Contact Lenses and Dry Eye Disease

by Jun 26, 2019

Dry eye disease can be an irritating and uncomfortable condition, and can be particularly frustrating for those who wear contact lenses every day.  Many contact lens wearers report that the consistent use of contact lenses worsens their symptoms of dry eye disease. In fact, contact lens dryness and the associated discomfort is one of the most common reasons people choose to stop wearing contact lenses.  Fortunately, this does not have to be the case, and there are several ways to address contact lens associated dry eye disease.  

 

What is Contact Lens Dryness?

Symptoms of dry eye disease include irritation, burning, itching, grittiness, watery eyes, and foreign body sensation.  In contact lens related dryness, these traditional symptoms of dry eye disease may be worsened while wearing contact lenses, particularly at the end of the day.  Visual tasks such as reading or computer work may be increasingly difficult due to contact lens related dryness, and some people report that the dryness makes the contact lenses difficult to remove in the evening, particularly after extended hours of wear-time.  Whether you are new to contact lenses or have been wearing them for many years, these symptoms can indicate contact lens related dryness. If you are experiencing these symptoms, ask your doctor what can be done to help.  

 

Treating Dry Eye Disease First

Rarely are contact lenses the direct cause of dry eye disease.  More commonly, the condition exists on its own, and lenses may worsen the symptoms.  To reduce the discomfort associated with contact lens wear, it is important to first address the underlying dry eye disease.  Dry eye disease can be complex with many different possible causes, so talk to your doctor at your annual eye examination about how to best treat your particular condition.  They may recommend treatment options such as artificial tears that are safe to use with contact lenses, lid scrubs and warm compresses, or even a medicated eye drop in severe cases.  Your eye doctor will know the best approach for treating your specific dry eye symptoms.  

 

Changing Contact Lenses

Changing the brand or material of contact lenses is sometimes all it takes to relieve the increased dryness and irritation associated with contact lens wear.  Newer material options such as silicone hydrogel are designed to increase the water retention of the contact lens and therefore improve comfort and wettability.  Beyond switching lens materials, consider switching into a daily disposable contact lens. Because this method of contact lens wear includes putting in a fresh pair of contact lenses every day, it minimizes the discomfort and dryness associated with protein build up on extended wear or monthly lenses.  Ask your doctor if switching contact lenses is an option in addressing your dry eye symptoms. 

 

Consider Specialty Contact Lenses

A new contact lens design known as scleral contact lenses have proven to be particularly useful in treating dry eye disease.  These lenses allow those who may be unsuccessful in regular soft contact lenses to achieve superior vision and comfort without wearing glasses.  Scleral lenses are large rigid lenses that are filled with a nourishing liquid and placed over the front surface of the eye. The lenses rest comfortably on the white portion of the eye (the sclera) without even touching the sensitive corneal surface.  While these lenses are slightly more expensive, and may have a longer adjustment period, many people find they are well worth the investment.  

Don’t let the symptoms of dry eye disease prevent you from wearing contact lenses.  If you are experiencing problems with your current lenses, do not hesitate you talk to your doctor about possible treatment approaches.  

 

Our eye doctors and staff at Nittany Eye Associates excel in the diagnosis and management of dry eye disease, including dry eye caused by contact lenses. Our optometrists have the highest level of training, making them far superior than all online eye exams.  Call us at (814) 234-2015 or schedule an eye exam appointment online.  Our optometrists provide the highest quality eye care services in Central PA.

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