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Can You Wear Contacts With Dry Eyes?

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With advances in contact lens technology and a wide variety of brands, wearing contact lenses is more accessible than ever. Even those with dry eyes and other eye conditions can switch to contact lenses.

If you have dry eyes, there are different styles of lenses and materials you can try to keep your eyes hydrated. In a contact lens exam and fitting, your optometrist can help you find contacts that feel comfortable during prolonged wear.

What Is Dry Eye?

It’s estimated that more than 6 million Canadians are affected by dry eye disease. When your eyes don’t make enough tears or your tear film isn’t working as it should, your eyes make every effort to stay hydrated, leading to dry eye disease.

Your tear film consists of layers, including:

  • The oily outer layer that delays the natural evaporation of tears
  • The watery mid layer that nourishes the eye tissue
  • The inner layer of mucus that helps the tear film adhere to the eye’s surface

When you blink, the tear film from glands above your eye spreads across the surface of the eye’s outer layer, the cornea. The tears then drain into your tear ducts. When your eyes don’t make enough tears, you can experience dry eyes.

Dry eye can result from damage to the tear glands, natural aging, hormonal changes, difficulty with normal blinking, specific medication, or certain environmental conditions.

Symptoms of Dry Eye

Those with dry eye disease may experience a range of symptoms, including:

  • Gritty sensation
  • Burning eyes
  • Excessive watering
  • Blurry vision
  • Feeling that something is in your eye
  • Eye fatigue
  • Light sensitivity

If you have symptoms of dry eye, you don’t have to give up on contact lenses. When your contact lenses are feeling uncomfortable and dry, changing to a different type of lens can make a difference.

Types of Contact Lenses for Dry Eye

Wearing contact lenses is increasingly popular. With so many different types of contact lenses, more people are choosing them to see clearly without changing their appearance.

However, it’s estimated that about 50% of contact lens wearers are affected by contact lens-related dry eye. Your optometrist may recommend changing your contact lenses to maximize your comfort.

Lens Material

Your eyes require oxygen to help keep them moisturized and healthy. Soft contact lenses are the most common type of contact lenses as they allow oxygen to pass through the lens due to their flexible material. Soft contacts are also more accessible for many patients to adapt to.

Rigid-gas permeable (RGP) contact lenses are firm lenses that also allow oxygen to pass through the lens but are more resistant to deposit buildup. They maintain their shape, so they provide sharp vision throughout the day. While it may take slightly more time to adjust to RGP lenses, they’re lightweight and more advanced than ever.

Lens Water Content

Contact lenses with higher water content, like hydrogel lenses, can dry out your eyes quickly throughout the day. While you may think more water means more hydration, these contact lenses moisturize the eye as soon as you put them in but dry out faster. The water will evaporate, and your contact lenses will begin to rely on your tear film for lubrication.

Silicone-based hydrogel lenses may help with symptoms of dry eye. These lenses help retain hydration more effectively than standard hydrogel contact lenses.

A contact lens sitting on someone's index finger, focused in

Scleral Contact Lenses

Scleral lenses are a type of RGP contact lenses that are wide enough to reach the whites of the eye, the sclera. These lenses typically measure from 14 to 24 millimetres, allowing oxygen to reach the cornea effectively.

Rather than resting on the cornea, as 9-millimetre soft lenses do, scleral lenses arch over the cornea and rest on the sclera. Scleral lenses then create a reservoir of fluid that keeps your eyes hydrated.

Previously, those with dry eyes have been difficult to fit with contact lenses. Scleral lenses are a great alternative to standard contact lenses for those with dry eyes.

Other eye conditions, such as keratoconus, or refractive errors, including presbyopia or astigmatism, can benefit from scleral lenses. A customized contact lens fitting will help you find the perfect fit.

How to Care for Contact Lenses with Dry Eyes?

Taking care of your contact lenses can help minimize discomfort during wear. Your optometrist will educate you on the rules of contact lenses, best practices to add to your routine, and tips to help make your contacts last. Some instructions may include the following:

  • Wear your contacts for only the length of time your optometrist recommends
  • Wash your hands before handling your contact lenses
  • Don’t nap or sleep in your contact lenses (unless your optometrist directs otherwise)
  • Inspect your lenses for dust, debris, or buildup
  • Don’t use tap water in the place of contact solution
  • Clean your contact lens case with contact solution
  • Replace your contact lens case every 3 months
  • Maintain a routine eye exam schedule

Get a Personalized Contact Lens Fitting at Advance Eye Care Center

Don’t let dry eyes get in the way of wearing contact lenses. If you’ve never worn contacts before because of your dry eye or your current contacts don’t feel comfortable, a proper contact lens exam and fitting can help us find the right contact lenses for your eyes.

Book an appointment with our knowledgeable team to get contact lenses that finally feel right. Make sure your eyes are feeling their best with regular eye exams to help keep your vision clear.

Written by Myles Bokinac

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