Glaucoma is an eye disease that affects the optic nerve, which sends information from the eye to the vision centres of the brain. It is usually linked to elevated pressure inside the eye and can lead to irreversible damage and loss of vision if it is not treated. If you have been diagnosed with glaucoma you may be wondering how you can manage this condition, including how you will need to correct your vision going forward.
Can I wear contacts with glaucoma?
Many people with glaucoma can continue using contact lenses. However, it depends on the severity of your condition and the treatment that is prescribed. It’s extremely important to follow your eye doctor’s advice in this regard.
When can I wear contact lenses with glaucoma?
Treatment for glaucoma usually starts with prescription eye drops that reduce the pressure in the eye. One or more eye drops are prescribed depending on the severity of your condition. Some people can continue using contact lenses if they are treating their glaucoma with eye drops. However, many prescription eye drops contain ingredients that can cause discoloration of contact lenses. Also, contacts may prevent the drug from fully penetrating the eye, thus making the glaucoma treatment ineffective.
In most instances, glaucoma eye drops need to be placed in the eyes when contact lenses have been taken out. For example, you can apply the eye drops before you put in your contacts in the morning and after you take them out again at night. However, if you have to take medication frequently as part of ongoing glaucoma treatment, this can make it difficult for you to wear contact lenses. This is because there needs to be a gap of at least 15 minutes between putting the medicine in the eye and putting the contact lens back on.1 This can be quite a hassle to do multiple times a day.
There are also different types of contact lenses you might wear with glaucoma. Rigid gas-permeable (hard) contacts allow oxygen to flow to the eye and are better for eye health. However, soft contact lenses offer a higher level of comfort and can be worn for an extended period of time. In general, ophthalmologists prefer gas-permeable hard contact lenses in glaucoma patients, and soft contact lenses are less frequently recommended. In all cases, contact lens wear is strictly limited to the daytime in people with glaucoma.2
Glaucoma patients may soon be able to access drug-dispensing contact lenses that could significantly improve their lives.3 Researchers in the United States have created a contact lens that slowly releases glaucoma medication onto the surface of the eye. Initial trials are promising, but more research is needed before these contact lenses are available commercially.
When can I not wear contact lenses with glaucoma?
There are various other treatment options for glaucoma besides eye drops, including laser therapy, filtering surgery, placement of drainage tubes, and minimally-invasive glaucoma surgery. If you require surgical treatment for glaucoma, you will not be able to wear contact lenses for vision correction until your eyes heal.
You should discuss contact lens use after glaucoma surgery with your eye surgeon. This may be permitted after recovery is complete, provided there are no other contraindications. It is possible to use rigid gas-permeable contact lenses even when a filtering bleb (a small reservoir of fluid just under the eye surface) is established in the eye, although this will require careful fitting and close monitoring.4 However, not everyone can continue using contact lenses after glaucoma surgery. If this is a concern, you should discuss alternative vision correction options with your surgeon.
Aftercare advice for contact lenses and glaucoma
If you are being treated for glaucoma, it may be possible to continue with contact lens use, but this can vary from person to person depending on the severity of their condition and the nature of their treatment. It is important to seek medical advice before making any decisions about contact lens use with a glaucoma diagnosis. If for any reason you are unsure about using contact lenses with glaucoma, it is best to wear your glasses until you’ve had a chance to speak to your eye care professional.
Visit the Specsavers Glaucoma page for more information about this condition or browse through our Contact Lenses page for further advice. You can also book an appointment with a Specsavers optometrist to get answers to all your eye health questions.
- Cooper Vision. (no date). Are your eye drops ok to use with contact lenses? [Online]. Available at: https://coopervision.com/blog/are-your-eye-drops-ok-to-use-with-contact-lenses [Accessed 6 November 2019].
- Malet F. Practical measures: Contact lenses after glaucoma surgery. J Fr Ophthalmol. 2006 May. 29 Spec No 2:49-51. [Online]. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17072223 [Accessed 6 November 2019].
- Glaucoma Research Foundation. (no date). New Contact Lens technology could change the lives of glaucoma patients and their doctors. [Online]. Available at: https://www.glaucoma.org/news/blog/new-contact-lens-technology-could-change-the-lives-of-glaucoma-patients-and-their-doctors.php [Accessed 6 November 2019].
- Samples JR, Andre M, MacRae SM. Use of gas permeable contact lenses following trabeculectomy. CLAO J. 1990 Oct-Dec; 16(4):282-4. [Online]. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2249347 [Accessed 6 November 2019].