Chronic dry eye is a common condition that affects millions of contact lens wearers. It can be so severe that it becomes uncomfortable or difficult for a person to wear their lenses.
In addition to pain or discomfort, dry eye can cause dryness, burning, stinging, redness, or blurry vision.
Eye doctors have traditionally considered that people with dry eyes may not be good candidates for wearing contact lenses. Due to changing technology, however, this may no longer be the case.
Contact lens options for dry eyes
Soft lenses may be recommended for people with dry eyes as they allow oxygen to pass through.
There are a number of lifestyle changes that may help some people with dry eyes. If these changes don't improve dry eyes, people may want to discuss changing their prescription or contact lenses.
People should consider different types of contact lenses, depending on the cause of dry eye. Options to look at include:
- Soft lenses. Soft contacts are significantly better for people with chronic dry eye. The materials used in soft contacts are made to hold water and allow oxygen to pass through the lens to let the eyes breathe. Someone using hard contacts may benefit from switching to a soft lens instead.
- Water content. Contact lenses have varying levels of wetness. Contacts with higher wetness level can actually worsen dry eye because they will draw water out of the eyes in order to maintain the high wetness level. People with dry eye might be better to use a contact with a lower level of moisture.
- Silicone hydrogels. Contact lenses made from silicone require less moisture than other contacts and let more oxygen pass through. Though a little more expensive than other contacts, these lenses might be more comfortable for someone with dry eyes.
- Replacement frequency. Many people report that their contact lenses are more comfortable when replaced often, especially more frequently than the manufacturer guidelines. Replacing new contacts on a daily basis seems to be the best way to ensure comfort.
Best contact lenses for dry eyes
There are many different types and brands of contact lenses. A person who is having difficulty with one particular brand may do better with a different type. It may be necessary to try several different kinds of lenses, before finding one that is comfortable.
People may want to speak with a doctor about these brands of contacts. These types seem to work better for people with dry eyes than other types do.
- ProClear: These contact lenses feature a unique material that helps to keep the lenses moist. Their claim that the contacts "may provide improved comfort for contact lens wearers who experience mild discomfort or symptoms relating to dryness during lens wear," has been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- Biofinity: These lenses are made from a silicone hydrogen that does not contain additives, surface treatments, or lubricants. They are especially designed to allow oxygen to pass through and keep the lenses moist for increased comfort.
- Acuvue Oasys: These lenses ensure a high amount of moisture. They also provide ultraviolet light protection against the sun's rays.
- Air Optix: These contact lenses allow a significant amount of oxygen through the lenses, which helps to maintain a high level of moisture in the eye. They also feature a smooth surface that helps to repel buildup and retain moisture.
- Night & Day: These are approved for both daily and extended wear for up to 30 days and nights. They help to retain moisture and are very comfortable for wearers.
People who have developed dry eyes because of their contact lenses should stay in touch with their doctor about symptoms. There are many options that can help make dry eyes more comfortable. Working closely with the eye doctor is crucial to finding the right solution.
Lens care solutions
Currently, the best lens care product for disinfecting contact lenses is a hydrogen peroxide-based solution. However, if peroxide remains on the contacts after disinfection, they can irritate the eye and worsen symptoms. People with dry eyes may find it helpful to change lens care solutions and make sure the solution is being used correctly.
Omega-3 and omega-6 supplements may help to alleviate the symptoms of dry eyes.
If dry eyes become a problem, it is important to see a doctor. Once the doctor has ruled out a more serious condition or a medical reason for the dry eye, there are things that can be done at home to help manage them.
These fatty acids may interact with how fats are processed in the tear glands and help to increase tear production.
Eye drops are essentially artificial tears and are available with or without a prescription. They can be applied quickly and easily, and can be very efficient at lubricating dry eyes.
There are many different types of eye drops, so it is important for people to select the right product.
- Preservative-free: Preservative-free eye drops are good for people with moderately dry eyes or people who are sensitive to preservatives.
- Preservative: Eye drops with preservatives are good for people with dry eyes that are not severe, or who aren't sensitive to preservatives.
- Prescription: There are prescription eye drops available for people with very severe dry eyes. They alleviate dryness and help to actually increase tear production.
Though eye drops can provide temporary relief, it is important to note that there are no drops available that can completely eliminate dry eye for the entire day. To make sure the contact lenses stay comfortable all day, a person may need to apply the eye drops frequently.
Putting eye drops into the eye before inserting the contact lenses may be helpful to some people with dry eye.
Causes of dry eye
There are a number of reasons why a person might suffer from dry eyes. Exposure to air conditioning or heat, hours spent staring at a screen, certain medications or medical conditions, and even poorly fitting contact lenses can all cause dry eyes.
If dry eyes are a problem, the priority is to determine the cause and correct it if possible. An optometrist or eye specialist can help determine the cause. It is important for people to see an eye doctor if dry eyes are bothersome, as there are a number of things that can help.
Dry eyes are not just an annoying condition or something that requires occasional eye drops. Persistent dry eyes can increase the risk of several complications, including:
- injuries such as corneal abrasion, corneal ulcer, or eye inflammation
- infections due to decreased tears
- poor quality of life from difficulty reading or other activities