Headaches from contacts can occur due to an incorrect prescription. When this occurs, a person may also experience eye pain, nausea, and brow ache.

Research also notes two cases where the incorrect fit of contact lenses increased the frequency of migraine headaches.

Whether the cause is due to the prescription or the fit, correcting the issue can alleviate the headaches.

This article explains why contact lenses may cause headaches and the reasons they may occur. It also details how people can find the right contacts for them.

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Little research has explored this topic, but some medical literature suggests that, in some cases, contact lenses may cause headaches.

The below factors may play a role:

Incorrect prescription

The wrong prescription can cause headaches and other symptoms, such as:

  • nausea
  • brow ache
  • eye pain
  • blurry vision

Headaches and other issues should resolve when a person receives a correct prescription. Although eyestrain which an incorrect prescription contributes, can cause headaches, it is uncommon.

Incorrect fit

A 2016 case report explains that people with migraine headaches may experience allodynia, which is pain from a stimulus that usually does not cause pain. The authors reported on two individuals who had more frequent migraine headaches after wearing a new contact lens with a different base curve. This caused eye discomfort, as the base curve is an important feature of contacts that determines how well they fit the eye.

In both people, the change in the base curve resulted in lenses with too tight of a fit. Once they returned to contact lenses with a more properly fitting curve, it alleviated the eye discomfort, and the migraine headache frequency returned to the baseline rate.

Learn more about allodynia.

Treating headaches from the above two issues involves wearing contact lenses with the correct prescription and fit.

Different types of contact lenses vary in their advantages and disadvantages. The below chart sums up the benefits and drawbacks of each, which someone can weigh against their own needs and preferences.

Soft lensesThese are flexible, soft plastic that permits oxygen to pass through to the eye.They may feel more comfortable, and a person may adjust to them more easily.They are less durable than hard contacts.
Rigid gas permeable lensesThese are hard lenses that allow oxygen to pass through to the eye.They are more durable and resistant to deposit accumulation, as well as less costly and less likely to tear than soft lenses.

Hard lenses usually help people with a curvature defect called astigmatism and keratoconus, an atypical shape of the cornea, which is the clear covering of the colored part of the eye.

Individuals who tend to develop protein deposits on their contacts or who have allergies may prefer them.
They are less comfortable than the soft type and require a longer adjustment period.
Extended wear lensesThese are usually made of soft plastic. They are available in different varieties, including those for overnight use and those for use ranging from 1–6 nights or up to 30 days.They are convenient.Overnight use links to serious eye infections.
DisposablesThese are lenses that a person wears once and then disposes of. Some are disposable after 1 day, while others are disposable after continuous use over a prescribed wearing period. The latter are replacement lenses.They are convenient and one-use lenses do not require care.They are more costly than nondisposable.

One of the most serious complications is a corneal ulcer, which is an infection of the cornea. Other complications are typically mild and disappear after temporarily using prescription eye drops or discontinuing their use. These include:

  • corneal abrasions, which are scrapes or scratches on the cornea
  • dry eye
  • allergies affecting the eyes
  • keratitis or corneal inflammation, which are irritation of the cornea, suggesting inflammation and possibly an infection
  • giant papillary conjunctivitis, which are bumps underneath the eyelid
  • neovascularization, which is the growth of new blood vessels on the cornea
  • contact lens-induced acute red eye, which is irritation and redness in the eye

If someone experiences any of the following symptoms, they should remove their contacts:

  • light sensitivity
  • red, irritated eyes
  • sudden blurry vision
  • worsening pain in or around the eye
  • discharge or unusually watery eyes

When the symptoms last longer than 2 hours or worsen, they should call their doctor.

Learn more about wearing contact lenses.

Contact lens care tips

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide these recommendations for contact lens care:

  • Before handling contacts, wash your hands with soap and water and dry them with a clean cloth.
  • After removing contact lenses each time, rinse them in fresh contact lens disinfecting solution rather than water.
  • Do not sleep in lenses unless a doctor prescribes it.
  • Take out lenses before showering or swimming.
  • Clean contact lens cases with contact lens solution and dry them with a clean tissue, replacing the case at least once every 3 months.
  • Keep a backup pair of eyeglasses with a current prescription to use if necessary.
  • Visit an eye care professional yearly or as often as they recommend.
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Headaches from contacts may occur if the prescription or fit needs changing. Making the necessary alterations should completely alleviate the headaches.

When choosing contact lenses, a person should consider the advantages against the disadvantages of each type and factor into their particular preferences.

Wearing contact lenses can cause potential complications, such as infections, dry eye, or allergies. If someone experiences eye symptoms that linger, they should contact a doctor.

Proper care of the lenses is also important as it may minimize the likelihood of complications.