Contact lenses are, for the most part, easy and comfortable to use. However, some people experience discomfort or dryness in their eyes when wearing them. If this is the case for you, you may be able to use eye drops to help alleviate these symptoms.
There are different types of eye drops that are best suited to different types of contact lenses, along with certain eye conditions such as dry eyes — when your tears aren’t able to provide enough lubrication to keep your eyes moist enough. Here, we’ve outlined which eye drops may be best for use with different lenses. However, be sure to check in with your optician before starting to use a new type of eye drop.
Eye drops for soft contact lenses
There are many types of eye drops available, both prescription and over-the-counter. Some of these can be used by people who use contact lenses while others cannot. To be safe, it’s recommended that contact lens users always check with their doctor or optometrist before instilling any medication or over-the-counter product into their eyes.
Here are some of the different types of eye drops for contact lens wearers that are available:
Prescription eye drops
These are prescribed to treat a specific eye condition and should be used exactly according to instructions. Examples include antibiotic drops for infection or pink eye treatment.
These are intended to reduce redness by treating bloodshot eyes. They are not recommended for contact lens users.1
Medications for allergies
Many contact lens users suffer from allergies (hay fever) and can benefit from eye drops that are specifically designed to help manage them. However, not all of these eye drops are suitable for use with contacts.
Dry eye treatment
These formulations are artificial tears that lubricate the eyes. Some of them are suitable for use with contact lenses while others are not.
Contact lens eye drops
These are rewetting drops for contact lens users, that work to moisten the eyes. People who use monthly or bi-monthly contact lenses are more likely to need rewetting drops. This is because deposits tend to build upon the surface of the lens with repeated use, which can cause irritation. Users of daily disposable contacts are less likely to have eye irritation, and so are less likely to need these eye drops.
What are contact lens rewetting drops?
Rewetting eye drops for contact lenses are sterile solutions that allow for more comfortable lens wear. These are clearly labelled as being suitable for use with soft contact lenses and are usually stocked next to the lens cleaning solutions on store shelves.
These eye drops work to hydrate the contact lens and moisten the eyes. Lubrication is critical for safe and comfortable contact lens use: without sufficient lubrication, the lens can become sticky and vision can become hazy. Rewetting drops can be used as often as needed and can be instilled into the eye while the contact lens is in place. Opticians may recommend frequent use of rewetting eye drops to improve comfort.1
Eye drops for gas-permeable (hard) contact lenses
Gas-permeable (GP), or ‘hard’, contact lenses are made of a harder, more durable material than soft contact lenses. A pair of gas-permeable contact lenses can last a year or more if cared for properly and provided the prescription remains unchanged.2 The harder material and longer use of GP lenses can result in deposit formation and irritation to the eyes.
Rewetting drops are available for use with gas-permeable (hard) contacts. They help relieve minor discomfort, irritation, and blurred vision from lens use, and work to remove debris from under the lens and reduce friction against the cornea. The use of rewetting drops for hard contacts can help extend wearing time by hydrating the lenses in the eyes.
Eye drops for contact lenses and dry eyes
It is worth noting that eye drops for dry eyes are different from rewetting drops for contacts: treatment for dry eyes is designed to lubricate the eyes and not the contact lenses. Some eye drops for dry eyes are thick in texture and contain oils that can temporarily or permanently damage contact lenses.
If you are looking for contact lens rewetting drops, make sure you read the label carefully: it should specifically state that the drops are for use with contact lenses.2 If you are unsure about a particular brand, consult your optician before using the eye drops.
Using eye drops with contact lenses safely
Eye drops are sterile solutions and you must be careful to be hygienic when instilling them into your eyes. Ensure that you do not touch the dropper tip with either your finger or your eye. Unless otherwise instructed by your optician, you will need to remove your contact lenses before instilling any prescription eye drops. You must then wait 15 minutes before reinserting the lenses. The same 15-minute rule applies for allergy (hay fever) eye drops.1 Rewetting or lubricating eye drops for soft and hard contact lenses can be instilled into the eyes while wearing the lenses.
Can you use preservative-free eye drops with contact lenses?
Wearing contacts disrupts the normal tear film of our eye — outer layers of the eye that have several important protective effects — which can make our eyes dry, resulting in itching or burning. This does not mean that people with dry eyes have to forego wearing contacts: using preservative-free eye drops may help against dry eyes. It is important that you use drops that are preservative-free, because soft contact lenses are made from a material that absorbs preservatives, which can lead to damage to the cornea.3 Preservative-free eye drops for contact lens users are particularly recommended for people who use eye drops 4-5 times a day.
Can you use allergy eye drops with contact lenses
Some ingredients in allergy eye drops may interact with the contact lens and damage it.1 For this reason, it is not recommended to use over-the-counter allergy eye drops while wearing contact lenses. Any eye drops that you use with your contacts should clearly state ‘for use with contacts’ on the label. Ask your optician if you’re not sure.
Which eye drops aren’t suitable for use with contact lenses?
If you have dry eyes, talk to your doctor or optometrist about prescription drops that are designed for use with contacts. Using the wrong type of dry eye drops can lead to clouding of the contact lens and problems with vision.1 Eye drops that reduce red eyes do so by causing vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels). These types of eye drops can cause deposits to form on the surface of the contact lens, along with leading to an increased redness of the eyes with repeated use. Red eye-reducing drops should not be used with contact lenses.1
To learn more about which contact lens is best for you, explore our contact lens page. Alternatively, book an appointment at your local Specsavers store and one of our friendly Specsavers opticians will take you through your options.
1. Cooper Vision. (no date). Are Your Eye Drops OK to Use with Contact Lenses? [Online]. Available at: https://coopervision.com/blog/... [Accessed 10 October 2019].
2. Mayo Clinic. (no date). Contact Lenses: What to know before you buy. [Online]. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/hea... [Accessed 10 October 2019].
3. Hylo Eye Care. (no date). Lubricating eye drops and contact lenses – do they go together? [Online]. Available at: https://hylo.de/en/treatment-d... [Accessed 10 October 2019].