep, they reshape the front of the eyes, correcting refractive errors so you can see during the day without the need to wear contacts or glasses. Since, with ortho-k lenses, you are only wearing them at home, at night, there is less likelihood of them causing dry eye symptoms.
In some cases, people experience dry eye symptoms not due to their contact lenses themselves, but due to the care products, such as contact lens solution. Especially if you’ve recently changed contact lens solution, talk to the doctor about the possibility that it is the cause of your symptoms, and bring it with you to your visit. A solution as simple as switching what brand of solution you use may resolve your problem.
Sometimes, people develop sensitivity to the preservatives in contact lens solution, and can experience dry eye symptoms because of that. In those cases, the doctor may recommend switching to a preservative free solution, or to use daily disposable contact lenses which do not need to be stored in solution overnight.
Eye crops, also known as comfort drops, rewetting drops, or artificial tears, can be suggested as a way to treat contact lens-related dry eye. While their effect is temporary, their moisturizing effect on the eyes can alleviate symptoms, and some brands can provide longer-term relief.
If you wish to try this route, it is very important to schedule a consultation to discuss it, so the doctor can provide advice on which eye drops can be used while wearing contacts, and which brand is likely to yield the best results.
Often, people are wary about talking to their eye doctor about contact lens-related dry eye, due to fear that they will be told they can no longer wear contact lenses. Today, however, there are plenty of options available, so it is unlikely you will be told to stop wearing contacts altogether.
If you are experiencing dry eye symptoms, contact American Family Vision Clinic at (360) 491-2121 to schedule a consultation today!