Contact lenses have come a long way since the first glass versions created in 1887. Now, they’re soft and flexible, and most users may not even be able to feel the lenses when they are in place.
However, there are some side effects that can come with wearing contact lenses for long periods of time. One of the most common is dry eyes.
Some people naturally have dry eyes because their body doesn’t produce enough tears or oil to lubricate the eye. Office workers and people who read or write a lot could suffer from dry eyes because of a decreased blink rate when concentrating or looking at screens.
So, can you wear contact lenses if you have dry eyes and, if so, how can you alleviate your symptoms?
Can contact lenses cause dry eyes?
If you have dry eyes naturally, it’s likely that contact lenses will make the symptoms slightly worse. As your lenses need to stay moist throughout the day, they may take some of the moisture that your eyes are creating. However, if your eyes cannot create enough lubrication, your lenses may start to dry out, which makes your eyes feel even dryer. It’s a vicious cycle.
This shouldn’t put you off wearing contact lenses though. Lots of people suffer from dry eyes and this has made the manufacturers of lenses think about how they can create products specifically for people with dry eye symptoms.
Some companies may suggest contact lenses with higher water content. But Dr Shane Kannarr from the American Optometric Association suggests in this article that lenses with increased water content could dry your eyes out faster. This is because the lens needs to retain this amount of water and will take more moisture from your eye to compensate. If a lens is made out of silicone instead, it will have a much lower water content. This would be beneficial for people with dry eyes. However, some have said that silicone lenses are a bit stiffer and can feel more uncomfortable.
If you’re suffering with dry eyes, you should consult an optician about the best materials for you to try. Most lenses have a water content of between 38 per cent and 79 per cent. You could ask your optician about switching to a lower water content or to silicone lenses.
If you have dry eyes that are caused by your contact lenses, there are certain things you can do to help your symptoms.
Try to wear your glasses more
One of the simplest and easiest solutions is to wear your contact lenses less. For example, if you wear your lenses every day, try reducing this to five days a week or fewer. Or, if you wear them for 12 hours a day, try to limit usage to eight hours.
You could take your lenses out as soon as you get home from work and use your glasses instead.
Never sleep in your lenses
You should always take your lenses out before you go to sleep. This is because your eyes will dry out more and you could be at higher risk of an eye infection.
When you’re asleep, tears provide oxygen to your closed eyes. When you sleep with contact lenses in, the lens can absorb these tears and dry the eye out. Bacteria can also build up between the surface of your eye and the lens, which could lead to an infection.
Some contact lenses can be worn for up to 30 days without removal, but lenses that aren’t designed for long-term use shouldn’t remain in your eye while you sleep, even if it’s a quick nap.
Use eye drops/eye mist
Once you’ve removed your lenses for the day, you should apply eye drops to the surface of your eye. Your eyes have likely dried out over the course of the day, and lubricating eye drops will help to restore the moisture.
During the day, you could also use eye mist spray. This spray is particularly good for people who wear their lenses all day but need additional moisture on the go. Eye mist can be sprayed onto your closed eyelids and gets to work immediately, even when you have contact lenses in. It’s ideal for people who spend a lot of time working at a computer with lenses in.
Always replace your lenses as directed
Contact lenses are not made to last forever, and it can be unhygienic to wear the same lenses for too long.
Some people have daily lenses which are to be thrown out after one day of use. Others have fortnightly or monthly lenses. You should switch to a fresh pair after the specified time. Don’t wear the lenses after this time is up as the lenses weaken and build up dust and dirt. Both of these things will irritate your eyes and could dry them out even more.
Clean your lenses daily
Every time you remove your lenses, you should clean them in contact lens’ solution to remove the dirt and dust that may have accumulated over the day.
Take each lens out and put it in the palm of your hand. Apply a little bit of solution to your palm and, using your index finger, gently rub the solution into the contact lens. Then, replace the solution in your contact lens case and put the lens in carefully for re-use. Repeat with the second lens.