Avoiding Contact Lens Discomfort
During the summer, people are wearing contact lenses more often as they enjoy spending time outside. With all this extra time in contacts, some individuals may notice discomfort or contact lens awareness. This can be a deterrent that leads to decreased wear time, but that is what we’re here to prevent!
When contact lenses are uncomfortable, it can cause tearing and blurred vision. Your eye doctor will perform a comprehensive eye exam and contact lens evaluation to determine the cause of the irritation. If dry eye syndrome is a pre-existing problem, then contact lenses can exacerbate the symptoms associated with dry eyes. It is also possible to have contact lens induced dryness in patients without symptoms prior to wearing contacts. Regardless of the cause, there may need to be a change of contact lenses and daily contact lens care routine.
The following four steps are ways to help alleviate contact lens discomfort.
1. Follow the correct disposal schedule
If you are wearing daily disposable contact lenses, they need to be thrown away every single day. Monthly contacts are good for 30 days after the package is opened, whether the contacts are worn twice or thirty times. It is also very important to remove contacts prior to sleeping. The lenses stick to the cornea (front surface of the eye) and minimize the amount of oxygen that reaches the eye, which increases the risk of infection, swelling, and overall eye irritation.
2. Treat dryness and allergies
Some people are more prone to having dry eyes even without wearing contact lenses. If the dryness is not addressed prior to wearing the lenses, symptoms of dryness will only get worse. The most common symptoms of dry eyes are burning, tearing, grittiness, and blurred vision. There are artificial tears specifically designed for contact lens wearers, and preservative free artificial tears can also be used on top of the lenses. Certain contact lens brands are also better for dryness. Ask your eye doctor if there is an option that might be better for your symptoms.
Allergies can cause additional irritation and dryness. Pollen and other allergens adhere to the contact lenses, which worsens symptoms (itching, burning, tearing). When the lenses are not properly cleaned and disposed, allergens on the lenses repeatedly trigger an allergic response every time they are placed on the eyes. Over-the-counter allergy eye drops are available, however, it is best to ask your eye doctor what is recommended. Allergy eye drops should not be used when contacts are already in the eyes.
3. Change contact lens products
There are countless brands of contact lens solutions, but not all products are created equally. Brand name solutions advertise increased lens wettability and powerful disinfecting properties. On the other hand, generic brands may not have quite the same quality. If you are using a generic solution and it is not working for you, it may be beneficial to try the brand name product.
The main three categories of solutions are multi-purpose, hydrogen peroxide systems, and saline. Deposits of proteins and lipids from the tears can build up on the contact lenses. Comfort and vision with the lenses is correlated to the presence (or lack thereof) deposits on the contacts. Multi-purpose solutions are good for rinsing, storing, and disinfecting. A hydrogen peroxide cleaning system provides a deeper clean, but the hydrogen peroxide solution cannot be used for rinsing until the solution has neutralized using the special case included in the box. Saline solution is good for rinsing, but should never be used as a disinfectant for soaking overnight because there are no germ-killing properties in saline.
4. Talk to your eye doctor about switching modalities
Sometimes it is necessary to switch contact lens brands due to problems with the fit or lens material. Silicone and silicone hydrogel are the two main lens materials, and they have distinctively different properties. It is also possible that you may need to transition from a biweekly or monthly lens to a daily disposable. Because daily disposables are never reused, there are no accumulations of lens deposits from day-to-day.
If something doesn’t seem right, remove the contacts and call our office. Certain types of contact lens irritation can be a sign of a more serious corneal condition that requires urgent attention to avoid infection.