Contact Lens Irritation: Common Causes and Solutions

Contact lenses are a great alternative to glasses for active people who want to maintain crisp vision without their glasses getting in the way. Unlike spectacles, they don’t need to be constantly cleaned of smudges and dirt, and depending on the type you get, they can be a practical solution that requires minimal care and attention. But still, they can irritate the eyes in some cases which causes discomfort to the wearer. Here are some of the common causes of contact lens irritation and how you can resolve the problem. 

Dry eyes

Dryness can occur at any time - it’s caused when the eyes don’t produce enough tears to moisturise and lubricate the eyes. If you wear contact lenses, you might be particularly familiar with the dryness of the eyes. It can be exacerbated by air conditioning in shops and offices, by smoking or even chronic medical conditions like dry eye syndrome. An easy way to resolve this issue is to lubricate the eyes with drops – making sure they’re safe to use with your lenses – or speak to your optician about switching to a different brand of lenses that are more moisturising. 

Burning And Itchiness

Burning and itchiness can be caused by allergic reactions or bacterial infections such as conjunctivitis. The first port of call is to check you’re not suffering with an eye infection, as this can cause redness and itchiness. Antibiotics will be needed to remove the infection which your doctor can prescribe to you. 

But if you’re only affected when you’re wearing your lenses, it is worth speaking to your optician about switching to a lens made from a different material, such as silicone hydrogel contact lenses which are soft and renowned for their comfort levels, or changing to the cleaning solution you’re using, as this can be irritating for some people due to the preservatives in the liquid. Your eye doctor might also suggest anti-inflammatory eye drops to treat the condition. 

alergic reaction

Discharge

Discharge from the eyes is a common sign of an infection, such as conjunctivitis. Contact lens wearers can be prone to eye infections if they’re not cleaning their lenses thoroughly enough as lenses can harbour bacteria and debris. Likewise, if fresh solution isn’t used to clean the lenses or if the storage container isn’t cleaned thoroughly, bacteria can develop. Eye infections will require antibiotics to treat the condition, but it’s also important that you replace your storage container completely to avoid transferring any germs to your lenses. 

Make sure you’re washing and drying your hands thoroughly before taking your lenses out or putting a pair in, and that you’re rubbing the surface of the lens for around 30 seconds with a clean solution to ensure the lens is completely free from debris and bacteria. Daily disposables can be a handy option if you’re finding cleaning your lenses inconvenient. 

Blurred Vision

Whether you’re new to wearing contact lenses or you’re a seasoned pro, you may have noticed that blurred vision can sometimes occur with contacts. This typically occurs when your lenses are either dirty or damaged, but in more severe cases, it can be a sign of cataracts, macular degeneration or glaucoma, or an eye infection.

The corneas need plenty of oxygen from tears which keep the eyes moist and comfortable. But if there’s a seal formed from contacts, this can make it difficult for the oxygen to pass through. The solution may be a steroid prescription to allow your corneas to heal fully and reduce the swelling that may have occurred. Or your optician might suggest gas permeable lenses which allow oxygen through to the corneas so they can still breathe. 

blurred vision

Grittiness

You may be suffering from a gritty feeling in your eyes if your eyes are irritated or if you have developed an infection such as pink eye. Grittiness occurs when small particles sit on the lens, but these could scratch your corneas which can cause injury to your eyes and impact your vision. So, it’s important that you get this issue checked by your eye doctor if you notice it. 

Contact lens wearers need to be cautious of grittiness, as debris and dust can get caught on the surface of the lens which can then be rubbed into the eyes. Make sure that you’re cleaning your lenses carefully and that they are stored in a sterile container filled with fresh solution. You should also rinse your eyes with fresh, clean water when you’ve removed your lenses to flush out any potential grit. If the cause of the gritty feeling is from an infection, you will need to resolve this issue with antibiotics which should solve the gritty sensation. 

Fit Issues

While it may seem like contact lenses are all the same shape, the reality is that everyone’s eyes are different and not all types of contacts will fit comfortably. Your lenses need to be properly fitted to prevent irritation and discomfort, as lenses that don’t fit correctly will feel as though there is something in your eye that shouldn’t be there. 

When you have an appointment with an optician, they will assess your eyes and their shape to determine the prescription you need and the type of contacts that will work best for your eyes. If you’re finding that your lenses are causing you irritation, it may be worth making an appointment with your eye doctor to be checked to see if another type of lens is better suited to your needs. 

Final Thoughts

Contact lenses are great for keeping your vision clear without the burden of wearing glasses. But they do require care to ensure you’re not at risk of infections or damaging your eyes. Make sure that the lenses you wear are the right material for your needs and that you maintain a thorough cleaning schedule every day to prevent bacteria from developing on the surface of the lens.