Contact lenses are a very effective and convenient way of correcting refractive vision problems like myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism. Unlike glasses, they are worn directly on the surface of the eyes rather than in front of them. For many patients, this isn’t a problem. However, if you have a condition called dry eye, wearing contact lenses might not be such a simple prospect. This is because if the eyes lack sufficient lubrication, contact lenses can’t sit on them comfortably and move around in sync with your eyes.
Here's what you need to know about dry eye and how you can manage the condition when wearing contact lenses.
Dry eye is a very common eye condition that occurs when there is an issue with the quality or the amount of tear film that someone has. Tear film is made from a complex mix of water, proteins and oils. It is the oil, which is produced by the meibomian glands found around the eyes, that provides the lubrication that keeps the eyes comfortable.
Dry eye usually occurs for one of three reasons:
It’s not always known why this happens. However, there are some factors that increase your risk of developing dry eye. These include:
Fortunately, there are things that you can do to manage your dry eye while wearing contact lenses. Let’s explore these in more detail.
Artificial tears are usually the first treatment recommended to help patients with dry eye to wear contact lenses. As their name suggests, they work by replicating natural tear film so that the eyes feel more hydrated and comfortable. There are various types available, so make sure that you always follow the instructions included with them.
Even if you clean longer-wear lenses meticulously every day, over time there could still be microscopic particles of debris that form on them, making it harder for tear film to spread across the eyes. Daily disposable lenses are generally considered to be a better option for patients with dry eyes.
You probably already know this, but unless you are wearing specialist orthokeratology lenses for myopia management, you should never, ever sleep in your contact lenses. Doing so hugely increases your risk of developing an eye infection. This is because sleeping in your contacts prevents as much oxygen reaching your eyes, dehydrating them and exacerbating the effects of dry eye.
If you can, such as if you also have prescription glasses, try and take regular breaks from your contact lenses and only wear them if you really need to.
If you are really suffering from dry eyes and the tips above aren’t providing enough relief, speak to your eye doctor about speciality contact lenses. These contact lenses have unique designs that are created to overcome certain issues that could prevent someone from comfortably wearing standard contact lenses, including dry eyes. For example, scleral contact lenses have a space between the back of the lens and the front of your cornea which can trap tear film and make wearing them more comfortable than conventional contact lenses.
If you would like more information about managing dry eye while wearing contact lenses, call Professional Eye Care at Westar at (614) 686-2300 to reach our office in Westerville, Ohio.