Oil and water mix better than dry eyes and contact lenses. On the one hand, your tear glands don’t make enough tears. On the other, your lenses absorb the few tears left in your eyes.

With this premise for a start, you may be tempted to give up the idea of wearing contact lenses for good. But what if there’s an alternative approach?

It all boils down to choosing the right contact lenses for dry eyes based on the lens material, water content, duration of wear, and fit.

In addition, a few useful contact lens wear and care tips can make your experience go as smoothly as possible.

How Contact Lenses Cause Dry Eyes

A 2022 study shows one in three contact lens wearers experience contact lens-related dry eye disease. So, if you’ve ever asked yourself, “Can contacts dry my eyes out?” or “Can I still wear contact lenses if I have dry eyes?” it’s best to understand how contacts cause dry eyes.

Your tear film helps lubricate your eyes, protect against infection, and provide clear vision. But contact lenses disrupt your tear film. They absorb the watery layer of your tears, causing dryness and discomfort after a few hours of wear.

Contact lenses also rub against your cornea. If they don’t fit properly, you will begin to feel eye irritation and inflammation. Both these symptoms can exacerbate dry eyes.

closeup of green human eye with long eyelashes

In addition, contact lenses interfere with the amount of oxygen that reaches your eyes. Lack of oxygen affects your eye health. The retina needs adequate tissue oxygenation to stay healthy.

Over time, reduced oxygenation can lead to neovascularization, or the formation of new, abnormal blood vessels. Neovascularization is associated with diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and other serious eye diseases that may cause vision loss.

Even if you escape that fate, the buildup of debris and bacteria on the contact lenses can mess with your oil glands, leading to meibomian gland dysfunction.

Sometimes, your lens cleaning and storing solution may also be to blame for your dry eyes. Some solutions can irritate the eyes or cause an allergic reaction, leading to dryness and irritation.

Choosing Contact Lenses for Dry Eyes

Not all contact lenses are made equal. They vary based on their material, water content, duration of wear, and fit. So, what is the best contact lens for dry eyes?

If you have dry eyes, pay special attention to these factors to pick the best contact lenses.

1. Lens Material

Contact lenses come in different materials, from silicone hydrogel to rigid gas permeable ones. Choosing the right material can allow for more oxygen to reach your eyes while locking in moisture.

  • Silicone hydrogel: This is a soft contact lens material. It has excellent oxygen permeability, reducing your risk of eye irritation and grittiness. Silicone also retains moisture and keeps your eyes well-lubricated.
  • Hydrogel: This is another type of soft contact lens material, known for its moisture-retention capabilities. It helps keep your eyes lubricated for longer, reducing dry eye symptoms.
  • Rigid gas permeable lenses: These are hard lenses that allow oxygen to reach your cornea. They don’t contain water, so they are less prone to drying out. They also provide sharper vision than soft lenses.
  • Hybrid lenses: These lenses combine soft and rigid materials. They have a soft outer layer for comfort while the rigid inner layer ensures excellent vision correction. Hybrid lenses are a good option if you have blurry vision due to dry eyes.
  • Scleral lenses: These are larger, rigid lenses that rest on your sclera (the white part of the eye) instead of your cornea. They create a tear-filled reservoir between the lens and the eye. Research shows that they can reduce dryness and discomfort while keeping your eyes moist.

2. Water Content

Contact lenses have varying levels of water content. It’s easy to disregard this factor initially. But if you suffer from dry eyes, don’t ignore the water content of your lenses.

Contact lenses with high water content can feel more comfortable for a few hours. But they are prone to drying out faster and causing discomfort. They also absorb water from your tears, leaving your eyes dry and gritty.

closeup of woman's forefinger holding an upturned contact lens

Contact lenses with low water content may be more suitable if you have dry eyes. They have a lesser dehydrating effect on your eyes and help reduce dryness.

So, what’s the right water percentage while wearing contacts with dry eyes? Opt for low water content lenses with less than 40% water.

3. Duration of Wear

Daily, bi-weekly, monthly, and yearly. Contact lenses offer a range of wear options. So, which one is the best if your eyes get dry with contacts? The simple answer is daily disposable contact lenses.

These contact lenses are designed to be worn for one day and then discarded. They reduce the risk of infection and irritation and are the best choice if you have dry eyes due to extended wear of contact lenses.

That said, daily disposables are not as eco-friendly or pocket-friendly as the other lenses since you have to throw them away by the end of the day. Choosing bi-weekly or monthly lenses is the next best option.

4. Lens Fit

Not all contact lenses fit the same. If they are too tight, they may feel uncomfortable and not allow enough oxygen to reach your eyes. If they are too loose, they may fall out when you move your eyes.

The result of an ill-fitted contact lens could be discomfort, redness, irritation, inflammation, and even blurry vision. If you have dry eyes with contact lenses, you may benefit from a pair that fits properly.

woman with red hair seen in profile putting on contact lens in left eye 

You may want to try contact lens fitting. During this procedure, your eye doctor will measure the curve of your cornea. They will then place the lens on your eyes and assess it.

This involves checking if the lens is centered on your eye, whether blinking affects its movement, and how clear is your near and distant vision.

Tips to Reduce Dry Eyes from Contacts

Poor contact lens wear and care can lead to dry eye symptoms, like inflammation and redness. Here are some tips to ease your contact lens experience even when you have dry eyes.

  • Maintain proper hygiene: Whether you have dry eyes or not, washing your hands is important before handling contact lenses. This makes it less likely to transfer germs into your eyes, thus reducing the risk of infection, inflammation, and other contact lenses dry eyes symptoms.
  • Never sleep wearing your contacts: Sleeping in your contacts will block oxygen from reaching your eyes. This will lead to dry eyes, and in worse cases, create a breeding ground for bacteria and cause corneal infections.
  • Check your lens solution: Sometimes, your lens solution may be causing dry eye symptoms. Certain ingredients, like preservatives, can lead to irritation, redness, and grittiness. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s time to try out a different solution!
  • Replace your contacts: If you have daily disposable lenses, discard them every night. If you have monthly disposables, set a reminder to toss the old pair. Trying to extend your contacts’ wear time won’t do your dry eyes any favor.
  • Change the solution daily: Reusing your lens solution is not a good idea. It will decrease the solution’s disinfectant properties, leading to issues like inflammation and infection.
  • Apply rewetting drops: Rewetting drops can offer temporary relief if your eyes feel dry with contacts. But before applying them, make sure they are made for use with contact lenses.
  • Let your eyes breathe: It’s a good idea to go contact-free for a few hours each day. This will give your eyes more exposure to oxygen without the contact lenses getting in the way.

Tip: Learn more about contact lenses and dry eyes in our post on How Do I Manage Dry Eye While Wearing Contact Lenses.

In addition to these tips, you may also want to consider taking an eye health supplement. SightC is a natural, plant-based eye supplement that supports vision in the digital age.

It’s made with goji berries, turmeric, Cherokee rose, hawthorn, and other superfoods that work synergistically to supply your eyes with lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin B1, vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and other antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins.

Together, these nutrients help keep your eyes healthy and support the healthy production of tears.

Keep your eyes healthy with SightC.

The Wrap Up

Contact lenses are difficult to wear when you have dry eyes. But that doesn’t mean you are destined for a bespectacled life ever after. With a few careful considerations, you can pick the right contact lenses for your condition.

Focus on the material of the lenses. See that it allows for plenty of oxygen to reach your eyes. Also, opt for low water content lenses that don’t have a drying effect on your eyes.

So that you won’t have to bother about debris and bacterial buildup, wear daily disposable lenses. And ensure that they fit properly. Poorly fitted contact lenses can mean irritated and inflamed cornea.

These few tips will come in handy when you pick your next pair of contact lenses for dry eyes.

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