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Do Contacts Dry Your Eyes Out?

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We all know the feeling of dry, itchy eyes after a long day at work or school. It’s uncomfortable and can interfere with our daily activities. But have you ever stopped to think about what might be causing your dry eyes? One common culprit could be your contacts.

Contact lenses are popular for vision correction, offering convenience and clear vision without glasses. However, wearing contacts for extended periods can lead to dry eye syndrome.

What Is Dry Eye Syndrome?

Dry eye syndrome occurs when your eyes do not produce enough tears or when the quality of your tears is poor. Tears are essential for keeping our eyes lubricated and healthy. They help wash away debris, protect against infection, and maintain clear vision.

Our eyes can become red, itchy, and irritated without enough tears. In severe cases, dry eye syndrome can damage the eye’s surface and lead to vision problems.

How Do Contacts Contribute to Dry Eyes?

There are several ways that contacts can contribute to dry eyes:

  • Reduced oxygen flow: Contact lenses cover a significant portion of our eyes, reducing the amount of oxygen that reaches them. This can cause discomfort and irritation.
  • Poor tear circulation: Contacts can interfere with the natural circulation of tears, decreasing tear production and increasing evaporation.
  • Allergies and irritants: Contacts can trap allergens and other irritants against the surface of our eyes, causing inflammation and dryness. This is especially true for extended-wear contacts, which are designed to be worn continuously for several days.

Choosing the Right Contacts

Choosing the right contact lens for your eyes is crucial to preventing dryness and discomfort. Several different options are available, including soft lenses, rigid gas-permeable lenses, and hybrid lenses.

Soft contact lenses are made from flexible plastics, allowing oxygen to pass through to the cornea. They come in various types, such as daily disposables, biweekly or monthly replacements, and extended wear. Soft lenses are popular due to their comfort and ease of use.

Rigid gas permeable (RGP) lenses are made from a slightly stiffer plastic material, allowing even more oxygen flow to the eyes. They can be more difficult to adjust to compared to soft lenses but may provide better visual acuity for those with certain eye conditions.

Hybrid lenses combine the advantages of soft and RGP lenses with a rigid center and soft outer edge. They can provide clear vision and comfort but may be more expensive than other options.

It’s important to consult with your optometrist to determine which type of contact lens best suits your eyes and lifestyle. They can also help you find the right fit and prescription for optimal comfort and vision.

A woman holding onto a contact lens with her index finger

How to Prevent Dry Eyes When Wearing Contacts

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent dry eye syndrome when wearing contacts:

  • Follow a proper cleaning and disinfection routine: Clean your contacts thoroughly before and after each use. This will help remove any irritants or allergens that may cause dryness.
  • Use rewetting drops: If you experience dry eyes while wearing contacts, use over-the-counter rewetting drops to add moisture and lubrication. Just make sure to choose drops specifically designed for contact lens wearers.
  • Take breaks from contact wear: Regularly giving your eyes a break from contacts is essential. Consider wearing glasses for a day or 2 each week to allow your eyes to breathe and rest.
  • Avoid extended-wear contacts: As mentioned earlier, prolonged use of extended-wear contacts is more likely to cause dry eyes. Stick with daily or weekly disposable lenses instead.
  • Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water can help keep your body and eyes hydrated. This can also help prevent dry eyes when wearing contacts.
  • Beware of environmental factors: Avoid dusty or windy environments, which can exacerbate dryness. If you will be outdoors on a windy day, consider wearing glasses instead.

In addition to these tips, it is important to follow the recommended wearing and replacement schedules for your specific contacts. This will help prevent the buildup of debris and proteins on the lenses, which can also contribute to dry eyes.

If you continue to experience dry eye symptoms while wearing contacts despite these preventative measures, consult an eye doctor. They may recommend a different type of contact lens or prescribe medicated drops to address the issue. 

Explore Your Contact Lens Options With Headwaters Optometry

Following these tips and practicing proper contact lens hygiene can help prevent dry eyes while wearing contacts. Remember to prioritize your eye health and always listen to the advice of your optometrist. With proper care, you can continue to enjoy the benefits of wearing contacts without the discomfort of dry eyes.  

At Headwaters Optometry, we offer a wide range of contact lens options and can provide personalized recommendations for your specific needs. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns about wearing contacts.

Written by Dr. Patrick J. Brodie

Dr. Patrick J. Brodie began practicing optometry in Orangeville and New Hamburg in 1985, after graduating from the University of Waterloo School of Optometry in the same year. He built a base of patients over the next 3 years, and in 1988 he joined his practice with that of Dr. Robert Orr. The partnership allowed the doctors to serve more patients from a larger area and provided the required financial support to bring the newest technologies to their practice.
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