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Contact lenses and dry eyes

More and more people are wearing contact lenses on a regular basis. In Germany, it is around 3% of the adult population. And more and more frequently, people are suffering from dry eyes. In part, there is a connection here, as contact lenses can cause or reinforce the symptoms of dry eyes.

The reason for dry eyes caused by contact lenses lies in the fact that the lacrimal fluid cannot be distributed unhindered over the surface of the eye. Ruptures appear in the lubricating film. This can lead to typical symptoms of dry eyes such as itching, burning or redness. An increasing intolerance to contact lenses can develop if the symptoms are ignored. Relief can come from lubricating eye drops. However, you should take note that not all drops are suitable for contact lens wearers.

What is the link between contact lenses and dry eyes?

In a healthy eye, the contact lens swims in the tear film on the eye. However – if there is not sufficient lacrimal fluid present, the tear film breaks up and the contact lenses irritate the surface of the eye. This effect is even stronger if the contact lenses are not exactly fitted to the eye or have sharp edges due to their low quality.

Moreover, unsuitable or low quality contact lenses can reinforce dry eyes. Since soft contact lenses remove more liquid from the tear film like a sponge, the eye loses moisture. This is particularly so when the contact lenses are worn for too long a period. Surprisingly, soft contact lenses, which have a high water content, remove a large quantity of liquid from the tear film. This is because the contact lenses lose liquid over time. But since the lens material requires a high concentration of water, the contact lenses draw the liquid out of the tear film.

Which contact lenses are best suited for dry eyes?

Choose high-quality contact lenses. If you choose soft contact lenses, it is recommended that they have good oxygen permeability. Contact lenses with hyaluronan, in particular silicone hydrogel lenses, are often recommended for dry eyes. Hard contact lenses draw hardly any liquid from the tear film, quite the opposite of soft contact lenses, and are usually therefore better suited to problems with dry eyes. The following is applicable in this case: get expert advice from an eye doctor.

What should you watch for when wearing contact lenses?

Attention should be paid to a few things when wearing contact lenses in order to avoid encouraging dryness of the eyes and also to prevent inflammation as well as other damage to the eye:

  1. Take some specialist advice. You should be advised by an eye doctor or contact lens specialist, especially when being fitted for contact lenses for the first time. They can determine the exact strength and curvature for the contact lenses and recommend the suitable type of lens. Moreover, you should have your eye doctor regularly check your eyesight and the general health of your eyes.
  2. Moisten your eyes. Lubricating eye drops can be used to compensate for a lack of liquid. There are various remedies which can be used in conjunction with contact lenses and thereby stabilise the tear film below the contact lens. Yet, not all eye drops are suitable for use with contact lenses so you should definitely pay attention to the patient information leaflet in the pack. On no account should eye drops containing preserving agents be used together with contact lenses. Preserving agents can irritate the eyes and contact lenses reinforce this effect. Furthermore, it is advisable also to moisten the eyes with eye drops and eye ointments after wearing lenses or during the night. 
  3. Do not wear your contact lenses for too long. The contact lenses should not be worn any longer than the manufacturer recommends. So daily lenses should be changed every day and monthly lenses after four weeks. The contact lens containers should also be changed regularly every few weeks so that there is no build-up of germs.
  4. Thoroughly clean your contact lenses each time after wearing them and use the appropriate cleaning media and storage solution recommended by your eye doctor or contact lens specialist. Test to see which remedy you can best tolerate.
  5. Take a break. If you already suffer from dry eyes, it is recommended that you only wear contact lenses for a few hours and on special occasions, such as going out or for sport. Otherwise, it is preferable to switch to wearing glasses. You should preferably not wear contact lenses when watching television or working at a monitor as these put further strain on the eyes. Also, a day off from wearing contact lenses does your eyes the world of good.
  6. You should definitely avoid wearing contact lenses if you are ill, for example with a cold. There is an increased risk of transferring germs into the eyes. Particular care should be taken in the case of eye diseases such as conjunctivitis. Remove the contact lenses immediately, as germs can build up extremely well underneath them, and visit an eye doctor.

Interesting fact: all eye drops from the HYLO EYE CARE® range are free from preservatives and suitable for contact lens wearers. Please read the patient information leaflet in the pack.


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