Have you been told you can’t wear contact lenses because your eyes are too dry? Or have you stopped wearing contacts because your lenses made your eyes feel dry and irritated?
If so, here’s some good news: today there are new contact lenses and contact lens care products that are making contact lens wear more comfortable than ever.
Dry Eyes: A Common Problem
Statistics vary from study to study, but the conclusion is consistent: dry eye problems are very common. In July 2014, Contact Lens Spectrum reported results of a survey that found approximately one-third of adult patients visiting eye care providers had some degree of dry eye.
And for computer users, the problem appears to be even worse. In a study published in American Journal of Ophthalmology (July 2013), researchers in Japan found that among full-time office workers who routinely use a computer, roughly 60 percent of males and more than 75 percent of females showed signs and symptoms of dry eye disease (DED). Risk factors included being over age 30 and using a computer more than eight hours per day.
It’s no wonder, then, that many people find their contact lenses feeling dry from time to time.
If you have severe dry eyes, the only real solution to contact lens dryness discomfort is to see your eye care provider to have your dry eye condition successfully treated before attempting or resuming contact lens wear.
But if your dry eye symptoms are relatively mild, you may find that asking your eye care provider for a different type or brand of contact lenses or switching to a new contact lens care regimen may significantly improve your contact lens comfort.
Contact Lenses Designed To Retain Moisture
Because dryness discomfort is a primary reason why people discontinue contact lens wear, several lens manufactures have introduced soft contacts that are specifically designed to retain moisture better than previous hydrogel technology. Examples of these moisture-retaining soft lenses include:
Proclear lenses (CooperVision) are made of a high-water hydrogel material and feature technology that uses molecules similar to those in human cell membranes. These molecules attract and surround themselves with water, keeping Proclear lenses moist and comfortable for 12 hours of wear or longer, according to the company. Other contact lenses that feature proprietary technology to retain moisture longer than other soft lenses include Extreme H2O lenses (Hydrogel Vision) and Dailies Total 1 lenses (Alcon).
Extreme H2O lenses are available in weekly and two-week disposable designs; Dailies Total 1 lenses are one-day disposable lenses.
Your eye care provider can discuss these and other brands of hydrogel and silicone hydrogel lenses that may stay moist and comfortable longer than your previous and/or current lenses.
Moisture-Enhancing Lens Care Products
Sometimes, changing to a different contact lens solution or lens care system can significantly improve your wearing comfort. In particular, if you wear silicone hydrogel lenses, some of these lenses will stay moist longer with the use of specific care products.
But don’t make any changes to your lens care products without first consulting with your eye doctor. Certain lenses perform better with specific solutions, and your doctor can make the best choices for you based on your specific needs.
Different brands of contact lens solutions can look the same on the store shelf. Bring all care products that you are currently using with you when you visit your doctor so there is no confusion regarding the products you are using.
Preservative-Free Lens Care
Most contact lens wearers use multipurpose care solutions for rinsing, disinfecting and storing their lenses. These products contain preservatives that sometimes can irritate your eyes and make them feel dry.
If you lenses are becoming uncomfortable — even if you have used multipurpose solutions for months without problems — ask your eye care provider if switching to a preservative-free lens care system with hydrogen peroxide as the disinfecting agent might be a better choice for you.
Daily Disposable Contact Lenses
Lens deposits that form on contact lenses over time can cause lenses to dry out more easily and cause discomfort. To eliminate day-after-day buildup on lenses, consider switching to daily disposable lenses that you discard after a single use.
Often, switching to daily disposable lenses eliminates discomfort issues, whether they are caused by lens deposits, dryness or sensitivity to preservatives in lens care products.
Sometimes contact lens-related dry eyes can be solved with occasional use eye drops known as contact lens rewetting drops. Ask your eye care provider which brands are best for the type of contact lenses you are wearing.
Do not use artificial tears or other eye drops while wearing contact lenses without first checking with your eye doctor, as some drops can discolor or damage your lenses or cause your contacts to adhere to the surface of your eyes.