With the current epidemic of dry eyes, it is no surprise that over 50% of contact lens wearers fail within the first year - mainly due to contact lens-related discomfort. Popular disposable lenses are made from soft, water-loving (hydrophilic) materials which literally soak up your available tears and can aggravate dry eyes.
So, does that mean that dry eye sufferers must avoid contact lenses entirely? Not necessarily.
Read on for some practical strategies for comfortable contact lens wear if you have dry eyes.
Treat the Dry Eyes!
This might sound obvious but dry eye treatment is often ignored. Do not just reach for eye drops. All they do is mask the underlying problem and often fail.
Dry eyes in today's digital world has become an epidemic. Even with all the innovative contact lenses and materials that have been invented in the last 15 years we seem to be fighting a losing battle, as the proper treatment of dry eyes just does not come on to the practitioner radar.
Finding a solution to this common problem can be complicated and is best managed by an expert optometrist that regularly fits complex contact lenses and is also a dry eye specialist.
Best contact lens materials
The latest offerings in soft contact lenses (including disposables) are constructed from a silicon core and a soft, comfortable outer hydrophilic layer. The inner core doesn't soak up moisture from your eye, resulting in less loss of tear volume.
There are multiple brands that provide these innovative materials, each with slightly different fitting characteristics, so it is often worthwhile trying a different brand even if you have failed in lenses previously.
Talk to your optometrist about what designs and materials will best suit your eyes.
Best contact lens cleaning solutions for dry eyes
The preservatives in contact lens solutions can often be the culprit when it comes to irritated eyes and unfortunately, dry eyes are much more prone to damage from the harmful chemicals used to preserve your cleaning systems.
Useful strategies include choosing a daily disposable lens that requires no cleaning OR if you have been prescribed a lens design that requires nightly cleaning, then a hydrogen peroxide system (e.g. AOSEPT) is an excellent choice.
The solutions to avoid if you have dry eyes are anything that is labelled 'One Step', even if it is claimed to have a preservative that breaks down.
These cleaning systems are very harsh on the delicate tissues of the eyes and even more so if you suffer from dry eyes.
Artificial tears for contact lenses
You may be able to extend your comfortable wearing time by using a drop of preservative free artificial tears.
We recommend a drop around midday and again in the mid to late afternoon. If you need to use drops more frequently than that, you are probably in the wrong lens or more commonly have had your underlying dry eye condition ignored and not treated properly.
Scleral contact lenses
These large, hard contact lenses vault the entire cornea (sensitive front surface of the eye) and bear only on the tougher, less sensitive while of the eye. They literally seal off the cornea in a protective, moist lubricating bubble, and physically prevent the evaporation of tears.
They are tricky to fit, and require the skill of an experienced advanced contact lens specialist.
We have specialised in scleral contact lenses for many years and for some patients it is the only successful treatment for their condition.
Struggling with contact lenses due to dry eyes?
The Eye Practice specialises in Advanced Contact Lenses AND Dry Eyes.
Call us on (02) 9290 1899 or make an appointment online today.