How can I make my contact lenses more comfortable?

A perfectly fit pair of contact lenses will be almost unnoticeable for hours a day. However, as the day goes on eye can become dry and irritable and maybe in need of a little extra help. For most problems, a couple of drops should refresh your eyes and keep you comfortable for longer.

Common Complaints

End of day discomfort

Many lens wearers experience discomfort towards the end of the day. Silicone hydrogel lenses have been designed to counter these problems by allowing a higher amount of oxygen to permeate the eye. Many of these specially designed lenses are also able to stay more hydrated throughout the day.

It is also common for people who experience contact lens induced dry eye to switch to a brand with lower water content. Although it sounds paradoxical, in some wearers, contact lenses with higher water content can become dryer more easily, which can exacerbate the symptoms of dry eye. Make sure you consult your optician, however, before switching lenses.

For some lens wearers end of day discomfort caused by lenses can be best resolved by reducing lens wear for a few hours a day, for example wearing your glasses in the evenings after work rather than leaving your lenses in until you go to bed.

Occasional dryness with contact lenses

Occasional eye dryness can be relieved temporarily by eye drops. However, you must make sure they are suitable for use with contact lenses. Not all drops are compatible with all lenses either, so it is important to get your optician's advice first.

For on-going symptoms, your optician may even suggest you switch your brand of lenses to those designed to combat dry eye.

Awareness of contact lenses while on the eye

If you can feel your contact lenses while wearing them, this could simply be a poor fitting. Just as all eyes are different, so are lenses, and they must be tailored to your specific requirements. You will be aware of the lens on your eye if the diameter or base curve has not been measured accurately. Similarly, if lenses are not curved enough, they can become dislodged when you blink.

Even if you take proper care of your lenses, over time they can develop residue, which you cannot remove. This too can make you increasingly aware of your lenses.

We recommend that you remove your contact lenses and wear your glasses until you've had a chance to speak to your optician: sometimes a change to your care products is all that is required, or you might need to switch to daily disposable lenses.

Stinging eyes

Stinging eyes can be a sign of contaminated lenses. As contact lenses absorb fluid, they also soak up any creams, oil, dirt or substances they come into contact with, which will sting when it touches your eye.

Always wash your hands thoroughly to prevent contamination before touching your lenses and eyes. Use soap that is free of perfumes and moisturising agents, as well as a clean towel.

Another option is to use daily disposable lenses; these prevent contamination because you discard rather than reuse them.

If you are unable to insert your lenses without experiencing discomfort we recommend that you do not wear them and consult your optician. In the meantime it would be a good idea to have a spare of glasses to wear.

Red, painful, swollen eyes which may produce discharge

If you experience painful and red, swollen eyes, and/or your eyes produce a discharge, stop wearing your lenses immediately and consult your optician. We recommend keeping a spare of glasses at home and in the office to wear encase you need to remove your lenses suddenly.

These symptoms can accompany serious eye conditions and you won't be able to feel comfortable in your lenses until this is treated. Continued wear of your lenses may even make this worse, regardless of what caused the infection.

Operating in dry and/or dusty environments

Wearing your contact lenses in dry, dusty or dirty conditions can cause them to dry out or for irritants to get attached to your lenses. Eye drops specifically designed for use with lenses can help to keep them hydrated throughout the day.

Allergy Sufferers

Many people with allergies notice their eyes are affected when they suffer. While allergies may affect your eyes, your lenses could also be involved as dirt or particles can stick to your lenses, causing them to become a constant source of irritation. Clean your lenses regularly to avoid this.

Discuss with your optician whether you need to switch lens care products or even change to daily disposable lenses. They may even be able to prescribe eye drops to alleviate the symptoms, which can include eye twitching.

Taking medications

Many medications can cause dry eyes, specifically those for allergies and blood pressure. You may only be using medication for a short while, in which case eye drops can help rehydrate your eyes (check they are suitable for use with lenses first) or you may even consider wearing glasses temporarily.

For dry eyes caused by long term medication, speak to your doctor or optician. They may have specific lenses which they think will help, or even suggest taking supplements such as flaxseed oil.

Lens wearers who drink alcohol, coffee and/or smoke

A lot of alcohol or caffeine in your diet can mean you need to drink more water. If you don't, your eyes will become dry and irritable. Eye dryness also brings with it other problems, such as twitching eyes.

You can choose to limit your intake of caffeine and alcohol or even by taking supplements such as flaxseed oil, which can improve your tear quality. Speak to your doctor or optician first for their recommendations.

Those who smoke are also at an increased risk of dry eye, as well as much more serious conditions such as macular degeneration.

Common Remedies

Below are some popular measures that can be taken against contact lens induced dry eye syndrome. If your eyes do not look or feel healthy, remove your lenses immediately and speak to your optician.

Contact Lenses for Dry Eyes

There are several kinds of contact lenses which might help dry eye. Your optician may suggest one of these if your lenses fit fine but you still suffer discomfort. As products evolve more rapidly, it is possible these lenses are a lot more comfortable than your old ones.

Silicone hydrogel lense: These soft lenses allow a higher amount of Oxygen to reach the eye for more comfortable wear.

Low water lenses: It might seem strange, but sometimes contact lenses with higher water content are more prone to dehydrating in dry conditions.

Daily disposable lenses: Daily disposable lenses will ensure there is no build-up on your lens, as can happen with two-weekly and monthly lenses. These are best for allergy sufferers or if your tears behave in such a way that residue clings to your lenses.

Dry eye lenses: Some brands of soft lenses are specially approved for dry eye syndrome, such as Proclear lenses from CooperVision. Your optician will also be able to recommend other brands that are believed to react well to dry eye syndrome.

Eye Drops: These are a temporary way of replenishing the fluid in your eye; however, not all eye drops can be used with contact lenses, so speak to your optician first. In some instances eye drops can also discolour lenses.