Contact Lenses and Dry Eye

Do contact lenses cause you to experience pain, gritty or sandy sensations, redness, or other symptoms of dry eye?

Contact Lenses and Dry Eye Optometrist
Specialty Vision

Contact Lenses and Dry Eyes

Dry eye is a common complaint by wearers of contact lenses. Not surprisingly, it is a common problem among non-wearers as well. Nevertheless, it's been observed that contact lenses can exacerbate dry eye symptoms, making it a cause for concern for your eye care professional. The lenses can make the eyes even drier than they might’ve been before. Moreover, some products associated with contact lenses, such as contact lens solution, can irritate the eyes of people already suffering from dry eye.

Fortunately, our professional eye doctor can provide reassurance that effective solutions do exist. There are products specialized for people with dry eye, and ways to mitigate symptoms while still being able to wear convenient, helpful lenses.

Treatment Options

Treatment Options

As with any eye issues, the first step is to come see your local optometrist, who will be able to evaluate your dry eye symptoms. At our eye care clinic, we can determine the cause and then devise the ideal treatment plan to help relieve your symptoms and allow you to resume wearing your contact lenses in comfort.

Contact Lenses for Dry Eyes

There are specialized types of contact lenses designed for people who experience discomfort while wearing regular contacts. Additionally, in some cases it is the products associated with contact lenses, such as the lens solution, that can be irritating your eyes, opposed to the contacts themselves. That is something the doctor will be able to determine, and in those cases, switching your lens solution or cleaner can alleviate your symptoms.

Soft Contact Lenses for Dry Eyes

There are several different companies making contact lenses specifically designed for people who suffer from dry eye while wearing normal contacts.

There are several different popular brands which make soft contacts for people with dry eyes, including DAILIES TOTAL1, Biofinity, Dailies Aqua Comfort Plus, Acuvue Moist, Airoptix Aqua, Proclear, Acuvue Oasys, Acuvue Trueye, and Precision1, and while they have their differences, each focuses on keeping the eyes moist to provide relief from symptoms and to make the lenses comfortable to wear for extended periods. 

The way these contact lenses work is by using advanced lens materials that allow for the contact lens to retain more moisture and reduce the friction and discomfort on your eye. 

For some more details on the nature of these lenses, and how they relate to dry eye:

  • Lens water content: contact lenses are partially made of water, but the amount of water can vary. High water content lenses are thicker, while low water content lenses are thinner. Counterintuitively, lenses with lower water content are in fact better for dry eyes, since they won’t draw water away from the eye. People suffering from dry eye should wear contacts with 40% or less water.
  • Deposit buildup prevention: A major issue when it comes to contact lenses and dry eye is environmental buildup on the lenses. This can be from things like pollen, bacteria, or protein and lipids from your tears. Daily lenses are the best way to avoid this issue, as there isn’t time for debris to build up on them.
  • Surface treatment to reduce friction: Different contact lenses can have different surface treatments, some of which produce less friction on the eye than others. Dry eye patients, who tend to have more sensitive eyes, should wear lenses with as little friction as possible for increased comfort.
  • Lens breathability: Contact lens breathability varies depending on the design and material used. Dry eye patients, for whom comfort is extra important, do better with more breathable lenses.

Scleral Contact Lenses for Dry Eyes

Scleral contact lenses are another option for people suffering from dry eye. Scleral lenses are larger than standard contacts, and rest on the sclera of the eye as opposed to directly on the cornea, and they move around less than standard contact lenses. This helps keep the front of the eye from drying out, and avoids irritating sensitive eyes. Additionally, scleral lenses can be custom made to fit over irregularly shaped corneas to provide better vision assistance. Learn more about scleral lenses.


Orthokeratology, or othro-k) lenses are specially designed to be worn only while you sleep. While asleep, they reshape the front of the eyes, correcting refractive errors so you can see during the day without the need to wear contacts or glasses. Since, with ortho-k lenses, you are only wearing them at home, at night, there is less likelihood of them causing dry eye symptoms. Learn more about ortho-k lenses.

Contact Lens Solution Options

We recommend scheduling an evaluation to discuss the possibility that your contact lens solution may be causing your symptoms. It's also suggested to bring your current contact lens solution to your appointment for further examination.

Sometimes, people develop sensitivity to the preservatives in contact lens solution, and can experience dry eye symptoms because of that. In those cases, the doctor may recommend switching to a preservative free solution, or to use daily disposable contact lenses which do not need to be stored in solution overnight.

Eye Drops

Eye crops, also known as comfort drops, rewetting drops, or artificial tears, can be suggested as a way to treat contact lens-related dry eye. While their effect is temporary, their moisturizing effect on the eyes can alleviate symptoms, and some brands can provide longer-term relief. Learn more about eye drops for dry eye.

If you wish to try this route, it is very important to schedule a consultation to discuss it, so we can provide advice on which eye drops can be used while wearing contacts, and which brand is likely to yield the best results.

Treatment Options

Common Questions

If you’re experiencing any symptoms of dry eyes you should see your optometrist to get a thorough dry eye evaluation to determine the severity of your dry eyes and then have the proper course of treatment. Some symptoms of dry eyes are if your eyes feel gritty, irritated, scratchy, foreign body sensation, burning, excessive watering/tearing, redness, or you may experience light sensitivity. Other symptoms may include blurry vision; you may notice you find yourself blinking more frequently in order for your vision to get cleared up, after going in and out of focus, due to an unstable ocular surface. Since symptoms of dry eyes can also be similar to symptoms caused by other eye conditions, it’s best to not just take care of the problem by yourself, and it’s important to visit your eye doctor so that you can get the proper diagnosis and treatment. Additionally, there are instances when sometimes signs of dry eyes can be detected by your eye doctor before you even experience any symptoms. So, in that case your eye doctor may also provide some sort of treatment to prevent you from starting to feel symptoms of dry eyes in the future. Thus, if you don’t experience any symptoms of dry eyes it is still important to get your eyes examined at least once per year
Contact Lenses and Dry Eye
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If you are experiencing dry eye symptoms, reach out to the nearest listed practice to schedule a consultation today. They are ready and equipped to provide you with the care you need.