Dry eyes and contact lenses? It's a vicious circle. Dry eyes can make it difficult to wear contact lenses. In turn, contact lenses can trigger severe dry eyes.

This doesn’t mean you have to give up on contact lenses. In this post, we'll show you how to manage dry eyes while wearing contact lenses.

We’ll guide you through the best options, so you don’t have to give up on contacts. We'll also show you how to pick the right contact lenses for dry eyes.

First, though, let’s understand the link between dry eye and contact lenses.

Contact Lenses and Dry Eyes

Dry eye disease occurs when your eyes don’t make enough tears or when your tears are of poor quality. It comes with eye pain, dryness, or a gritty feeling.

These symptoms are especially pronounced while wearing contact lenses and may lead to contact lens-induced dry eye.

Your eyes need to breathe to stay healthy. Contact lenses sit on the cornea. They block oxygen from entering your eye, resulting in a dry cornea.

Moreover, contact lenses absorb your tears to stay soft. This leaves your eyes dry, causing contact lenses to scratch the ocular surface. The result is dry, painful, scratchy, and red eyes.

The effect of dry eye with contact lenses is further worsened if the contacts are low quality or poorly fitted. Such lenses cause greater discomfort and more severe dryness.

Symptoms of Dry Eyes from Contact Lenses

Dry eye symptoms are alike for contact lens wearers and non-wearers. But the severity of these symptoms is greater if you wear contact lenses. As a contact lens wearer, you may face the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty and discomfort while wearing contact lenses
  • Dry, burning eyes
  • Eye sensitivity including light sensitivity
  • Contact lens falling out or not fitting properly
  • Blurry vision even after wearing contacts
  • Foreign body sensation
  • Eye fatigue, especially during visually demanding tasks
  • Red, sore, or inflamed eyes
  • Stinging eyes
  • Constant rubbing of the eyes to reduce itchiness

Choosing the Right Contact Lenses for Dry Eyes

When it comes to chronic dry eye, contact lenses may be to blame. But sometimes, wearing the wrong type of contact lenses can also trigger dryness.

closeup of contact lenses scattered on white surface

Here’s how you can pick contact lenses that don’t just fit and feel right but also keep dry eyes at bay.

  • Lens material: Soft lenses are better for dry eyes than rigid gas-permeable ones. Made of hydrogel, they allow more oxygen to pass through them, enabling the surface of the eye to breathe more.
  • Lens size: Contact lenses are normally 9 mm across, just big enough to sit on your iris. But special lenses for dry eyes are 15 to 22 mm across. Known as scleral lenses, these ensure better hydration and bring relief from dry eyes.
  • Lens water content: Contact lenses with a high water content are more likely to cause dry eyes as they usually dry out faster. Contact lenses with low water content are usually more suitable for dry eyes syndrome.
  • Lens duration: Some lenses need to be disposed of biweekly or monthly. Others can only be worn for 24 hours or less. The less the duration of lens wear, the better your eye moisture level will be.

Manage Dry Eye While Wearing Contacts

There are a few things you can do to manage dry eyes while wearing contact lenses. To begin with, opt for daily disposable lenses, use rewetting drops, and maintain eye hygiene.

Let’s take a closer look at these tips and more.

1. Opt for Daily Disposable Contact Lenses

An effective dry eye syndrome treatment is switching to daily disposable contact lenses. These lenses are soft, flexible, and comfortable. You can wear them for a single day and then discard them.

This makes them more hygienic than other types of contact lenses. So, there’s no risk of bacterial build-up that may cause irritation or inflammation.

Daily disposable contact lenses have some other benefits, too. They have high water content and greater breathability. This keeps your eyes hydrated all day.

Daily disposable contacts are also convenient to use: just throw them away without fussing about cleaning or storing them.

2. Use Rewetting Drops Made for Contact Lenses

Using eye drops can lubricate your eyes and make them feel a lot more comfortable. But they’re not a one-size-fits-all solution. And they can’t all be used with contacts.

So, which eye drops can be used with contact lenses? Look for those labeled “rewetting drops.” You can easily find them next to contact lens solutions in your local pharmacy.

Eye drops with preservatives can make dry eyes worse, especially if you use them in the long term.

Most eye drops for dry eyes with contact lenses are preservative-free. They hydrate your eyes and improve your comfort level while wearing lenses. They also clear out dust and debris from underneath the lenses.

3. Make Sure Your Eyes Are Well Nourished

Your eyes need proper nourishment to make healthy tears. This includes not only eating a nutrient-rich diet but also drinking plenty of water during the day. That way, contacts or no contacts, your eyes will feel better lubricated.

Vitamins A, C, and D can help reduce eye inflammation and dryness. You can get them through fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and animal products. But if your diet is lacking in these vitamins, you can also opt for an oral supplement.

Similarly, proper hydration will also aid in dry eye disease treatment. That’s because your tear film is made up of water--dehydration can cause dry eyes. Aim for 8 to 10 glasses each day to keep dry eye discomfort at bay.

woman with blond hair drinking water from transparent glass with ice cubes and raising her eyebrows

The Blueberry Gummies from Sightsage are another eye health supplement that can nourish your eyes. Made with Canadian blueberries and sweetened with monk fruit, Blueberry Gummies provide antioxidants and phytonutrients that your eyes and tear glands need to function well.

Customers who have tried and reviewed Blueberry Gummies love them. Here's what one of them has to say:

“Delicious and effective. My girlfriend can wear her contacts for 2x as long as before and to top it all off, they're delicious! For such a low cost, and such massive potential gains, the choice to buy is an obvious one.” – Michael B., British Columbia, Canada

Learn more about Blueberry Gummies.

4. Maintain Eye Hygiene

Practicing good eye hygiene minimizes the risk of infections that aggravate existing dry eye problems. Follow this basic hygiene routine as part of your dry eye contact lens treatment.

  • Wash your hands properly before wearing or removing your contact lenses. This will reduce the transfer of germs from your fingers to the lens.
  • Never sleep with your contact lenses on. This makes you more likely to get an eye infection.
  • Make sure to clean your contacts daily unless you use daily disposable ones. But don’t use water for this. Impurities and microorganisms in water can further worsen your dry eyes. Only use your lens care solution.

5. Change the Contact Lens Solution Every Day

Topping off the lens solution from the previous day is not a good idea. The American Optometric Association recommends using fresh lens solution for disinfecting and storing your contact lenses.

There are several reasons for that. Old solutions lose their effectiveness. They do not sterilize your contact lenses. They may also lead to contact lens-related complications, like inflammation and dryness.

That said, using a fresh lens solution doesn’t always solve the problem. Certain ingredients and preservatives in the solution may lead to dry eyes. In this case, try using a different solution to manage dry eye in one eye or both.

6. Avoid Eye Makeup While Wearing Contact Lenses

Eye makeup and contact lenses are a bad cocktail. Makeup particles and dust can get on, around, or worse, under your lenses.

On top of that, certain makeup ingredients like alcohol and formaldehyde can cause redness, irritation, and inflammation.

closeup of woman's eye with makeup

It’s best to avoid using eye makeup with contact lenses. But if you must, use oil-based, waterproof makeup.

Don’t apply makeup on your waterline, as it may block oil glands and aggravate dry eyes. For more information, check our makeup tips for dry and sensitive eyes.

Tip: Wear your lenses before applying makeup. Likewise, take off your lenses before removing makeup. This will minimize the chances of makeup particles getting on the lenses.

7. Make Contact Lens-Friendly Changes in Your Lifestyle

Certain lifestyle habits are bad for dry eyes, more so if you’re wearing contact lenses. Take the time to review and change these habits.

  • Avoid overusing digital devices. Keeping your eyes fixed on the screen can change your blink rate and dry out your eyes.
  • Keep away from windy and polluted areas. These can make your eyes dry. What's more, dust and debris may also get under your lenses and cause pain.
  • For severe dry eyes, contact lens application can make the condition worse in dry areas. Bring home a humidifier to maintain healthy indoor moisture levels.
  • Apply a warm compress to reduce eye inflammation and unclog the oil glands. You can also massage your eyelids to improve dry eye symptoms like fatigue and soreness.
  • Constant dry eyes can also be a result of smoking. Quit right away and embrace a healthy lifestyle. Eat healthy, exercise, and get at least 7 hours of sleep every night.

Living with Contact Lenses and Dry Eyes

Don’t want to give up on contact lenses because of dry eye syndrome? You don’t have to.

Start by picking the right contact lenses for dry eyes. Keep the lens material, size, and water content in mind. Your eye doctor can guide you through this process.

Next, follow our guide to manage dry eyes while wearing contact lenses. This includes using daily disposable lenses, applying dry eye drops for contact lenses, maintaining eye hygiene, and keeping your eyes nourished.

If your eye dryness persists, you may have to go contact-free for some time. This will allow your eyes to breathe without any lenses getting in the way.

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