What To Look for in Contact Lenses If You Have Dry Eyes

Millions of people choose to wear contact lenses instead of glasses, for a variety of reasons. For some, they’re more convenient and make activities such as sport easier to manage without the risk of your glasses falling off, while others prefer their appearance without glasses. 

But if you’re someone who suffers from dry eye syndrome, you might find that wearing lenses can be uncomfortable and irritating. But all is not lost – you can still wear lenses if you have dry eyes, but you may need to consider a few factors when finding the right option for you. Here’s what to look for in contact lenses if you have dry eyes. 

What is dry eye syndrome?

Dry eye syndrome affects millions of people around the world and there are several causes for it. Damage to the tear glands or skin around the eyes can cause this condition, as well as certain autoimmune conditions. Medicines such as antidepressants, blood pressure medications, birth control pills and antihistamines can all affect your eyes, along with changes to your hormones. 

Dry eye syndrome develops when the eyes don’t produce enough tears to keep the eye moist and comfortable. It can cause pain, a burning sensation or a gritty feeling in the eyes, while some people may also experience blurred vision. 

What options are available?

Your optician can work with you to find the right brand of lenses that will be more comfortable for you if you have dry eyes. In addition to lubricating eye drops, there are a few options to choose from in terms of materials too. 

Lens material

here are several lens materials available. Soft contact lenses are made from a flexible form of plastic which enable oxygen to pass through the lens easily, although you can also choose rigid gas-permeable lenses which are firmer but also allow plenty of oxygen to pass through. This is important for your eye health and keeps the eye lubricated and comfortable. 

Soft lenses are made from a material known as hydrogel which contains a higher percentage of water and can help with keeping the eyes moist. However, whatever lenses you choose, make sure you maintain good hygiene by changing your lenses daily if you use disposables, or cleaning them thoroughly with a clean solution if you use monthly lenses. 

If you suffer from dry eyes, silicone hydrogel lenses are a great option, as they don’t allow water to evaporate as easily which can reduce the symptoms of dry eyes more effectively as standard hydrogel lenses. They’re recommended by many opticians for this reason. 

contact lens package

Water content

Contact lenses are categorised based on the water level they contain – high-water content lenses may seem like they’re a better option, but they are more likely to cause dry eyes than those with a low-water content, as they send more moisture to the eyes initially but then dry out more quickly. It may be worth experimenting with different water contents to find the one that works best for your eyes. 

Lens size

The standard size of most contact lenses is around 9mm, covering just the iris in the eye. However, scleral lenses measure much larger at between 15 and 22mm and they cover much of the white of the eye as well as the iris. These types of lenses are usually gas-permeable, and they let plenty of oxygen through to the eye’s surface which can help with dry eyes. 

Change solutions

The issue might not be with your lenses but rather with the solution you’ve been using to clean and store them. Some solutions contain certain preservatives, and these can cause dryness and irritation. If you suspect that the solution might be the irritating factor impacting your dry eyes, speak to your optician who can suggest a different brand to try.

Dailies or disposables?

The use of disposable lenses can also help with dryness and provide more comfortable wear. This is because the lenses are only used once so there’s much less chance of dirt and debris from building upon the surface of the lens, causing irritation. 

Monthly lenses need to be cleaned after every wear and stored in fresh saline solution to maintain their cleanliness and shouldn’t be stored or reused for longer than 30 days, as the risk of protein deposits developing on the surface becomes much higher and this can increase the chance of dryness. 

contact lens case

Maintaining proper aftercare

Whatever lenses you choose, there are a few things you can do to improve the comfort of wearing them.

Firstly, make sure you’re practicing good hygiene by washing and drying your hands thoroughly before touching your lenses to avoid transferring germs and debris to the lens. Never sleep with your lenses in, unless you specifically have extended wear contacts, as this can increase the risk of developing an infection and can also prevent oxygen from getting to the eye which can cause vision problems. 

It's also worth going lens-free for a few hours each day, as wearing your lenses for too long can exacerbate dryness. In particularly bad periods of dry eyes, it can be beneficial to go a day or two without wearing your lenses at all, to give your eyes a break and to allow them to breathe fully.

Finally, increase the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet which can be beneficial for dry eyes and help maintain healthy vision. If you’re struggling with dry eyes consistently, speak to your optician to check that there’s not an underlying issue causing your symptoms. 

Final thoughts

Dry eyes don’t need to prevent you from enjoying the convenience and benefits of contact lenses, but it is important to choose the right brand to prevent your symptoms from getting worse. It’s worth noting that if you’re using eye drops, you should check you’re using a brand that’s suitable for lens wearers so as not to make your dryness or irritation worse.