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Do Contacts Dry Your Eyes Out?

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A woman rubbing both of her eyes.

Contact lenses are a modern convenience that offers clear vision without the hassle of glasses. However, as with any eyewear, they come with their own set of challenges, one of which is the potential to cause dry eyes

While contact lenses can occasionally contribute to eye dryness, there are ways to mitigate the problem. The fit and material of your contacts, following proper maintenance and handling, using rewetting drops, and knowing when to seek medical advice are all proactive steps toward maintaining healthy, hydrated eyes.

What Are Contact Lenses?

Contact lenses are small prescription lenses worn on the eye to correct vision. They come in various forms, such as daily disposables, extended wear, and specialty lenses for astigmatism or multifocal needs.

Because they sit directly on your eye, they require careful handling and maintenance to ensure they remain comfortable and your vision is clear. Failure to properly care for your contacts can lead to discomfort, irritation, infection, and eye dryness.

How Do Contacts Cause Dry Eyes?

Dry eye disease is a common condition that occurs when your eyes do not produce enough tears or the quality of your tears is poor. Contact lenses can exacerbate this condition because they act as a barrier between your eye and the natural flow of oxygen and moisture. Some types of contacts absorb your tears and can cause a decrease in the amount of moisture in your eye. Additionally, the constant rubbing and friction from wearing contacts can irritate your eyes and cause them to become dry.

Fortunately, various types of lenses are available to help mitigate the effects of dryness. These include daily disposable lenses, which are replaced every day and do not allow for a buildup of debris or protein deposits, and silicone hydrogel lenses, which allow more oxygen to reach your eyes.

Tips to Avoid Drying Out Your Contacts

Preventing your contacts from drying out can help reduce the dryness of your eyes:

  • Follow a strict cleaning routine using recommended cleaning solutions, and never use water or saliva to wet your contacts.
  • Choose contact lens solutions suitable for your lens type and hypoallergenic if you have sensitive eyes.
  • Avoid overwearing your contacts beyond the prescribed time, allowing your eyes to rest and maintain moisture.
  • Environmental triggers such as windy conditions, air conditioning, and smoke can exacerbate dryness. Protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses or using humidifiers where possible.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the day. This helps to keep your entire body, including your eyes, well-moisturized.
  • Use rewetting drops specifically designed for contact lenses to get instant relief from dryness and help keep your contacts comfortable.

Consult your eye doctor if you experience persistent dryness or discomfort while wearing contacts. They can offer personalized advice and recommend alternative solutions that better suit your needs. 

Properly caring for your contacts is essential for maintaining good eye health and ensuring a comfortable wearing experience.

A man applying eyedrops to his right eye.

How to Relieve Dry Eyes When Wearing Contact Lenses

If you have dry eyes, you can take several steps to alleviate discomfort:

  • Artificial tears or lubricating eye drops are available over the counter and can be a quick fix for dryness—make sure they’re compatible with contacts.
  • Increase your water intake to help maintain overall hydration.
  • Give your eyes regular breaks, mainly when using screens for extended periods. The 20-20-20 rule—looking at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes—can help.
  • Take a break from contacts by wearing glasses for part of the day to allow your eyes to recover their natural moisture levels. Additionally, wear glasses when working on screens or in air-conditioned environments to prevent your contacts from drying out too quickly.
  • Blink regularly and consciously to keep your eyes lubricated. Many of us blink less frequently when concentrating, which can lead to dryness.

Dry eyes can be a common side effect of wearing contacts, but they can also be a chronic condition that needs treatment. Dry eye disease can lead to discomfort, irritation, blurred vision, and even damage to the cornea. 

When to Seek Professional Help

Signs of dry eye you should not ignore include severe discomfort, redness, blurred vision, discharge, or pain. Regular check-ups are also necessary for contact lens wearers. Your eye doctor can identify changes in your eye health early and provide tailored advice for your specific needs.

Taking care of your eyes when wearing contact lenses is a balance of good practices and being attuned to your body’s needs. Remember, your eyes are as unique as your fingerprint and deserve personalized care. 

Find Help at Southwood Eyecare

Here at Southwood Eyecare, we are focused on you and ready to go the extra mile to help you find the right solution. Contact us today for more information about contact lenses or to book an appointment.

Written by Dr. Shmyla Chaudhery

Dr. Shmyla Chaudhery was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She obtained a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Manitoba and later completed the Doctor of Optometry program at Illinois College of Optometry graduating with Magna Cum Laude honours. Dr. Chaudhery is also a member of the Beta Sigma Kappa International Optometric Honor Society and the Tomb and Key Honor Fraternity. She has experience with pediatric eye exams, ocular disease, specialty contact lenses, and vision therapy. During her spare time, she enjoys playing badminton and spending time with her husband and kids.
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