Dry eyes are a common problem for many contact lens wearers, but we have good news. The vast majority of the time, dry eyes aren’t directly caused by contact lenses, and in most cases, improper wearing, cleaning, and caring for contacts leads to dry eyes.
It is easy to prevent dry eyes caused by improper contact lens wear and care, and you just have to follow these simple steps.
1. Avoid sleeping in your contacts.
While many contact lens brands are FDA-approved for extended or overnight wear, sleeping in your contact lenses can still be dangerous because it reduces your eyes’ amount of oxygen. The lack of oxygen in your eyes creates a breeding ground for bacteria that can cause serious eye infections.
You may not get a severe eye infection, but sleeping in your contact lenses still increases your risk of getting dry eye syndrome. Severe dry eye syndrome can lead to corneal ulcers, open sores on the cornea.
Avoid sleeping in your contact lenses even if they’re FDA-approved for extended or overnight wear. If you find removing your contact lenses before sleeping too bothersome, try to avoid sleeping in your contact lenses every night. It’s still better than always sleeping in your contact lenses.
2. Replace your contacts as scheduled.
Never wear your contact lenses past their replacement schedule under any circumstances. Doing so increases your chances of getting dry eyes, experiencing eye discomfort, and contracting potentially serious eye infections.
If you’re wearing dailies, dispose of them before sleeping and start with a fresh pair the next day. If you’re wearing bi-weeklies, dispose of them after 14 days. If you’re wearing monthlies, dispose of them after 30 days.
3. Change the solution in your contact lens case every day.
You might think you’re saving money by topping off the solution in your contact lens, but you could spend much more on medical bills if you contract a severe eye infection.
Topping off your old solution with drops of fresh solution doesn’t work because the old solution already has bacteria in it. You won’t be able to disinfect your contact lenses with a topped-off solution.
To avoid dry eyes, eye discomfort, and eye infections, here’s what you need to do after removing your contact lenses from the case and inserting them into your eyes:
- Get rid of the used solution.
- Rinse your contact lens case with a few drops of fresh solution.
- Place the contact lens case upside down on a clean paper towel so it can air dry.
4. Use rewetting drops or artificial tears regularly.
Use rewetting drops throughout the day. Rewetting drops lubricate your lenses and prevent protein buildup, making your contact lenses much more comfortable to wear and providing you with clearer vision. As such, it’s a good idea to use rewetting drops even when you don’t feel like your eyes are drying out.
5. Choose the right contact lens.
The brand and specific contact lens you wear will typically be guided by your eye care professional (ECP). However, it helps to be informed on how different contacts interact with your eyes in ways that can impact dry eyes.
While dry eyes are rarely caused by wearing contacts, they can be exacerbated by contacts, especially ones with high water content. By design, various contacts differ in how much water they contain. Higher water content lenses allow for more oxygen transmission; however (counter-intuitively so), they can worsen the issue of dry eyes. These lenses lose their water content over time, and they draw out moisture like a sponge from the closest source available, your eyes.
Talk to your ECP about finding a lens that strikes a good balance between oxygen transmission and an optimal water content percentage.
Follow these steps, and you’ll see a significant improvement in your eyes’ comfort level while wearing contact lenses. However, consult your ECP if your dry eye symptoms persist. You may need to switch to a different brand, or may have an underlying condition causing your dry eyes.