It’s not uncommon for contact lens wearers to experience discomfort at times. Though this can be annoying, it doesn’t mean that you have to stop wearing them.
There are a range of lenses available that are designed to reduce eye discomfort — so here, we’ll take you through these options, in addition to some other ways you can make it easier to manage sensitive eyes.
What can cause eye sensitivity when wearing contact lenses?
Eyes can become irritated for several reasons, including exposure to dust, smoke, pollen, fur, and other environmental allergens. These can stick to the surface of the contact lens, making the eye feel uncomfortable.1 Some of the symptoms of sensitive eyes may include stinging, burning, irritation, pain, gritty sensation, unusual secretions, and blurred vision.
Another condition that is similar to sensitive eyes is dry eye syndrome. Although they share similar symptoms, they’re quite different. Dry eyes occur when the eyes don’t produce enough tears, or they’re poor quality – so they don’t properly moisten the eyes. Dry eyes occur as a result of inadequate lubrication of the eyes due to insufficient quantity of tears or poor-quality tears. Staring at a computer screen without blinking is a common cause of dry eye, in addition to exposure to wind, smoke, and dry air which can cause tears to evaporate quicker.
Contact lens material and comfort for sensitive eyes
If you find yourself with any of the symptoms of sensitive eyes, you might think you need to stop using your lenses. Fortunately, there is a range of advanced technology and materials available to help you wear lenses and avoid the symptoms of sensitive eye.2 These can include:
Rigid gas-permeable (hard) contact lenses
These are more durable and transparent with good oxygen permeability, which helps to let more oxygen enter the eye and avoid irritation. But these can be more difficult to adjust to initially and can be less comfortable to wear long-term.
Soft contact lenses
These are made from a highly flexible, oxygen-permeable material with high water content, which makes them more comfortable than hard lenses
These are newer lens material that have high oxygen permeability and tend to be the most comfortable to wear.
Daily contact lenses
Deposits of proteins, dirt, bacteria, and allergens on the surface of contact lenses are the main cause of eye irritation in people with sensitive eyes. Daily disposable contact lenses are less likely to develop this problem since they are changed for a fresh new pair every day – so there isn’t enough time for the deposits to form.
Monthly contact lenses
Monthly contact lenses use unique technologies that helps to create a high level of comfort, often by retaining more water than regular contact lenses, keeping eyes moist and comfortable.
Managing sensitive eyes: how to alleviate symptoms when wearing contact lenses
Lens care routine
If you’re experiencing symptoms of sensitive eyes while using twice monthly or monthly contact lenses, your first step should be to pay close attention to your lens care routine. Thorough cleaning and proper storage of contact lenses can ensure the best possible surface quality with the least amount of deposits, helping to reduce the amount of irritation you feel.
If you’re already practicing good hygiene and looking after your lenses properly, but still have sensitive eye symptoms, you should talk to your optician. They might suggest you switch to daily disposables, which are less likely to be irritating, or try lenses made of silicone hydrogel. Some trial and error may also be necessary to get the best lens option for you, and so they may even try you on lenses of varying water content.
Artificial tears or contact lens rewetting eye drops can relieve discomfort in people with sensitive eyes. It’s best to consult your optician before using any eye drops because not all of them are suitable for contact lens wearers. Always use eye drops as recommended (some can be used with the lenses in the eyes, while others have to be applied at least 15 minutes before wearing them).
When looking for a contact lens to wear (especially if you have sensitive eyes) there are a number of important factors to consider — including comfort, wear time, handling, cost and clarity of vision. You can find more information on how to weigh up your options and pick the best lens for you here. Alternatively, book an appointment with one of our opticians, and they’ll be able to advise you further.
1. Bausch and Lomb. (no date). Contact Lens Discomfort. [Online].Available at: https://www.bausch.com/your-eye-concerns/eye-infections-irritations/contact-lens-discomfort [Accessed 24 October 2019].
2. Musgrave CSA, Fang F. Contact Lens Materials: A Materials Science Perspective. Materials (Basel). 2019;12(2):261. Published 2019 Jan 14. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6356913/ [Accessed 24 October 2019].