A portrait of a tired girl rubbing her dry and irritated eyes while sitting at a desk.

Contact lenses can correct your vision just as clearly as your prescription glasses. Wearing contact lenses for athletics, formal events, and daily life can be practical and fashionable.

Just like glasses, your eyes need contact lenses suited for your unique vision, including eye conditions. Dry eye is a common issue that anyone can experience. Those who wear contact lenses may find that their dry eye worsens with prolonged use.

If you’re concerned about dry eye, your optometrist can help you find contact lenses that are properly fitted to your eyes and retain moisture for comfort.

How Can Contact Lenses Dry Your Eyes?

When you’re wearing contact lenses, they should feel invisible. They ought to be so comfortable you forget you’re wearing them. But if you struggle with dry eye, you may genuinely feel your contact lenses sitting on the eye’s surface.

Your eyes need oxygen to breathe, and poorly fitted contact lenses can block or filter oxygen from reaching the surface of the eye, or the cornea. When your eyes can’t absorb the moisture it needs from the air, it draws hydration from the tear film, drying out your eyes more quickly.

The longer you wear a set of contacts, the lenses will naturally accumulate proteins and deposits that further block oxygen from reaching the eye. Contact lenses can then cause redness, discomfort, or tired eyes. 

Wearing contact lenses for longer than 8 to 16 hours can make your lenses feel rough and gritty, and your eyes sting from dryness. The longer you deprive your eyes of the oxygen they need, the dryer your eyes will feel.

Can You Wear Contact Lenses with Dry Eyes?

If you have dry eyes, it doesn’t mean contact lenses are inaccessible. As contact lens technology changes, those with eye conditions can still consider contact lenses as an option, including those with dry eyes.

If your contact lenses irritate the eye’s surface, your optometrist will reassess the curve of your eye to properly fit your contact lenses. They can also explore other brands or lens materials that more effectively retain moisture in your eye.

A close-up photo of a human eye with a contact lens in place, showing the iris and pupil.

Which Type of Contact Lenses is Best for Dry Eyes? 

If your contact lenses are the primary cause of your dry eyes, your optometrist can help recommend the right type of content lenses to suit your eyes best. Depending on which type of contact lenses you want––rigid gas permeable (RGP), daily, bi-weekly, or monthly disposables, or extended wear––your optometrist can help you determine which style is best for your lifestyle and eyes.

Lens Material

Most people opt for soft contact lenses. They’re flexible, so oxygen can easily pass through the lens to the cornea. Soft contact lenses are easy for your eye to adapt to for comfort.

RGP contact lenses, or hard lenses, are firm and more resistant to deposit buildup but still allow oxygen to pass through the lens. They take more time to get used to, so they’re typically less popular than soft lenses.

Water Content

When it comes to overcoming dry eyes, the moisture content in contact lenses makes a difference in comfort. Lenses with higher water content, like hydrogel lenses, can dry out your eyes quickly throughout the day. As the eyes absorb water and evaporate moisture, your contact lenses will soak in the eye’s natural tears for lubrication.

Silicone-based hydrogel lenses may help reduce the sensations of dry eye. These lenses don’t allow water to evaporate as easily and can help lenses retain hydration.

Scleral Contact Lenses

Scleral contact lenses are a type of RGP lens that are large enough to cover a portion of the whites of the eye, the sclera. Typically measuring from 14 to 24 millimetres, these lenses allow more oxygen to reach the cornea.

Rather than resting on the cornea, as 9-millimetre soft lenses do, scleral lenses arch over the cornea to rest on the sclera. The fluid locked within keeps the eye moist during contact lens wear.

Specialty contact lenses are available when standard contact lenses aren’t compatible with your eyes. Whether you have eye conditions such as keratoconus, presbyopia, or astigmatism or are post-refractive surgery, a custom contact lens fitting can help you find the right fit.

How to Care for Contact Lenses with Dry Eyes?

Taking proper care of your contact lenses can help minimize discomfort during wear. Your optometrist will teach you the best practices to add to your routine to help maintain your lenses’ lifespan. Some instructions may include the following:

  • Only wear your contacts for the length of time your optometrist recommends
  • Wash your hands before handling your contact lenses
  • Don’t nap or sleep while wearing daily wear contact lenses
  • Inspect your lenses for dust, debris, or buildup
  • Don’t use tap water in the place of contact solution
  • Change your contact case every 3 months
  • Maintain your eye exam schedule

Get a Custom Contact Lens Fitting

Whether you’re new to contact lenses or your current contacts don’t feel quite right, a custom contact lens exam and fitting can help relieve dry eye and ensure your eyes stay comfortable the entire day.

If you’re struggling with dry eye when wearing your contact lenses or think existing dry eye makes wearing contacts impossible, book an appointment with our experienced team of Edmonton optometrists. We’ll examine your eyes, recommend contact lenses and solutions, and discuss contact lens care to keep your eyes healthy.

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