If you are one of the over 30 million people who wear contact lenses, then it’s almost inevitable that you’ll experience some degree of eye irritation at some point. Fortunately, most causes of contact eye irritation are minor issues that can be remedied easily. It is, however, important to be able to identify the cause as well as several different solutions for how to stop eye irritation from contacts. Use this guide to better understand eye irritation related to contact lens use and find an effective solution to not only provide relief but also prevent future issues.
How to Stop Eye Irritation from Contacts
While there may seem to be no end in sight (literally) for contact lens irritation, the truth is that most irritation can be remedied relatively easily. Consider these simple solutions for how to stop eye irritation from contacts.
1. Put Eye Drops
Irritation is often connected to an issue with the level of moisture in the eye. If that is the case, over-the-counter eye drops may be all the solution you need. Ask for your doctor’s recommendation to make sure you get drops that are compatible with your lenses. Avoid products labeled to “get the red out” as they may just mask the actual problem.
2. Take Supplements
If dryness is the issue, then supporting your eyes’ natural tear production may help the problem. Research indicates that you can actually do this effectively with nutritional supplements in the form of omega-3 fats, such as are found in salmon and flaxseed oil.
3. Try Different Lenses
In some cases, the actual lens may be to blame. Discuss your options with your doctor and decide if a different type of lens may be a better fit for you. Options that are helpful for reducing irritation generally include daily disposables, hydrogel or soft lenses, silicone hydrogels, or FDA-indicated lenses for dryness.
4. Take Better Care
It goes without saying, but the way you care for your lenses has a lot to do with how safe and comfortable they are on your eyes. So if the issue persists, you may benefit from taking a look at your lens care routine. Be sure to use the lens solution recommended by your doctor. Follow all other protocol warranted by the specific type of lens you use.
5. Apply Cold Compress
If the issue is connected to allergies, then a simple compress may help. Cold is best in this case, as it helps reduce irritation and inflammation. Additionally, if you have seasonal allergies, you may want to consider an allergy medication to help with the symptoms.
6. Get More Rest
In some cases, the issue is as simple as the eyes are being overworked. It’s either from lack of rest or from extended lens wear. Consider turning in a little early or at least taking your contacts out sooner in the day to give your eyes a bit of a break.
What Is Contact Lens Eye Irritation?
While the need to “define” contact lens eye irritation may seem redundant, there are actually several issues related to discomfort with your lenses that may complicate finding a solution. Although related, such as contact lens-related dryness or dry eye,” the issues are not entirely the same. So, clarifying discomfort or irritation related to contact lens wearing is helpful in identifying the cause and finding the right solution for how to stop eye irritation from contacts.
Fortunately, the Tear Film and Ocular Surface Society (TFOS) created a widely used definition of the issue that outlines the characteristics of the problem. These include:
- Periodic or persistent sensations of discomfort in the eye while wearing lenses.
- Vision changes may be present but do not have to be for diagnoses.
- An obvious connection between the reduced compatibility of the use of lenses and the environment.
- A decrease in wearing time or discontinuation of contact lens wearing altogether.
According to the research set forth by this organization, irritation presents only during wear. It may be linked to either lens-specific issues or environmental causes. In any case, the most definitive factor is the presence of uncomfortable or even painful sensations that only cease after the lenses have been removed or not worn for a period of time.
Symptoms of Contact Lens Discomfort
Being able to recognize symptoms of discomfort is important so that you can affectively seek treatment or medical assistance if warranted. Although most contact lens discomfort should not be cause for alarm, continued wear with disregard to symptoms can lead to issues with your vision, overall comfort, and even safety.
While there is an “adjustment period” when you first get contacts and even when you’re starting with a new pair, there are several symptoms that indicate that your eyes are doing more than adjusting and are actually becoming irritated. Symptoms that may indicate an issue include:
- Stinging, burning, irritation, or other nondescript eye pain.
- Decreasing comfort level of the lens compared to when it was first placed on the eye.
- Feeling of something present in the eye – a foreign body, scratch, etc.
- Increasing eye secretions.
- Redness in the eye or eyes.
- Changing vision, especially in the sharpness of eyesight.
- Increasing sensitivity to light.
- Drying of the eyes as well as excessive tearing.
Causes of Contact Lens Irritation
It is not uncommon for individuals who wear contacts to experience some minor eye irritation from time to time. However, if the irritation is persistent, it is a good indicator that something is wrong. Fortunately, for each of the possible causes, there is generally a safe, effective solution that you may even be able to implement yourself. Familiarize yourself with the possible causes of eye irritation to take a step toward finding the answer for how to stop eye irritation from contacts.
Contact lenses and your eyes are extremely sensitive. Failing to maintain proper care and hygiene practices may cause them to dry out or become contaminated with harmful bacteria – either of which can cause irritation. Likewise, many hygiene and makeup products can easily transfer to your lenses and cause discomfort as well.
Fit is another issue that can cause issues with contacts. Your eyes are unique to you both in size and shape. So it is important that you find a lens and have it specially fitted to your eye by your doctor.
While some brands can safely be worn overnight or longer, not all lenses are. And wearing contacts that aren’t designed for extended wear for too long can cause eye irritation and discomfort. Likewise, wearing a pair of lenses beyond their expiration date can causes issues, including an increased risk for bacterial infection.
Whether the season has changed or your environment has changed, if there are new allergens in your environment, irritation can be a result. Allergens may come in the form of dust, dander, pollen, or other environmental components.
Eye infections are more common in individuals who wear contact lenses. This is because bacteria and other organisms may attach to contact lenses and be transferred to the eye without the wearer knowing. In some cases, these infections may even be sight-threatening.
While the solution is typically simple for how to stop eye irritation from contacts, ignoring discomfort can actually cause the issue to progress from a minor irritation to a major, possible life-altering concern. Use these suggestions as a starting place for soothing your sore eyes. Be sure to discuss any of your eye concerns with your doctor to rule out any more serious causes.