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Best Contacts for Dry Eyes

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A woman using her left index finger to pull her eyelid down while she puts a contact lens on her right eye with her right hand

Dry eyes can be a real nightmare, and if you wear contact lenses, it can become an even bigger issue. You may experience scratchiness, redness, and eye strain, making wearing your contacts unbearable. However, there is hope!

You can still wear contact lenses comfortably as long as you use the right type. Soft, hybrid, scleral, and daily disposable contact lenses may be the best for you, depending on your unique needs.

What Are Dry Eyes

Dry eyes occur when you don’t produce enough tears or the tears produced are of poor quality. Tears play a vital role in keeping your eyes healthy and lubricated, and when this balance is disturbed, you may experience a range of symptoms, such as: 

  • Burning sensation in the eyes
  • Scratchy or gritty feeling
  • Itchy eyes
  • Redness
  • Excessive tearing
  • Blurry vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Eye fatigue
  • Difficulty wearing contact lenses

There are generally two types of dry eyes. Aqueous deficiency dry eye is less common, only 1/10 dry eye cases are due to this type of dry eye, where your body doesn’t create enough tears. Evaporative dry eye is much more common, with 85% of all dry eye cases being due to meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD). With this type, you probably make enough tears, but they evaporate too quickly to provide relief.

Can Contact Lenses Make Dry Eyes Worse

Dry eyes offer another wrinkle for contact lens wearers. Some studies have shown contact lenses can worsen dry eye symptoms, making it essential to find lenses designed for dry eye relief.

Most contact lenses need plenty of moisture to work, which is why hydrogel lenses have a high water content. Contrary to what you may think, this high water content could actually increase your risk for dry eyes.

These thirsty lenses can draw moisture from your eyes. This might not affect most people during normal wear, but for people already susceptible to dry eyes or if you wear lenses for too long, it could leave your eyes dehydrated.

Silicon Hydrogel Soft Contact Lenses

90% of contact lens wearers wear soft contact lenses, making it very likely that if you wear contacts, you’re already wearing soft lenses. They come in many different shapes, sizes, wear schedules and are known for their comfort for new wearers.

Traditional hydrogel lenses are popular, but as we mentioned, they can absorb a lot of water from the eye. Recently, manufacturers have used silicone hydrogel to combat this problem. Silicone hydrogel is excellent at letting oxygen reach the eyes, helping your vision stay comfortable throughout the day. What’s more, they have a fascinating way of addressing dry eye symptoms.

While hydrogel lenses rely on high water content for oxygen permeability and comfort, silicone hydrogel lenses utilize the amount of silicone in their construction. This allows them to stay comfy, without potentially drying your eyes.

Daily Disposable Contact Lenses

Despite your best efforts, contact lenses can become dirty throughout the day. It’s not your fault, bacteria and proteins naturally build up on the lens, which is why you need to clean them at night.

Daily disposable soft contact lenses are designed to be discarded after 24 hours of wear. This means you don’t have to clean, rinse, or store them overnight. Unlike other types of contact lenses, daily disposables don’t have the chance to accumulate bacteria over multiple days, reducing the risk of dry eye caused by irritation.

Hybrid Contact Lenses

Hybrid contact lenses contain 2 different materials in one lens: a rigid gas permeable (RGP) center and a soft outer ring. The RGP center provides sharper and clearer vision than the soft contact lenses, while the outer ring makes them more comfortable to wear. 

The RGP center also allows for better oxygen flow to the cornea, helping you avoid irritation. Furthermore, the soft outer ring of the lens acts as a cushion to provide additional comfort. This combination can make them an ideal option for sufferers of mild dry eye.

Scleral Contact Lenses

Scleral contact lenses are larger than traditional contact lenses, sometimes up to twice the diameter. They fit over the sclera, the white part of the eye, instead of the cornea, the front of the eye. The sclera is less sensitive and can tolerate a lens more effectively than the cornea.

Scleral contact lenses are an excellent option for those with dry eyes because they act as a shield for the cornea, keeping it moist and protected. They create a space between the lens and the cornea, which you can fill with sterile saline solution that provides a continual source of moisture, significantly reducing the irritation from dry eyes.

A male optometrist examining the eyes of a woman using a medical device to detect potential eye problems.

Choosing The Best Contact For Dry Eyes

Dry eyes can be a big frustration for people who wear contact lenses. Fortunately, there are plenty of options for people who experience dry eyes but still want to wear contact lenses. It may take some trial and error to find the pair for you, but Dr. Jennifer L. Shane & Associates can help you get on the path to dry eye relief.

Experience the benefits contact lenses offer and enjoy comfortable vision! Book your appointment today and ask about contact lenses personalized for your dry eyes.

Written by Dr. Jennifer Shane

Dr. Jennifer Shane is native to Reno, Nevada. She attended the University of Reno and the University of Las Vegas, Nevada where she received a Bachelor of Science in Economics. During college she began working for an Optometrist that inspired her to study Optometry. She continued her education at the Illinois College of Optometry where she received her Bachelor of Science in Visual Science and Doctorate of Optometry in 1999. Additionally, Dr. Shane completed residency training in Ocular Disease at the Illinois College of Optometry in 2000. Besides seeing patients, Dr. Shane enjoys pickleball, and spending time with her two sons and two pugs.
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