While it is widely known that contact lens wearers often suffer from dry eyes, few are aware of why or how this issue develops. Data shows that improper contact lens wear and care can ultimately lead to dry eye issues and exacerbate existing ones. Patients who have dry eyes and wear contact lenses, or are interested in starting, should follow the following guidelines to enjoy the experience of eye comfort.
1. Make sure to wash your hands before touching your lenses
While many of us believe we have our contact lens hygiene under control, the truth is that we often forget to wash our hands when handling our lenses. This is especially true at the end of a long night (we may forget to take them out at all). Making sure to wash our hands before touching our lenses is the best way to protect against transferring bacteria into our eyes. This will protect us from developing any unwanted infections in the eyes. The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends that all patients wash their hands with warm water and soap and thoroughly dry them before handling their lenses.
2. Remember to take out your lenses before going to sleep
Forgetting to take out our contacts puts us at a higher risk of developing infections in the eye. This is simply due to the fact that the eyes are prevented from receiving enough oxygen if they are covered by the lenses throughout the night. Over time, these corneal infections can develop into corneal ulcers, which are painful sores on the eye’s surface.
Even if those issues don’t develop, sleeping in our contacts can cause issues in our natural tear film, further exacerbating a case of dry eyes.
3. Use new lenses instead of trying to get the most out of one pair
Many patients try to use the same pair of contacts for a long period of time- until they’re basically falling apart. On every box of contact lenses, there are usually instructions written that explain how often contact lenses should be swapped out. These instructions exist for a reason.
Even if the patient is constantly cleaning their lenses, there will still be some debris buildup that makes it harder for tears to spread across the eyes. Naturally, this will cause dry eyes or worsen an existing issue. Furthermore, those who clean their lenses regularly may not be thorough enough, leading to a buildup of debris that may not be noticeable at first glance.
4. Empty out and refill the solution in the lens case every day
It’s natural for us to want to top off our solution instead of pouring it all out. This strategy can save money over time. However, it’s terrible for the longevity of our lenses. Old fluid should be dumped out and replaced every day.
Specialists recommend rinsing out the case with water and setting it upside down to dry before filling it up again with fresh solution. This is simply due to the fact that reusing old solutions can eventually lead to issues like inflammation and infections.
5. Use eye drops even if your eyes don’t feel dry
Artificial tears are one of the top recommendations for patients who are struggling with overly dry eyes. While we often reach for them in moments of discomfort, using them regularly prevents the eyes from getting dry at all.
What is the takeaway?
Dry eyes are a pervasive issue that contact lens wearers have to deal with. Thankfully, there are many steps that can be taken to alleviate this common issue. Developing a routine of washing our hands, taking out our lenses before bed, using new lenses periodically, swapping out the solution in our lens case, and using eye drops regularly can all keep dry eyes at bay. Patients should reach out to their eye doctor and report any issues before making any major decisions on their own.