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3 Insider Tips From An Eye Doctor If You Wear Contacts & Have Dry Eyes

As awareness about dry eye syndrome grows, more and more people are speaking up about the uncomfortable symptoms of dry, stinging, burning, gritty, red, or watery eyes. One recent study estimates that approximately 16 million Americans have been diagnosed with dry eye syndrome, while there are still many others who say they do suffer from troublesome dry eye symptoms but have not yet been diagnosed by an eye doctor.

Research reinforces just how much of a negative effect irritating symptoms can have on those who struggle with dry eye syndrome. For those who wear contact lenses and have dry eye symptoms, the discomfort is all too real. 

In fact, about 30% of the 140 million people who wear contact lenses worldwide quit wearing them because of dry eye symptoms. Plus, people who wear contact lenses are four-times more likely to develop dry eye symptoms than those who do wear contacts.

However, Dr. Thompson, at Hardin Valley Eyecare & Optical says that there 3 proven choices you can make if you have dry eye symptoms and wish to wear contact lenses more comfortably. 

Choose The Right Eye Drops

If you’ve spent any amount of time looking at the shelves of artificial tears and eye drops in your local drug store, you know that the various types and brands can make your head spin. It also doesn’t help that choosing the wrong eye drops can actually make your dry eye symptoms worse, and that’s true whether you wear contact lenses or not. In addition, not all eye drops are designed and approved for use with all contact lenses.

Dr. Thompson says, “The best drops to use for dryness with contact lenses are those that are labeled as preservative-free artificial tears. The brand Refresh makes a few different kinds, and in my experience they are the best.” The preservatives in many eye drops can make symptoms of stinging, burning, or water eyes worse.

He also adds that you should avoid using eye drops that are advertised “to get the red out” since those are meant to constrict the tiny blood vessels in the white of the eyes. Shrinking these blood vessels may temporarily eliminate the appearance of red eyes, but that doesn’t treat the underlying dryness problem.

Choose Daily Lenses 

There are many types of contact lenses available today, from daily lenses made to be discarded after one use to longer term extended wear lenses. Dr. Thompson says, “Daily disposable lenses are the absolute best option if you have any discomfort with contact lenses.”

To start with, the CDC reports that approximately 99% of people surveyed admitted to at least one hygiene behavior associated with caring for their contact lenses that would increase their risk of eye infection or inflammation. As you can imagine, cutting even the slightest corner in contact lens maintenance that might increase the chance of inflammation or infection doesn’t help with dry eye symptoms.

Even if you are meticulous about carefully cleaning your lenses after every single wear, longer-use lenses can accumulate built-up deposits that add to your discomfort, especially if you suffer from airborne allergens that can stick to your lenses. In addition, depending on the chemistry of your tears, difficult-to-remove proteins and lipids can accumulate on your lenses. 

The bottom line is that any type of debris or proteins that builds up on your contact lenses over time makes it harder for tears to spread evenly across the surface of your eyes. 

Starting each day with a new pair of lenses will help eliminate the opportunity for any type of build up. It will also take you off-the-hook if you do tend to have lapses in how carefully you care for and maintain your lenses.

Choose The Right Solution

Now, if you’re not able to choose daily lenses for one reason or another and you do choose weekly or monthly extended-wear lenses, the type of disinfecting solution you use can make a big difference. 

Dr. Thompson says, “Hydrogen-peroxide based cleaners, like Clear Care, are the best for getting the proteins and allergens off of the lenses to make them the most comfortable.” 

He recommends avoiding any off-brand solutions like Equate or big-box store private label solutions. Solutions that aren’t as high in quality may not be as compatible with your contacts or may degrade the quality of your lenses, which can affect comfort, not to mention visual quality.

If you wear contact lenses and experience symptoms of dry eyes, try these 3 tips to see if your discomfort subsides. You’ll also want to keep in mind that the symptoms and severity of dry eye syndrome tend to be chronic and progressive, particularly as you age, if they aren’t addressed. 

As a result, it’s important to understand the cause of your dry eye symptoms and if there might be other steps you can take so that your everyday activities aren’t negatively impacted. Your eye doctor can test the quality of your tears and how quickly your tear film evaporates, both of which may inform other recommendations for your dry eye syndrome.

Hardin Valley Eyecare & Optical has the experience and expertise to diagnose and treat eye diseases, including dry eye syndrome. Our eye care professionals are dedicated to providing exceptional personal service to each and every person who walks through our door. Stop by our practice at 10904 Spring Bluff Way off Hardin Valley Road, call us at (865) 409-1253, or request an appointment online.