Can Contact Lenses Cause Dry Eye?

There is a lot to love about contacts. From their aesthetic appeal to convenience, contact lenses provide a versatile vision correction option for those wishing to avoid glasses. 

If you’re one of the many people around the world who wear contacts, or you’re thinking about becoming one of them, it’s important to understand all the ways they can affect your eyes. Keep reading to find out whether contact lenses can cause dry eye!

What Is Dry Eye?

When it comes to eye conditions, dry eye is one of the most common. Millions of people worldwide are affected by dry eye.

The root cause of dry eye is an inability of the eye to maintain adequate moisture. A few different scenarios can lead to the issue. 

Dry eye involves a problem with the tears in some way. Tears supply moisture to the eye, which is important for both clarity and comfort. 

For some people, the quantity of tears their eyes produce is too low. Certain medical conditions and medications can decrease tear production. 

Your eyes also produce fewer tears as you age. Low tear production can have additional causes as well. 

For other people, it’s a matter of quality. In other words, the tears produced are imbalanced. 

Tear Composition

In order for a tear to be complete, it must contain three layers: oil, water, and mucus. Each of these plays a role in keeping the eye hydrated. 

For example, the oily layer prevents tears from evaporating too quickly. Poor tear quality often results from meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD). 

Located in the upper and lower eyelids, the meibomian glands produce the oily layer of tears. When they become blocked, their ability to produce those necessary oils is affected. 

What Are the Symptoms of Dry Eye?

Eye dryness can result in a variety of symptoms, some of the most common symptoms of dry eye are:

  • An itchy, scratching, or stinging sensation
  • Stringy mucus around the eyes
  • Light sensitivity
  • Blurry vision
  • A foreign body (gritty) sensation
  • Watery eyes
  • Eye redness
  • Eye fatigue

Dry eye syndrome can affect your day-to-day life in terms of the activities you can and can’t do comfortably. Many patients have trouble wearing contact lenses. 

You may also avoid driving at night, especially due to increased light sensitivity when you encounter the headlights of an oncoming car. Blurry vision can make regular tasks like reading challenging, too. 

For many people, their dry eye symptoms worsen as the day goes on.

How Can Contact Lenses Cause Dry Eye?

While dry eye can have many causes, including those listed above, contact lenses can lead to the development of dry eye in some people. Contact lenses can also exacerbate existing instances of dry eye syndrome and worsen symptoms. 

You may notice after a long day of wearing contacts that your eyes feel drier than they would otherwise. This is because, although they are thin, contacts decrease the amount of oxygen that reaches the eye. 

Oxygen is very important in order for your eyes to function properly, including their ability to stay hydrated. Contact lenses also make it difficult for the eye to maintain proper moisture levels because the material they are made out of can absorb some tears. 

The presence of contact material on the eye can also cause tears to evaporate too quickly. This is because they disrupt the oily layer of the tear film. 

Tips to Keep Your Eyes Comfortable While Wearing Contacts

Your contact lens habits can make you more or less likely to experience dry eye symptoms. Maintaining proper contact lens hygiene is vital for keeping your eyes healthy and reducing your likelihood of experiencing dryness, infections, and other conditions. 

Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before handling your contacts or touching your eyes. Dry your hands with a lint-free cloth. 

If you wear reusable contacts, clean them with contact solution before inserting them and after taking them out. Regularly clean your case with contact solution and leave it out to dry before the next use. 

You should also get a new case every few months. To soothe dry, irritated eyes, you can apply a warm compress over the eye area. 

The heat can often help improve the function of the meibomian glands, so your tears are more effective. 

Dryness commonly occurs as a result of extended screen time. If you notice your symptoms are related to periods of looking at a computer, phone, or TV, make sure you give your eyes a break every twenty minutes or so.

You can find eye drops, also known as artificial tears, over the counter. This may be enough to alleviate symptoms. 

Get Help From the Experts at Eye Associates of Tallahassee

If you keep experiencing dryness when wearing contacts, talk to your doctor about your symptoms. If you wear weekly or monthly contacts, it may help to switch to daily ones. 

Your eye doctor can also recommend medications to help your eyes stay hydrated, as well as treatments like Lipiflow, for MGD. 

Are you experiencing dry eye or want to learn more about contact lenses? Schedule an appointment at Eye Associates of Tallahassee in Tallahassee, FL, today!

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