Dry Eyes and Contact Lenses

What is dry eyes syndrome?

According to the NHS, dry eyes syndrome is an eye condition characterised by the eyes not making enough natural 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, and as a side effect of certain medications.

Why do contact lenses give you dry eyes?

When wearing contact lenses your eyes can dry out. Slightly different to dry eyes syndrome, contact lens induced dry eyes (CLIDE) occurs because the thin layer of contact lens material on your retina limits oxygen flow to the eyes. Without a steady flow of oxygen your eyes struggle to develop natural tears.

Unfortunately, as a contact lens wearer you are 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.

Symptoms of contact lens dry eye

You may have dry eyes if you have one or a combination of symptoms from the list below:

  • Dry, gritty, itchy or sore eyes
  • Red eyes
  • Tired or fatigued eyes
  • Stinging
  • Soreness
  • Light sensitivity
  • Blurry vision

Causes of dry eyes

Dry eyes are hard to avoid as a contact lens wearer, but knowing the causes can help you reduce the impact and frequency of your dry eyes.

  • Insufficient oxygen flow - to produce natural tears. Consult your optician if you think this is the case for you.
  • Overwear - can lead to your eyes not getting the rest they need. We recommend wearers to take off one day a week if possible.
  • 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 discomfort.
  • Air conditioning and humid conditions - are often the cause of dry eyes.

Solutions to dry eyes

Suffering with dry eyes is one of the leading reasons why contact lens wearers turn back to glasses. However, there are many easy, practical steps you can take to minimise dry eyes:

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 are 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 are a popular choice for contact lens wearers, not just because they're comfortable for wearers with dry eye, 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, which helps to reduce discomfort. This means you can wear your contacts longer without experiencing dry eye symptoms.

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. The most effective eye vitamins products include lutein and zeaxanthin. Research also suggests Vitamin A, Vitamin D and Omega-3 demonstrates a reduction of dry eyes symptoms.

At Vision Direct we stock some of the UK's leading eye vitamins including: ICaps-One-A-Day, 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 Renu Multi Purpose Solution or 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.