Can People With Dry Eyes Wear Contacts?

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If you have dry eye disease, you’re well aware of the irritating symptoms that can come with it. If you wear contact lenses, these symptoms can be even worse. 

If you have dry eye disease, it doesn’t mean you can’t wear contacts! At Cowichan Eyecare we’re here to help you find the right contacts so you can see clearly and comfortably, no matter what your needs are. 

Keep reading to learn more about dry eye disease, the treatments available, and how to choose the best types of contacts best for dry eyes. 

What is Dry Eye Disease?

Dry eye disease is a common eye condition that affects your eyes’ ability to keep your eyes moist. 

Your tears have three layers: an oily layer, a watery layer, and a mucous layer. For your tears to function properly, they need to have an adequate amount of each of these layers.

If your tears lack any one of these layers it can lead to two types of dry eye disease:

What are the Symptoms of Dry Eye Disease?

There are many different symptoms associated with dry eye disease. Some of the common symptoms you may experience include: 

  • Redness
  • Stinging, scratching, or a burning sensation
  • Sensitivity to light 
  • Feeling like something is stuck in your eye 
  • Watery eyes
  • Stringy mucus near the eye
  • Blurred vision 
  • Difficulty wearing contacts

Can I Wear Contacts If I Have Dry Eyes?

If you have dry eye disease, it doesn’t mean you can’t wear contact lenses anymore, it just means you might have to use a specific type or brand

If you have dry eye symptoms, it’s best to book an appointment with your optometrist. Your optometrist has the experience and specific knowledge to help determine the root cause of your symptoms and get you the treatment you need. 

Your optometrist can also recommend contact lenses to suit your needs if you’re experiencing dry eyes. 

Women inserting contact lenses into eyes

Types of Contact Lenses for Dry Eyes

If you have dry eyes and you’re experiencing discomfort when wearing contact lenses, you might have to consider switching the type of brand that you normally wear. Types of contact lenses suitable for dry eyes include:

Daily Disposable Contact Lenses 

Daily disposable contact lenses are generally the best choice for patients with dry eyes. These single-use lenses are removed and discarded at the end of each day. The next day, a new, fresh pair of lenses is applied to the eyes.

Because daily disposable lenses are thrown out after a single use, protein deposits don’t have the time to build-up and the lenses won’t dry out as a result of improper cleaning routines.

Soft Contacts

Soft contact lenses are made of soft, flexible plastics, and hydrogels that allow oxygen to pass through to the cornea. Most soft contacts are meant to be replaced daily and disposed of after each use, but some brands can be worn for up to 30 days. 

Because soft contacts contain hydrogel and allow more oxygen to reach the cornea, soft contact lenses may alleviate dry eye symptoms. 

Silicone-Based Hydrogel Lenses

For even more effective soft contact lenses, look for brands that use silicone-based hydrogel. Silicone-based hydrogel lenses can help draw moisture towards the eye, slow tear evaporation, and reduce dry eye symptoms.

Rigid Gas-Permeable Lenses

Rigid gas-permeable lenses are a bit denser compared to soft contacts, but still allow some oxygen to travel through to the cornea. A specialized type of rigid gas-permeable lenses called scleral lenses can improve dry eye symptoms.

Scleral Lenses

Scleral lenses have a wider diameter and sit over the cornea instead of on it. This creates a sort of tear-filled space, which can help keep the eye hydrated.  

Tips for wearing contact lenses with dry eye

Tips for Wearing Contact Lenses with Dry Eye

Follow these useful tips for preventing or relieving dry eye symptoms while wearing contact lenses: 

  • Follow a proper contact lens hygiene routine 
  • Change lenses or solutions as recommended by your optometrist
  • Do not wear contact lenses for longer than prescribed by your optometrist
  • Use artificial tears to add moisture to your eyes before putting in contact lenses
  • Use eye drops regularly throughout the day to prevent your eyes from becoming too dry
  • Use eye drops without preservatives if you have sensitive eyes 

If you still experience dry eye symptoms after trying different lenses, solutions, and brands, it’s best to just stop wearing your contacts altogether. Then, book an appointment with your eye doctor to see what to do next. 

At Cowichan Eyecare, we specialize in treating dry eyes and we’re here to help you experience comfortable vision once again! Book an appointment today or call us if you have any questions or concerns. 

Written by Anita Voisin

Dr. Voisin grew up in Waterloo, Ontario, and graduated as a Doctor of Optometry from the University of Waterloo in 1997. She practiced in Oshawa, Ontario for 2 years prior to joining Trevor Miranda at Cobble Hill Eyecare (formerly Mill Bay Eyecare). In June 2000, Anita also began providing Chemainus with comprehensive ocular health examinations in our then newly opened Chemainus office. Anita strives to improve the quality of life of each of her patients and enjoys educating local organizations on the importance of eye health. She is actively involved in the community with the Chemainus Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club of Chemainus. Dr. Voisin is dedicated to serving the vision needs of the Cowichan Valley and welcomes new patients at either location. Dr. Voisin is available for appointments in Chemainus and Cobble Hill.
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