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Eye Health
Dry Eyes & Contact Lens Wear

Dry eye is a very common disorder of the tear film that is due to a deficiency of tear volume or excessive tear evaporation. This condition causes damage to the surface of the eye leading to discomfort and irritation. Dry eyes can be associated with systemic diseases, chemicals, drugs, inflammation, allergic reactions, and contact lens wear. The symptoms of dry eye typically include burning, stinging, redness, foreign body sensation, excess tearing, and intermittent blurred vision. The estimated number of people affected ranges from 10 to 14 million in the United States.

Contact lens intolerance is often a consequence of dry eye. Studies show that up to 50% of soft contact lens wearers complain of dryness. A person with mild dry eye may not experience symptoms until they attempt to wear contacts. Contacts can disrupt the delicate balance of tear film production and can bring about dry eye symptoms. Some dry eye patients can only wear lenses comfortably for short periods of time and others are unable to tolerate contacts at all. Dryness is the primary reason why people permanently discontinue contact lens wear.

Some clinical studies have indicated that preservatives used in multipurpose solutions can contribute to discomfort and dryness in contact lens wearers. One study specifically evaluated dry eye contact lens wearers who compared AOSept, which has no added preservatives, to OptiFree, Renu, Solocare, and Complete. It was found that the majority of the subjects experienced increased comfort and reduced symptoms of dryness with the AOSept as compared to the multipurpose solutions.

There are ways for contact lens wearers to combat dry eyes and feel comfortable in their lenses for longer periods of wearing time. Possible remedies of contact lens related dryness include:
  • Contact lens rewetting drops: This is usually a temporary solution but does offer some relief. Some examples are Refresh Contacts, Clerz Plus, or Clear Eyes Contact Lens Relief. For those with sensitive eyes, it is best to use a preservative-free drop.
  • Re-soak lenses during the day: People who have dryness symptoms after a few hours of wearing time often experience much relief by removing and soaking their lenses for a few minutes. Upon reinsertion, most are able to wear their lenses comfortably for many more hours.
  • Take good care of lenses: Inserting fresh new lenses as often as prescribed, as well as cleaning lenses properly, greatly contributes to contact lens comfort. Protein deposits and other types of buildup on the lens surface contribute to increased lens dryness. Sometimes switching to a more disposable lens or switching to a different or stronger lens cleaning system also helps.
  • More complete and frequent blinking: Blinking completely and often is necessary to rewet the lenses and maintain comfort. It is often the case that when a person is concentrating, they do not blink as often as they should. This is why computer users often complain of lens dryness. It is important to consciously be aware of blinking frequently and completely under these circumstances.
  • Switching to a different lens material: There are lens brands designed specifically to provide more comfort for those who have problems with dryness. Some examples are Proclear Compatibles and Acuvue Oasys. The newer, more oxygen permeable silicone hydrogel materials such as Focus Night & Day, Ciba O2 Optix, and Acuvue Advance have proven to be more comfortable for patients with moderate dry eye issues.
  • Prescription eye drops: Restasis is an anti-inflammatory eye drop prescribed for moderate to severe dry eyes and has proven to be very effective in cases where inflammation is the underlying cause of the dryness symptoms. Contact lenses should be removed before using these drops.

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