Between two-thirds to three-fourths of contact lens wearers will discontinue wear at some point in time due to discomfort. As many as half of soft contact lens wearers experience problems from dryness. Contact lenses are one of the main causes or aggravations of dry eye problems.
Common signs and symptoms of dry eyes include burning, scratchy, aching, grittiness, soreness, fatigue, redness, and light sensitivity. These symptoms occur in people who do not wear contact lenses, but they are more common in those who wear contact lenses for extended periods of time.
Contact lenses need lubrication to function properly and remain comfortable on your eye. If you already suffer from dry eye problems, the lack of tears to lubricate the lenses on your eye will definitely cause discomfort wearing them. It’s even worse as you wear them for longer periods of time, or in dirty or dusty environments.
It is important for your eye doctor to assess for signs of dry eye conditions before determining if you are a good candidate to wear contacts. Dry eye conditions are best managed before attempting contact lens wear as that will make it more likely that you will wear them comfortable and see well with them in. Because most dry eye conditions are chronic, your symptoms will need to be managed long-term.
When we evaluate people at the Dry Eye Institute for these problems, we can often identify some things that can control, or even cure your dry eye problem. Most commonly we find people take certain medication that have dry eyes as an adverse reaction. Finding a different medication that avoids this can eliminate the problem and promote more comfortable contact lens wear. The most common medications that have these side effects are, allergy pills, water pills, sleeping pills, and anxiety pills. Look at your medication package inserts for learning if you are taking a medication that does this.
Once your dry eye condition is managed, you can begin the process of being fit for contact lenses. There are many steps your eye doctor can take to help ensure the best likely fit is achieved. Each brand of contact lens has a different material makeup and many contact lens types are better suited for patients with dry eyes.
Contact lenses come in daily, biweekly, and monthly replacement options. Although daily contact lenses are the best choice for those suffering with dry eye, there are also options in biweekly and monthly that have a higher chance of success. The top brands for dry eye sufferers include Dailies Total One, Dailies Aqua Comfort Plus, Acuvue Oasys One Day with Hydraluxe, Air Optix Aqua, Biofinity, and Baush and Lomb Ultra.
Contact lens solutions can also play a vital role in the sanitation and comfort of our lenses. The best system for those suffering from dry eye is a hydrogen peroxide-based solution. These solutions are the best at cleaning the lenses and removing deposits that can make contact lens wear uncomfortable. BioTrue by Bausch and Lomb has also been proven to be more effective in maintaining contact lens moisture and improving symptoms of dry eye.
For quick relief throughout the day, certain brands of lubricating drops have been formulated for their use with contact lenses. The main brands include: Systane for Contacts, Blink and Clean, Refresh for Contacts, and Blink Contacts. There are also many brands of rewetting drops which are specific for discomfort associated with contact lens wear throughout the day. These can be picked up at your local pharmacy or convenience store.
Even with an increase in contact lens options, cleaning solutions, and rewetting drops, some patients must still discontinue contact lens wear due to discomfort. For those suffering with extreme dry eye, scleral lenses are a great option to allow you to remain in contact lenses, and to provide continuous lubrication to the front surface of your eyes. Scleral lenses are specialty contact lenses that vault over the entire cornea. These lenses are filled with a sterile saline that provides the cornea with constant lubrication while the lenses are in. These are a great option for those who are unsuccessful not only in their dry eye therapy, but unsuccessful in standard soft lens wear.
We are fortunate today that we have many options for products that help make contact lens wear more successful in those patients suffering from dry eyes. From new dry eye treatment options, to contact lens brands, to rewetting drops, contact lens solutions, and specialty lenses, we as eye doctors can achieve a successful contact lens fit for most patients. If you are interested in contact lens wear, make sure to inform your eyecare provider of any pre-existing dry eye signs or symptoms prior to fitting so the best options may be selected for your success.