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Can You Wear Contact Lenses with Dry Eye Syndrome?

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A man wearing contact lenses in front of a mirror.

Dry eye syndrome affects millions of people worldwide, causing discomfort, irritation, and sometimes vision disturbances. 

Managing dry eye syndrome can pose challenges for individuals who rely on contact lenses for vision correction. Contact lenses can interfere with the natural tear film on the eye’s surface, causing further dryness and irritation. Due to reduced tear production, contact lens wearers may also experience difficulty inserting and removing lenses. However, you can wear contact lenses even with dry eye syndrome; you may just need to care for your eyes more diligently. 

It’s important to check your eyes with regular eye exams and work with your doctor at St. Clair Eye Clinic on a treatment plan for dry eye relief. 

Understanding Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome occurs when the eyes fail to produce sufficient tears or when the quality of tears does not effectively maintain moisture. This condition can arise from various factors, including aging, hormonal shifts, exposure to excessive sunlight, or living in environments with dry or polluted air. Additionally, prolonged screen time or residing in windy, low-humidity areas may exacerbate symptoms.

Symptoms of Dry Eye

Individuals experiencing dry eye may notice the following symptoms: 

  • Sensations of grittiness
  • Redness
  • Stinging or burning of the eyes 
  • Excessive amount of tears  

Treatments for Dry Eye

While no definitive cure for dry eye syndrome exists, various treatments can help alleviate symptoms. These include over-the-counter eye drops, warm compresses, and possibly prescription medications for more severe cases. Advanced treatments such as tear duct plugs or procedures utilizing heat or light to stimulate gland function may be recommended for persistent symptoms.

Intense Regulated Pulsed Light (IRPL)

Intense regulated pulsed light, or IRPL for short, is a treatment for dry eyes. It can also help with more complex issues like ocular rosacea and even age-related macular degeneration.

The procedure is relatively simple. Your optometrist will have you wear protective glasses, and then the IRPL device delivers a series of targeted light flashes. The entire process takes only about 5 minutes per eye. Patients often report a noticeable improvement after just a few treatments. 

While wearing contact lenses with dry eye syndrome may present challenges, several potential solutions and strategies are available.

Switching to Moisture-Rich Lenses

Some contact lens brands offer lenses specifically designed for individuals with dry eyes. These lenses are made from materials that retain moisture and help keep the eyes hydrated throughout the day.

Using Lubricating Eye Drops

A woman applying eyedrops on her right eye to lubricate it and prevent it from drying.

Lubricating eye drops can help alleviate dryness and irritation associated with contact lens wear. These drops can be used before inserting lenses and throughout the day to maintain comfort.

Limiting Wear Time

Individuals with dry eye syndrome may find limiting their contact lens wear time helpful. Wearing lenses for shorter durations, particularly in environments with low humidity or increased screen time, can reduce discomfort and minimize symptoms.

Wearing Contact Lenses with Dry Eye Syndrome

For individuals who wear contact lenses and experience dry eye syndrome, navigating comfort challenges can be quite complex. Dry eye disease, often exacerbated by meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), significantly affects the wearing of contact lenses, potentially leading to discomfort and the sensation of irritants in the eyes, even in restful conditions.

The issue with contact lenses exacerbating dry eyes primarily stems from their placement directly on the cornea, which can restrict oxygen flow to the eye. This oxygen reduction can accelerate eye dryness, creating a sensation akin to having a barrier that limits breathing efficiency.

However, it’s crucial not to discard contact lenses as viable options. Proper lens maintenance, including thorough cleaning and disinfection, is essential in managing this condition. Additionally, resisting the urge to rub the eyes can prevent further irritation and dryness.

Ultimately, for those dealing with dry eye syndrome, wearing contact lenses is a journey of finding the right combination of solutions to mitigate discomfort. It’s a collaborative effort involving individuals and their eye care professionals to prioritize the health and comfort of the eyes.

Important Considerations

Before wearing contact lenses with dry eye syndrome, it’s important to consult with an eye care professional. They can evaluate your eye health, assess the severity of dry eye symptoms, and recommend appropriate solutions tailored to your individual needs.

Additionally, individuals with dry eye syndrome should monitor their eye health and seek prompt medical attention if symptoms worsen or if they experience any signs of infection or inflammation.

Navigating Contact Lens Wear with Dry Eye Syndrome

While wearing contact lenses with dry eye syndrome may present challenges, solutions exist that allow for comfortable and safe lens wear. 

By working closely with your eye care professional at St. Clair Eye Clinic and exploring different options, individuals with dry eyes can enjoy the benefits of contact lenses while minimizing discomfort and maintaining optimal eye health. Book an appointment with us to go over treatment options! 

Ultimately, the key is to prioritize eye health, listen to your body, and take proactive steps to manage dry eye symptoms effectively. 

Written by Dr. Neel Vyas

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