Contact Lenses & Dry Eyes

Any kind of irritation of the eyes can be quite unpleasant, and eye dryness is no exception. Many people can be understandably concerned about the safety of wearing contact lenses when suffering from eye dryness. There are however ways around this condition if you do wear contacts, or planning on wearing them in the future.

What are dry eyes and what do they have to do with contact lenses?

Dry eyes occur if your eyes don’t produce enough tears to form an adequate tear film. There can be a host of different causes for this condition, ranging from natural ageing or the effect of medications like oral contraceptives or diuretics. The end result however is an uncomfortable sensation of irritation and grittiness in your eyes that can also make it difficult to wear contact lenses. As mentioned above, a contact lens rests on your tear film, and therefore if there isn’t enough moisture on the eye to form an adequate tear film, you will have some trouble wearing contacts.

If I have dry eyes, can I wear contact lenses?

That’s not to say that you can’t wear contact lenses if you have dry eyes though. Improvements in the materials out of which contact lenses are made mean they can be worn more comfortably on drier eyes. Some contact lenses are composed of a silicon hydrogel material that has a lower water content (around 30%)  than traditional lenses, meaning it can sit more comfortably on a drier eye. Older contact lenses were composed of up to 75% water, which becomes an issue as the day wears on and this water evaporates. The result is that the lens then relies on the liquid tear film to replenish the lost water content, leaving the eye drier than before.

Alternatively moisturising eye drops are available that can, as the name suggests, moisturize your eyes, making them more amenable to wearing contact lenses. You can also soak your contact lenses in a cleaning solution to get some moisture on to them.

You can also opt for Rigid Gas Permeable, or GP lenses. These actually have no water within them, but contrary to what you might think, are actually less comfortable to wear if you suffer from dry eyes.

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