If you have chronic dry eye, you know that your eyes are sensitive to everything that touches them. This includes contacts. In fact, many people get temporary dry eyes from wearing contacts too long. So how do you deal with chronic dry eye if you need contacts?
One simple solution is to switch to glasses. However, this option isn’t for everyone. It’s important to know how to wear contacts so that chronic dry eye doesn’t reduce your quality of life.
What is chronic dry eye?
There is a difference between temporary and chronic dry eye. By definition, temporary describes something that occurs for only a short time. Chronic, by contrast, means that a condition occurs repeatedly for a long time. Temporary dry eye can usually be resolved with artificial tear eye drops or other simple remedies. Chronic dry eye may require more intensive treatment.
Contacts can sometimes be the cause of both temporary and chronic dry eye. For example, temporary dry eye can occur because you wear your contacts too long. Talk to your doctor if you wear contacts and you have had dry eye for a long time. They may recommend a different type of contact lens, or other changes for you. They may even suggest you stop wearing contacts permanently.
Why does dry eye happen for contact lens wearers?
The reason contact lens wearers may get both temporary and chronic dry eye has to do with your eyes’ tear films. The tear film is made up of three layers: oil, water, and mucus. All three parts have to be in balance for the eye to produce and maintain enough moisture.
Lack of tears
When your eyes don’t produce enough tears, contacts become uncomfortable. If your tears evaporate too quickly, this also causes discomfort. Lack of tears can happen as a result of age, environment, or medical condition.
Low quality tears
Dry eye also occurs because of low quality of tears. For example, if one of your oil glands is inflamed, the gland cannot add enough oil to your tears. Oil anchors tears to your eye, so without it, tears evaporate too fast.
You need a sufficient tear film for contacts to remain comfortable. If your eyes already have trouble keeping the cornea moist, adding a layer of lens material may make it worse. Studies have shown contact lenses can interfere with the function of the tear film and may thin it out.
The bottom line is that contact lenses need moisture to function properly. If you don’t have enough fluid over your cornea, contacts could make it worse.
If you wear contacts, you should pay attention to the moisture level of your eyes. This applies whether you have dry eyes or not.
Treatment for chronic dry eye
The goal of any treatment for dry eyes is to keep moisture in the eye. You need the tear film that covers your cornea to stay in balance at all times. This is especially true when you wear contacts.
General treatment for dry eyes ranges from prescription medication to natural remedies. Ultimately, the treatment depends on the cause.
- If dry eyes are caused by an inflamed oil gland, a doctor might treat the inflammation with medication.
- Chronic dry eyes can also be treated through artificial tear eye drops, or eye drops that increase tears.
- Blocking tear ducts so that tears stay in the eye rather than drain may also treat dry eye.
- You may find symptoms improve if you increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids.
Treatment for contact lens wearers
Treatment for dry eyes in contact lens wearers focuses on the lens type. If your dry eye symptoms are not severe, your eye doctor may simply want to change the lens. They can do this by changing the shape or material of your contact lens.
- Scleral lenses have a bulging shape that prevents debris from getting under them.
- Bandage lenses protect the cornea from eyelid motion, which makes the eye more comfortable.
Both of these types of contact lenses are designed to protect the eye and trap moisture.
However, if your dry eye symptoms are severe, your eye doctor may ask you to stop wearing contacts. If your eyes aren’t producing enough quality tears, contacts may continue to be a problem despite what you try.
Using contacts when you have dry eye
Contact lens technology has improved over the years. People with chronic dry eye who had to give up contacts may now be able to keep wearing them. Improvements have been made to the lenses, as well as cleaning solutions and wetting solutions.
Sometimes, cleaning solutions can trigger dry eye symptoms. To combat this, you can wear daily use lenses. These lenses are thrown away each day rather than stored in a solution overnight.
Practicing good eye health can also ensure your eyes are in the best condition they can be. It’s important to limit irritation and injury to your eye that can make chronic dry eyes worse.
Here are some tips for good eye health:
- Take regular breaks from computers and other screens.
- Keep your environment free from dust and dryness.
- Avoid touching or rubbing your eye excessively.
- Wear sunglasses regularly.
- Wear eye protection any time debris or material could enter your eye.
- Quit smoking.
Your ability to wear contact lenses while suffering from chronic dry eye depends on your symptoms. Advances in lens technology have given people with chronic dry eyes more options. You may find a lens that doesn’t dry out your eyes. Talk to your eye doctor about special scleral or bandage lenses to give your eyes relief. You can also ask your eye doctor about other treatments that may permanently resolve your dry eyes.