Moisturize Those Eyes: Solutions for Contact Lens-Related Dry Eyes

If you wear contact lenses, you’re probably familiar with the irritating, itchy, burning sensation you get with dry eyes. Most people who wear contacts complain about dry eyes at some point. Dryness is also the biggest reason people abandon wearing contact lenses altogether.

However, you don’t have to let dry eyes force you back to glasses. When you have dry eyes with contact lenses, you can talk to your doctor about several possible solutions. Read on to take a look at why your eyes get dry in the first place, and how you can keep wearing your contacts.

Dry Eye Causes

Your eyes get dry when they can’t produce enough tears to properly lubricate the eye’s surface. Dry eyes happen for many reasons, including some medications, certain habits such as smoking, and specific health issues. Even hormonal changes and age can bring on dry eyes.

If your eyes feel fine except for when you wear contact lenses, you might have a problem called contact lens-related dry eye. This happens when your eyes dry out because your contact lenses collect water from your eye and then dehydrate.

While underlying conditions will require more extensive dry-eye treatments, you can try a few things to ease contact lens-related dry eye.

Dry Eye Solutions

Before you spend too much time trying different dry eye treatments, tell your eye doctor your symptoms. He or she will need to run a few tests to look for underlying conditions unrelated to your contacts.

Once you’ve eliminated other possibilities, you can figure out the best way to combat your contact problems.

Rewetting Drops

If you have occasional mild dryness or irritation, rewetting drops will help your eyes feel more comfortable. You’ll find these solutions at your local pharmacy or drugstore, often under the name “lubricating and rewetting drops.”

Check the label to make sure the drops are designed for soft contact lenses. Then, follow the directions for use. Usually you’ll want to add one or two drops to each eye whenever they feel uncomfortable. Put the drops in and blink repeatedly to evenly distribute the moisture.

Different Cleaning Solutions

If rewetting drops don’t help, try changing your contact lens cleaning solution. First, check with your eye doctor to see which solutions work well with your brand of lenses. Then begin testing which ones work well with your eyes.

Remember, when you begin using a new cleaning solution it can take your eyes a few weeks to adjust. However, you should never experience pain or redness. Remove your lenses and stop using your solution immediately if you think you might have an allergy to one of its ingredients.

Unless your eye doctor recommends them, avoid store-brand or generic multipurpose contact lens solutions. These products often use more preservatives than others. Preservatives can irritate your eyes, increase dryness, or trigger an allergic reaction.

If all preservatives cause you problems, your doctor might recommend a hydrogen peroxide-based cleaning solution. These are often preservative-free.

Different Contact Lens Brands

While all soft contact lenses might look similar to you, they actually have different shapes, sizes, and materials. One brand might make you want to tear your eyes out, while you won’t even notice another is there. Which brand you prefer will often come down to your individual eyes.

Your doctor can fit you for several brands of contact lenses and give you trial pairs to test out which ones you like. Pay attention to which brand keeps your eyes hydrated and feeling most comfortable. After the trial period, ask your doctor to write your prescription for that particular lens.

High Oxygen-Permeable Lenses

When you have dry eyes, your doctor might fit you for a brand of lenses with high oxygen permeability. Called “silicone hydrogel lenses,” these brands let more oxygen pass through to your cornea than regular “hydrogel lenses.” The extra oxygen makes your lenses more comfortable to wear and helps keep your eyes lubricated.

Some popular high oxygen-permeable brands include:

  • Vistakon’s Acuvue Oasys
  • Ciba’s Air Optix Night & Day
  • Coopervision’s Biofinity
  • Vistakon’s 1-Day Acuvue TruEye
  • Ciba’s Dailies Total1
  • Bausch & Lomb’s PureVision

The FDA has even approved some high oxygen-permeable lenses, such as Air Optix Night & Day, for overnight wear. Talk to your eye doctor about which brands he or she recommends for your eyes.

Reduced Wear-Time

If you’ve tried everything else and your eyes still feel dry, reduce your wear time. Wear-time refers to how many hours you wear your lenses each day, as well as how long you wear a pair of lenses before replacing them.

To reduce your wear time, try wearing your lenses for only six hours a day instead of eight. Alternatively, you could take your lenses out halfway through the day and soak them in solution. This rehydrates your lenses and gives your eyes a break. Put the lenses back in after 30 minutes or an hour.

With these remedies, you don’t have to suffer through contact lens-related dry eyes. Talk to your eye doctor about your symptoms and experiment with different brands, cleaning solutions, and wear times for the most comfortable contacts experience.

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