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Why Do My Eyes Feel Strained When Wearing Contacts?

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A woman sitting at her desk her with her down in her hand due to eye strain and pain

Eye strain is common for many people, especially when wearing contact lenses. You can experience eye strain when wearing contacts for many reasons, including digital eye strain. If eye strain is a common experience for you, what’s the possible cause? 

Continue reading to learn more about eye strain, including what it is and what can cause it when wearing contact lenses. 

What Is Eye Strain? 

Eye strain is a common condition where your eyes become strained or tired from intense use. While this condition isn’t serious, it can be irritating and uncomfortable. In some cases, this discomfort may be a symptom of another underlying condition. 

Causes of Eye Strain

While eye strain can happen for many reasons, common causes include

  • Digital device use
  • Long-distance driving or completing close-up tasks
  • Exposure to bright light
  • An underlying eye problem like dry eyes or a refractive error
  • Stress or fatigue
A pair of contact lenses sitting in a contact lens case

Why Might Your Eyes Feel Strained When Wearing Contacts?

There may be several possible causes for your eye strain, some unrelated to your contacts. It’s important to visit your eye doctor when your contacts feel uncomfortable or strain your eyes. They can complete a comprehensive examination and determine the cause of your discomfort. 

Your eyes may feel strained when wearing contact lenses because of poor fitting contacts, an uncorrected refractive error, overuse, dry eyes, or digital eye strain. 

Poor Fitting Contacts

You need more than a prescription if you wear contact lenses. The right material and fit are just as important. If your lenses don’t meet your needs, you may experience strained or irritated eyes. 

Poor-fitting contact lenses can cause strain or discomfort. They may be too tight, loose, or poorly centred on your eye, leading to irritation. 

Contact lens exams and fittings are essential when getting contact lenses. Your eye doctor identifies your prescription and then measures and examines your eye to find the best contacts for your unique needs. Poorly fitted lenses can do more than strain your eyes—they can lead to possible infections

An Uncorrected Refractive Error

If you wear contact lenses, you obviously have a refractive error, but an uncorrected error may cause eye strain. Your prescription can change with time—in children and adults. While adults’ eyes change more slowly, eye conditions can develop with time and affect vision. 

One possible condition is presbyopia, a common condition for people as they age. The eye’s lens becomes less flexible, making it difficult to see at different distances. Presbyopia makes close-up images harder to see, leading to several symptoms, including: 

  • Eye strain or headaches when completing close-up tasks
  • Blurry vision at normal reading distance
  • A tendency to hold reading material further away to see 

Overusing Your Contact Lenses

Contact lenses provide convenient, clear vision at all times, so it can feel tempting to wear them as long as possible. However, overuse can lead to irritated, strained eyes or other complications. 

Many contacts can still feel comfortable a month or longer after your lenses expire, so many people continue to wear them. Unfortunately, wearing your contacts past the expiration date puts you at risk of infection. Additionally, sleeping with your contacts can increase this risk even further. 

You’re 6 to 8 times more likely to develop an infection sleeping with your contacts. You can prevent discomfort and other complications by wearing your contacts for the prescribed amount of time, replacing them regularly, and not sleeping with them unless your eye doctor approves. 

Dry Eye

Dry eyes may be causing eye strain when wearing contact lenses. It’s a chronic condition where your tears cannot adequately hydrate your eyes, leading to irritation and discomfort. Contact use can be difficult if you have dry eyes, and it’s one of the most common causes of discomfort when wearing contact lenses

Some possible symptoms of dry eye include: 

  • Eyes that sting or burn
  • Stringy mucus in or around the eyes
  • Difficulty wearing contact lenses
  • Light sensitivity
  • Watery eyes due to irritation
  • Eye fatigue

Contact lens use is still possible if you have dry eyes. Your eye doctor can recommend specialty contact lenses or treat the underlying cause of your symptoms, helping improve your comfort. 

Digital Eye Strain

Another potential cause of eye strain when wearing contact lenses is digital eye strain. This condition occurs when your eyes become tired from using digital devices for long periods. 

Digital eye strain leads to several uncomfortable symptoms, including: 

  • Dry eyes
  • Headaches
  • Eye strain
  • Blurry vision
  • Neck & shoulder pain 

It may not be your contacts causing your irritation if you have digital eye strain. This condition occurs because of how you use your digital devices. Screens make your eyes work harder, and many people view their screens from poor positions, use devices with glare, or blink less. 

If you have digital eye strain, your eye doctor can help recommend ways to prevent future irritation. 

Enjoy Comfortable Contacts

While eye strain can happen when wearing your contact lenses, it doesn’t need to be a constant source of discomfort. Your eye doctor can help identify the cause of your eye strain and recommend a customized treatment plan for your unique needs. 

Contact your optometrist if you experience eye strain when wearing contact lenses. 

Written by Myles Bokinac

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