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Can People With Dry Eyes Wear Contacts?

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A woman putting a contact lens into her right eye.

Can People With Dry Eyes Wear Contacts?

Wearing contact lenses with dry eye disease can be complex. Because contact lenses sit on the eye surface and involve more interaction with the eye, there is more likelihood of irritation due to dirt and dust entering the eye, which can worsen dry eye. 

By working closely with an eye doctor, you can access different strategies to manage dry eye and learn about the many options available to you to make contact lenses beneficial and straightforward to use.

What is Dry Eye?

Dry eye disease causes your eyes to feel gritty, irritated, and generally uncomfortable. Dry eye occurs when your eyes either don’t produce enough tears or produce tears that aren’t of high enough quality. 

Your tears work by keeping your eye surface moisturized and free from obstructions like dust particles and dirt. When you produce high-quality tears in a good quantity, your eye surface is properly lubricated every time you blink. 

Tears contain three layers:

  • The outer lipid layer contains oils produced by your meibomian glands that stop your tears from evaporating too quickly
  • The middle aqueous layer moisturizes and cleans the eye surface, helping your eyes feel healthy and reducing irritation
  • The outer mucin layer is essential because it helps spread tears along the eye surface and ensures they stick to it

Each of these layers must work adequately to facilitate proper tear function. Dry eye can be caused by meibomian gland dysfunction, where the gland is blocked and can’t deliver the important oil to the lipid layer. Other factors can restrict the lacrimal gland from producing enough tears. Each of these layers must work adequately to facilitate proper tear function.

Dry eye symptoms can occur when these layers of your tears don’t work together simultaneously. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Itchy eyes
  • Stinging sensation
  • Red eyes
  • Light sensitivity
  • Eye fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Watery eyes

Another important dry eye symptom to watch out for is difficulty wearing contact lenses. 

A woman with dry eyes putting a contact lens into her right eye.

Wearing Contact Lenses with Dry Eyes

Contact lenses sit directly on the surface of your eye, providing relief for eye conditions such as myopia and hyperopia. Because they sit directly on the eye, as opposed to in front of it like eyeglasses, contact lenses can worsen dry eye symptoms

Contact lens wear can be difficult for people with dry eye. When you use contact lenses for long periods, you can cause dry eye symptoms. Extended use of contact lenses can obstruct your tear film and block your eye surface from getting the moisture it needs. Poor cleaning and sanitization practices and improper care can worsen dry eye symptoms because dirt and grime can cause blockages in your meibomian and lacrimal glands.

Fortunately, some options are available to reduce the risk of developing dry eye symptoms.

Scleral Lenses

Scleral lenses are specialty contact lenses that sit on the sclera instead of the cornea. The sclera is the white part of your eye, while your cornea is the transparent outer layer in front of your iris and pupil. 

Scleral lenses are larger in diameter than regular contact lenses and are most commonly used for people with irregularly-shaped corneas. They span over the corneal surface, leaving a small space for tears to collect in front of the cornea. This space helps keep the eye surface lubricated and helps prevent dry eye symptoms.

Eye Drops

Your doctor can recommend eye drops, otherwise known as artificial tears, to provide short-term relief from dry eye symptoms caused by contact lenses. It’s important not just to choose any over-the-counter eye drops because there are personalized factors your eye doctor can take into account to relieve your specific dry eye condition. 

Dry Eye Therapy

Dry eye requires a specific, personalized treatment plan for each person. No two people have the same dry eye. Working with an eye doctor to access dry eye therapy can make a difference in your overall dry eye symptoms, making it easier to wear contact lenses. 

Dry eye therapy can include treatment for meibomian gland dysfunction, omega-3 supplements, prescription eye drops, and more. 

Dry Eye Treatment in Lincoln

Living with dry eye disease isn’t easy. It shouldn’t stand in the way of living the life you want, especially if you prefer to wear contact lenses. Having a Lincoln eye doctor on your side can significantly benefit your journey toward dry eye relief.

Book an appointment with us at Signature Eye Care in Lincoln. We’ll begin your path to overcoming dry eye and ensuring contact lens comfort, from proper diagnosis to developing a specialized, comprehensive treatment plan.

Written by Dr. Jonathan Knutson

As a Doctor of Optometry, Dr. Knutson’s commitment to patients is his ongoing professional education. He takes pride in staying up-to-date as technology changes to ensure he can provide the latest and greatest care for your eyes. Dr. Knutson enjoys entertaining and is committed to providing a fun and enjoyable experience for his patients. He genuinely cares about his patients, placing utmost importance on the satisfaction of his care and products.
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