Did you know that wearing contact lenses can actually help dry eyes? While it’s true that wearing contact lenses can impede the distribution of lubrication across the surface of your eye, they can also help.
Over 45 Million people in the United States wear contact lenses, and over 16 million Americans suffer from dry eyes, so it’s safe to say that both of these are commonplace. And while many different conditions can cause dry eyes, most of them are treatable, and you don’t necessarily need to stop wearing contact lenses as a result. While prolonged wear of contact lenses can cause dry eyes, there are practical ways to ease dry eye syndrome while using contact lenses.
A simple tip? Make sure you regularly change out your contacts, cleansing them with fresh solution after every wear to prevent buildup. We’ll cover tips like this as well as some less commonly known ways to use contact lenses to reduce dry eye, below.
Different Contact Lens Materials
When you suffer from dry eyes, switching your contact lenses out for a different type can help immensely. That’s right—sometimes the fix is as simple as switching materials. The key? Special materials that are designed to allow oxygen to reach the eye, with increased airflow allowing the eye to remain more naturally lubricated.
Here’s a list of some different kinds of contact lenses that can help with your symptoms.
- Soft lenses are made out of hydrogel. You can select the disposable kind or the extended wear kind that can be thrown away after 30 days of use.
- Soft contact lenses with lower water or higher water content are options. Some people experience better results with lower water content and are actually more comfortable.
- Silicon-based hydrogel lenses do an even better job of reducing dry eye than regular hydrogel lenses, as they don’t allow water to evaporate as quickly.
- Proclear lenses, which are FDA approved and contain phosphorylcholine, attract water and keep your eyes moist.
There are also different types of soft contacts based upon their water content. What may come as a surprise is that high water content lenses actually cause more dry eye symptoms than low water content lenses do. You may wish to look into the water content of your soft contact lenses, if you have them, and discuss with your eye doctor.
Different Lens Size
Most contact lenses cover just the iris, or the colored area, of your eye. Scleral lenses cover some of the sclera or whites of your eyes and are gas-permeable, meaning that oxygen can reach the eye. This may seem counterintuitive to cover more of the eye, however, many people find this size and type of contact lens reduces their dry eye symptoms.
Change Your Solution
In many cases, your contact lens solution might be the issue. To find out if this is the case, you should talk to your doctor about the contact lens solution you are currently using, see if you are using the correct solution for your eyes, and the contact lenses you are currently using.
There are a few reasons why solution may affect your eyes. You may experience dryness due to a reaction to preservatives or other ingredients in the contact solution. Other times, certain contact lens materials interact poorly with certain contact solution ingredients. Either way, chat with your doctor to help eliminate too many contact solution brand trials and errors.
Give Your Contacts a Helping Hand
One of the best ways to deal with dry eyes is prevention, and contact lens wearers have a simple solution to help prevent dry eye before it starts. Artificial tears, or rewetting eye drops, should be a mainstay in your at home eye care routine. Your best bet is to use your eye drops before your eyes even begin to feel dry. Make sure you wash your hands before using your eye drops, just like you should whenever placing or removing your contact lenses from your eyes. Regular use of artificial tears will help prevent dryness and ensure that your contacts are comfortable for everyday wear.
Give Your Eyes a Break
Speaking of everyday wear, another rule of thumb we highly recommend is to regularly allow your eyes to breathe. Each day, perhaps early in the morning and in the evening before bed, make some time, ideally a couple hours, to go contact-free. Some people even choose to take entire days off, using prescription glasses instead. Your eyes need bare exposure to oxygen to help encourage lubrication, and sleeping without your contacts in may not be enough since most of us sleep with our eyes closed!
Relatedly, never sleep in your contact lenses. This not only increases dry eye, but also greatly increases the risk of developing infections, even corneal ulcers, neither of which helps anyone in the fight against dry eyes.
Using Contact Lenses as a "Bandage"
If you have certain conditions, diseases, or injuries, certain contact lenses can be used as a ‘bandage’ to protect the affected tissue until it can heal properly. In these circumstances, contact lenses can literally be used to help heal or correct the underlying conditions that are causing your dry eyes!
Conditions that bandage contact lenses assist with include certain defects, corneal ulcers, chemical burns, and keratitis. Many people may also experience relief from dry eye and other symptoms after receiving a refractive surgery such as LASIK. These specially made contacts provide barriers against irritations that can dry the eye, while also maintaining hydration of the cornea.
Care for Your Contacts, Care for Your Eyes
Remember, contact lenses must be changed out regularly and according to instructions, kept clean, and discussed with your eye doctor if any changes arise. If you are unsure of anything, just ask! Most often, dry eyes can be a simple fix.
If you are wondering if your contact lenses may be causing your dry eye symptoms, or have any questions about your contact lenses, solutions, or other eye-related problems, schedule an appointment today!