What is dry eye syndrome?
According to the NHS, dry eye syndrome (DES), also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) is an eye condition characterised by the tear ducts in the eyes not making enough tears or when the tears that are produced dry out too quickly. There are many reasons why tear production can be affected, including hormones, environmental conditions, looking at the computer screen for too long, and as a side effect of certain medications.
Symptoms of dry eyes
You may have chronic dry eyes if you have one or a combination of symptoms from the list below:
- Dry, gritty, itchy or sore eyes
- Watery eyes
- Red eyes
- Tired eyes
- Stinging eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Blurred vision
What are the causes of dry eyes?
Dry eyes are hard to avoid as a contact lens wearer, but knowing the common causes of this eye problem can help you reduce the impact and frequency of your dry eyes.
- Insufficient oxygen flow to produce natural tears. Consult your optician or eye doctor if you think this is the case for you
- Overwear can lead to your eyes not getting the rest they need. We recommend wearers take one day off a week if possible
- Eye infections like conjunctivitis (swelling of the conjunctiva), blepharitis or a corneal infection
- Wearing the wrong prescription can lead to dry eyes
- Your eyes have changed shape, so your lenses don't fit properly
- Aerial allergens like pollen and dust can irritate your eyes, leading to allergic reactions and discomfort
- Air conditioning, humidifiers and humid conditions are often the cause of dry eyes
- The natural process of ageing and hormonal changes like menopause
- Health conditions and diseases, including diabetes, high blood pressure, lupus, vitamin A deficiency, meibomian gland dysfunction, sjögren's syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis
- The side effects of certain over-the-counter drugs like antihistamines, decongestants, antidepressants and beta-blockers
- Outdoor environments that can cause tear evaporation and blurry vision like wind, smoke, dust and dry air
- Tear gland damage, eye diseases or after eye surgery
- Consuming diuretic liquids like alcohol, coffee and tea
Dry eye treatments
Suffering from dry eyes is one of the leading reasons why contact lens wearers turn back to glasses. However, there are many easy, practical treatment options to avoid dry eyes:
In more severe cases, reach out to your optometrist for advice.
Why do contact lenses give you dry eyes?
When wearing contact lenses for a long period your eyes can dry out. Slightly different to dry eyes syndrome or dry eye disease, contact lens-induced dry eyes (CLIDE) occurs because the thin layer of contact lens material on your cornea limits oxygen flow to the surface of the eyes. Without a steady flow of oxygen, your eyes struggle to develop natural tears.
Unfortunately, as a contact lens wearer, you're predisposed to sometimes experiencing dry eyes. However, modern-day contact lenses are designed to be as porous as possible to allow more oxygen to reach the eye, and this goes some way to reducing the impact of CLIDE.
Which contact lenses are best for dry eyes?
Daily disposable contact lenses
Daily disposable contact lenses or dailies as they're also known are a great option for wearers with dry eyes because they're thrown away at the end of each day's use. Because of this, they're more hygienic than lenses requiring overnight storage. The reason being is that protein and dirt deposits, which can cause discomfort, are less likely to build up. The problem of lenses drying out due to incomplete cleaning is also prevented.
Some of the most popular daily disposables for dry eyes are Focus Dailies AquaComfort Plus, everclear ADM and 1-Day Acuvue Moist.
Silicone hydrogel contact lenses
Silicone hydrogel contact lenses are made from the latest and most innovative contact lens material available. They're a popular choice for contact lens wearers, not just because they're comfortable for wearers with dry eyes, but because they offer more comfort than traditional hydrogel lenses. Silicone hydrogel lenses are also popular because they pass up to 5 times more oxygen to the eye compared to hydrogel.
Low water contact lenses
It's a common misconception to think that the lenses with the highest water content offer the most comfort. For some wearers, especially those with dry eyes the opposite effect can be experienced. This is because the moisture in the lens can draw out the eye's natural tears. High water content lenses can also become dehydrated more quickly due to environmental factors like air conditioning and prolonged screen use.
Water content mostly ranges between 38% to 79%, so if you think a lower water content lens might make a difference please check whether they are compatible with your prescription.
What are the best eye drops for dry eyes?
Eye drops such as everclear eye drops, Hycosan, Blink Contacts, and Artelac Rebalance are easy to use eye drops that moisten and refresh eyes, acting as artificial tears, helping to reduce discomfort and increasing lubrication. This means you can wear your contacts for longer periods without experiencing dryness.
What are the best eye vitamins for dry eyes?
Eye vitamins can increase the supply of nutrients your eyes receive each day and not only improve eye health but decrease contact lens and dry eye discomfort, eye problems, as well as eye diseases. The most effective eye vitamins products include lutein and zeaxanthin. Research also suggests vitamin A, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids aid in lubricating the eye, and reducing dry eye symptoms.
At Vision Direct we stock some of the UK's leading eye vitamins including Ocuvite Lutein and PreserVision Original Soft Gels.
Best contact lens solutions
If you wear monthly or two-weekly lenses you'll be using a contact lens solution to clean and store your lenses. It's important to stick to your recommended solution, and only change when you're advised it's appropriate to do so by experts. A note of caution, not all multi-purpose solutions are designed for usage with silicone hydrogel lenses, so make sure the solution you're using is compatible.
Some dry eye discomfort can be caused by the preservatives in solutions. If you're finding your eyes feel irritated we recommend a preservative-free lens solution, for instance, AOsept Plus HydraGlyde. Some contact lens solutions when packaged are too large to fit through a letterbox, for convenient letterbox-friendly delivery try everclear Flat Pack Multipurpose Solution.