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How to Manage Dry Eye While Wearing Contact Lenses

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Young woman wearing contact lenses while looking in the mirror.

We all know that contact lenses are a alternative to traditional eyeglasses; they are easy to take care of and comfortable to wear. However, while we love helping you and your family discover the freedom contact lenses can provide, a common condition called dry eye can make wearing contacts less than pleasant.

Many people can experience dry eye, and some could even develop dry eye from wearing contact lenses, but it’s important to know that we’re here to help. No matter what’s causing your dry eye symptoms, our team will look for effective solutions so you can get back to enjoying the crisp, frame-free vision you deserve.

Today, we’re going to look at some strategies you can use to help mitigate dry eye symptoms while wearing contact lenses. As always, for the best results, we recommend booking a comprehensive dry eye or contact lens appointment at Okotoks Eyecare.

A Brief Overview of Dry Eyes

Before we talk about the different strategies you can use to manage your symptoms, we first have to take a quick look at dry eye and how it develops.

Your tear film plays a huge role in your eye comfort, and if you don’t have enough tears or if your tear film lacks certain ingredients, you’ll likely experience dry eyes. 

There are 2 main types of dry eye: poor tear quality and insufficient tear volume.

Poor Tear Quality

Your tear film has 3 different ingredients: mucous, water, and oils. If your tears are lacking any of these components, it can lead to dry eye symptoms. 

The most common issue people experience is a lack of oils in your tear film, often caused by issues like meibomian gland dysfunction or blepharitis. These oils seal in the rest of your tear film, preventing your tears from evaporating too quickly. If a condition blocks the meibomian glands responsible for producing these oils, you can experience evaporative dry eye symptoms.

Insufficient Tear Volume

Insufficient tear volume means that your eyes’ tear production glands aren’t producing enough tears to keep your eyes hydrated and comfortable. 

This problem can occur with age, but other health issues like diabetes, lupus, allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, and even vitamin A deficiency can affect how many tears you can produce.

Dry eye caused due to contact lenses

Can Contacts Cause Dry Eyes?

Contact lenses may cause dry eye symptoms, but we take numerous steps to ensure your contacts fit your eyes and their needs. With properly fitted contact lenses and routine care techniques, your contact lenses shouldn’t cause discomfort or irritation.

Your contact lenses may cause dry eye symptoms if:

  • They’re not the right size for your eyes.
  • They’re worn for too long.
  • They’re made of materials that could evaporate your tears.
  • You’re using the wrong lens solution to store and clean your contacts.

Special Contact Lenses to Address Dry Eye

Soft Contact Lenses

Soft contact lenses are the most common type of contact in North America, thanks to various types that exist. If you struggle with dry eyes, we may recommend daily soft contact lenses. 

Changing your lenses daily can prevent protein deposits from forming over time, an issue that can make your eyes feel drier.

Rigid Gas-Permeable Contact Lenses

Rigid gas-permeable (RGP) contacts are the next popular choice for contact lens wearers. These contacts are made from plastic materials that allow oxygen to pass through them and reach your eyes, keeping your eyes comfortable while you wear them.

Scleral Contact Lenses

Scleral lenses are a unique type of lens that has a larger diameter than traditional contact lenses. Scleral lenses rest on the whites of your eyes (the sclera), allowing the centre of the contact to “vault” over your cornea. 

These lenses may also be a fantastic choice if you have corneal conditions, like keratoconus, that could make traditional contact lenses difficult to wear.

Tips for Preventing Contact Lens-Related Dry Eye

As we mentioned before, the best way to avoid irritation while wearing contact lenses is to make sure you have a comprehensive contact lens exam and fitting. Having the right pair of contacts for your eyes can help ensure your eyes stay hydrated and comfortable, but proper lens care can also play a role in your eye comfort.

When you wear contacts, always make sure:

  • You change your contact lenses as your doctor recommends.
  • You’re cleaning your contacts with a proper lens solution.
  • You use rewetting drops on your eyes before you wear your contacts.
  • You use eye drops throughout the day if you already have dry eye syndrome.

Written by Dr. Catharine Cheon

Dr. Catharine Cheon completed her Bachelor of Science at McGill University before earning her Doctor of Optometry with Honors at the New England College of Optometry. As a native Calgarian, Dr. Cheon enjoys practicing close to her home.
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