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How to Deal with Contact Lens Discomfort

Do your eyes itch or burn when wearing contact lenses? There are several reasons why you may be experiencing contact lens discomfort. Discover the possible causes behind the problem and see what you can do to relieve your discomfort.

What Causes Contact Lens Discomfort?

Some of the top causes of uncomfortable contacts are:

Dry eyes

Dry eye syndrome is a common condition that arises when your tears can’t keep your eyes sufficiently lubricated due to an imbalance in the tear film. Certain diseases, medications and environmental factors, like high levels of dryness and wind, can cause or contribute to red, itchy or irritated eyes, especially when wearing contacts.

Allergies

Allergens are typically harmless substances that induce an allergic response in certain people. Pollen, mold, dust and pet dander are some of the most common airborne allergens that trigger eye allergies. Cosmetics and certain eye drops, such as artificial tears with preservatives, can also induce eye allergies, which can make contact lens wear uncomfortable.

Corneal irregularities

The cornea at the front of the eye may be irregularly shaped due to astigmatism, keratoconus, eye surgeries (i.e. LASIK or cataract surgery), eye injuries or burns, scarring, corneal ulcers and/or severe dry eye. Irregular corneas often prevent traditional contact lenses from fitting correctly and comfortably.

Symptoms of Contact Lens Discomfort

  • Burning, itchy, stinging eyes
  • Sensation of something being stuck is in the eye
  • Excessive watering or tearing of the eyes
  • Unusual eye secretions
  • Redness of the eyes
  • Reduced sharpness of vision
  • Blurred vision, rainbows, or halos around objects
  • Sensitivity to light

How to Relieve Contact Lens Discomfort

Try Different Contact Lenses

Nowadays, there are many types of contact lenses on the market, including specialty contacts for dry eyes and astigmatism. Meet with our optometrist for a personalized eye exam for contacts.

With the variety of contact lens brands available, switching to a different contact lens may be the simplest answer if you’re experiencing discomfort that isn’t connected to improper fitting or issues with tear production. If your existing lenses fit well but still irritate and dry out your eyes, speak to us about trying a different design or brand of contact lenses, or changing your lens-wearing schedule.

Artificial Tears or Eye Drops

Over-the-counter artificial tears or eye drops are a common way to temporarily relieve contact lens discomfort. However, it’s important to keep in mind that unless prescribed by an eye doctor, they may not be treating the root of the problem.

Moreover, certain eye drops are incompatible with contact lenses, and may damage your contacts or harm your eyes. We also recommend staying away from products that claim to remove redness from your eyes, which temporarily reduce the size of blood vessels to lessen redness, but do not address the underlying cause of the condition, and can actually worsen it over time.

Take Good Care of Your Lenses

Inadequate contact lens care leaves residue on your lenses, which can discomfort, harmful eye infections and inflammation. Below are a few important contact lens hygiene guidelines to follow:

  • Before handling your contact lenses, thoroughly wash and dry your hands.
  • Remove your lenses before showering, bathing or swimming to prevent infection.
  • Do not sleep in your contact lenses (unless they are approved for sleeping).
  • Replace your contact lenses according to the manufacturer’s instructions (e.g., don’t reuse daily wear lenses).
  • Regularly clean your contact lens case and ask your eye doctor when to replace it.
  • Only use a contact lens solution that is appropriate for your lenses.
  • Never reuse or mix contact lens solutions.
  • Schedule regular appointments with your eye doctor.

If you are experiencing discomfort with your contact lenses, get in touch with West Orange Family Eyecare in West Orange today. We’ll get to the bottom of the problem and provide effective solutions for all-day comfort.

Schedule an contact lenses eye exam with West Orange Family Eyecare in West Orange, New Jersey to check your eye health today!

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Q&A

What kinds of contacts are available?

Contact lenses are available in a wide range of materials and replacement schedules. Disposable contact lenses and extended wear contacts are the most convenient for many users.

I’ve already been fitted for contact lenses, so why did my optometrist ask me to come back?

If you’re asked to return a week later, it’s because your optometrist wants to rule out any issues, such as contact lens-related dry eye or irritation.

If it’s been around a year since your last eye checkup, you’ve likely been contacted to check whether your prescription has changed and to evaluate your eye health. The sooner problems are detected and treated, the better the outcome.

Is It Really That Bad to Sleep or Shower In Contact Lenses?

Is it safe to wear contact lenses while showering or sleeping?

No. It’s absolutely not safe to wear contacts while immersed in water or when sleeping (unless you have contacts specifically intended for overnight wear). 

Sleeping in your contact lenses can dry out your eyes and potentially harm your vision as a result of infection. Contact lenses should also be kept away from water as it’s a natural breeding ground for bacteria and microorganisms, which can get trapped under the contact lens, putting you at risk of a waterborne eye infection. 

Why Does Sleeping in Contacts Increase the Risk of Infection?

To stay healthy, your corneas require hydration and oxygen. Blinking keeps your eyes wet, and the tears you produce allow oxygen to enter your eyes. 

Sleeping in standard contacts limits the amount of oxygen and hydration that reach your eyes. As a result, your corneas are more dry and susceptible to corneal abrasion, and they have a harder time fighting bacteria, causing your eyes to be more prone to infection. 

If, after sleeping in contact lenses, you experience blurred vision, discharge from your eyes, redness or watering, you may have an eye infection. Left untreated, infection can lead to corneal damage, and—in extreme cases—loss of vision.

What are the Risks of Showering While Wearing Contacts?

Contact lens wearers are more likely to develop keratitis, an inflammation of the cornea, if their lenses come into contact with water. Left untreated, keratitis can cause vision loss. 

In microbial keratitis, microorganisms invade the cornea and cause an infection of the eye. The microorganisms that cause these infections can be found in a variety of water sources, including rivers, lakes and streams, showers, tap, a pool or jacuzzi. Normally, the antimicrobial properties of tears protect your eyes, but that process is hindered by contact lenses.

Furthermore, contact lenses can stick to your eye when exposed to water, potentially leading to corneal abrasions. These scratches may enable microorganisms found in non-sterile water to penetrate the cornea and cause an infection.

Eye Care Tips for Contact Lens Wearers

  • In order to avoid eye infections, it’s important to follow the tips below. However, do not consider these tips as medical advice. Always speak to your eye doctor for individual advice on wearing and caring for your contact lenses.
  • Avoid water while wearing contacts. Keep your contacts away from water. Make sure to remove your contacts before showering, bathing, or swimming. Don’t rinse or store your contacts in water, and if it does occur, make sure to throw away or disinfect them thoroughly.
  • Don’t sleep in your contacts. Avoid wearing your contacts when sleeping, unless you have special overnight lenses or your eye doctor has told you that it’s safe to do so.
  • Use clean hands. Always wash your hands and dry them thoroughly before touching your contacts.
  • Follow product instructions. Always follow the directions when cleaning or disinfecting your contacts.
  • Store contacts properly. Make sure your contacts are exclusively stored in fresh contact lens solution. Never reuse old solution.
  • Wear contacts for the proper length of time. Avoid wearing your contacts for longer than the recommended time period.

So, remove those lenses before going to bed and showering. If you experience symptoms like eye pain, discharge, or sensitivity to light, immediately remove your lenses and consult West Orange Family Eyecare in West Orange without delay.

Q&A

Who can wear contact lenses?

Almost everyone can wear contact lenses, no matter their age, prescription or lifestyle.

What if I accidentally fall asleep with my contacts?

If you fall asleep with your contacts on, you may wake up with them attached to your eye’s surface. If they don’t come out easily, blink and apply lens drops until the surface of your eye is moist. That should make it easier to remove the lenses.