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What Is the Connection between Contact Lenses and Dry Eyes?

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  • Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 12 November 2016
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Many people who wear contact lenses complain of constant dry eyes. This is likely because the main connection between contact lenses and dry eyes is that the former often causes the latter. The popularity of soft contact lenses does not help matters, as this type of lens contains water. As the water evaporates from the lens throughout the day, it draws moisture from the eye. Additionally, people who have worn contacts for years may have damaged the top layer of the eye, leading to both an inability to comfortably wear contact lenses and dry eyes.

Most soft contact lenses contain more water than other types of lenses do, which may sound like a positive trait. Unfortunately, the more water a lens contains, the more it tends to take from the eye when it dries up throughout the day. Lenses are particularly likely to dry out quickly when exposed to cigarette smoke, windy conditions, air conditioning, or heating. Thus, people who want to avoid the cause and effect connection between contact lenses and dry eyes should consider using lenses other than the soft, water-filled kind.

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It might sound preferable to wear Rigid Gas Permeable lenses instead, as they do not contain any water. Thus, they do not need to wick moisture away from the eyes. Unfortunately, this does not usually solve the issue since they repel water, which means that they do not work very well with the tear film. The rigidity and incompatibility with water often makes it even worse for dry eyes than soft lenses. A compromise between soft lenses and the Rigid Gas Permeable kind is the hydrogel type, as these lenses contain a small amount of water.

There is another likely connection between contact lenses and dry eyes, especially among people who have worn them for several years. Extensive use of contacts can result in damage to the outer layer of the eye, as the lenses may constantly rub on the surface and eliminate the specialized structures just outside the cornea. As these tiny structures have the job of keeping the tear film balanced, it should come as no surprise that serious damage to them can result in dry eyes. For this reason, those who have experienced an uncomfortable connection between contact lenses and dry eyes due to constant use of lenses may need to either take a break from them for a while to let their eyes heal, or switch to a contact that is easier on the eyes. Adding eye drops to the routine and avoiding smoke, excess wind, and heat may also help.

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OeKc05
Post 3

@Oceana – I thought that I was going to be unable to continue wearing contacts, because I was having the same problem as you. I kept applying drops, but it didn't get better.

A coworker pointed something out to me, though. He said that since the air conditioning vent was facing my desk, this air could be causing my contacts to dry out.

I asked my boss if I could switch to a cubicle away from the vent, and he said I could. I noticed a difference immediately. After I applied the drops one more time, my lenses were able to hang onto the moisture for hours.

shell4life
Post 2

Wow, I didn't know about the specialized structures on the cornea. It sounds like wearing contact lenses is dangerous to a person's eye health!

If having a dry eye causes constant discomfort, and contacts are known to cause dry eyes, then why does anyone wear them? Are people even aware that they could be damaging their eyes permanently?

I don't need glasses or contacts yet, but I likely will someday. Both of my parents wear glasses, and I have a feeling that vision loss is genetic.

I used to think that I would go with contacts when the time came, but after reading this article, I think I will go with glasses. I certainly don't want to do any additional damage to my eyes, and having dry eyes is no fun at all.

Oceana
Post 1

I got the extended wear contact lenses when I first started needing a vision aid. They made my eyes so dry that I kept having to apply moisturizing drops throughout the day.

Even after putting the drops in, I only got a short period of relief from the dryness. Since the contacts dried my eyes out, they made my vision blurry instead of making it clearer. I was having to blink constantly to keep them moistened.

I finally gave up and switched to glasses. I had hoped to avoid having to wear something on my face all the time, but it was better than struggling with uncomfortable eyes all day.

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