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How to Deal with Contact Lens Discomfort

Do your eyes itch or burn when wearing contact lenses? There are several reasons why you may be experiencing contact lens discomfort. Discover the possible causes behind the problem and see what you can do to relieve your discomfort.

What Causes Contact Lens Discomfort?

Some of the top causes of uncomfortable contacts are:

Dry eyes

Dry eye syndrome is a common condition that arises when your tears can’t keep your eyes sufficiently lubricated due to an imbalance in the tear film. Certain diseases, medications and environmental factors, like high levels of dryness and wind, can cause or contribute to red, itchy or irritated eyes, especially when wearing contacts.

Allergies

Allergens are typically harmless substances that induce an allergic response in certain people. Pollen, mold, dust and pet dander are some of the most common airborne allergens that trigger eye allergies. Cosmetics and certain eye drops, such as artificial tears with preservatives, can also induce eye allergies, which can make contact lens wear uncomfortable.

Corneal irregularities

The cornea at the front of the eye may be irregularly shaped due to astigmatism, keratoconus, eye surgeries (i.e. LASIK or cataract surgery), eye injuries or burns, scarring, corneal ulcers and/or severe dry eye. Irregular corneas often prevent traditional contact lenses from fitting correctly and comfortably.

Symptoms of Contact Lens Discomfort

  • Burning, itchy, stinging eyes
  • Sensation of something being stuck is in the eye
  • Excessive watering or tearing of the eyes
  • Unusual eye secretions
  • Redness of the eyes
  • Reduced sharpness of vision
  • Blurred vision, rainbows, or halos around objects
  • Sensitivity to light

How to Relieve Contact Lens Discomfort

Try Different Contact Lenses

Nowadays, there are many types of contact lenses on the market, including specialty contacts for dry eyes and astigmatism. Meet with our optometrist for a personalized eye exam for contacts.

With the variety of contact lens brands available, switching to a different contact lens may be the simplest answer if you’re experiencing discomfort that isn’t connected to improper fitting or issues with tear production. If your existing lenses fit well but still irritate and dry out your eyes, speak to us about trying a different design or brand of contact lenses, or changing your lens-wearing schedule.

Artificial Tears or Eye Drops

Over-the-counter artificial tears or eye drops are a common way to temporarily relieve contact lens discomfort. However, it’s important to keep in mind that unless prescribed by an eye doctor, they may not be treating the root of the problem.

Moreover, certain eye drops are incompatible with contact lenses, and may damage your contacts or harm your eyes. We also recommend staying away from products that claim to remove redness from your eyes, which temporarily reduce the size of blood vessels to lessen redness, but do not address the underlying cause of the condition, and can actually worsen it over time.

Take Good Care of Your Lenses

Inadequate contact lens care leaves residue on your lenses, which can discomfort, harmful eye infections and inflammation. Below are a few important contact lens hygiene guidelines to follow:

  • Before handling your contact lenses, thoroughly wash and dry your hands.
  • Remove your lenses before showering, bathing or swimming to prevent infection.
  • Do not sleep in your contact lenses (unless they are approved for sleeping).
  • Replace your contact lenses according to the manufacturer’s instructions (e.g., don’t reuse daily wear lenses).
  • Regularly clean your contact lens case and ask your eye doctor when to replace it.
  • Only use a contact lens solution that is appropriate for your lenses.
  • Never reuse or mix contact lens solutions.
  • Schedule regular appointments with your eye doctor.

If you are experiencing discomfort with your contact lenses, get in touch with Family Eyecare Center of Optometry in Westchester, Los Angeles today. We’ll get to the bottom of the problem and provide effective solutions for all-day comfort.

Q&A

What kinds of contacts are available?

Contact lenses are available in a wide range of materials and replacement schedules. Disposable contact lenses and extended wear contacts are the most convenient for many users.

I’ve already been fitted for contact lenses, so why did my optometrist ask me to come back?

If you’re asked to return a week later, it’s because your optometrist wants to rule out any issues, such as contact lens-related dry eye or irritation.

If it’s been around a year since your last eye checkup, you’ve likely been contacted to check whether your prescription has changed and to evaluate your eye health. The sooner problems are detected and treated, the better the outcome.

Why You Should Not Rub Your Eyes

Dry Eye Girl 640×350Though it may seem harmless, rubbing your eyes is something many of us do from time to time. Doing so feels good because it stimulates tear flow and eye lubrication, which offers relief for dry eyes and helps remove dust and other irritants. Furthermore, rubbing your eyes can be therapeutic, as pressing down on your eyeball stimulates the vagus nerve, which decreases your heart rate, thus relieving stress.

So why do eye doctors advise against rubbing your eyes? That’s because rubbing your eyes poses a threat, especially now, as COVID-19 can be spread through the eyes' mucous membranes. Moreover, rubbing can potentially damage your eyes’ structure and vision.

How is Rubbing Your Eyes Harmful?

  • Continuous eye rubbing in susceptible individuals can cause the cornea to thin and weaken, leading it to bulge forward and become more cone-like. This is known as keratoconus — a serious condition that can lead to distorted vision and ultimately the need for a corneal transplant or specialized contact lenses, such as scleral lenses.
  • If you have a foreign object in your eye, your natural instinct is likely to rub it in an attempt to remove the object. However, this can potentially cause more damage as the object can scratch the cornea. Instead, try flushing it out with saline solution or artificial tears.
  • From a hygienic perspective, it’s important to remember that your hands are covered in germs and bacteria. Therefore, sticking a finger that hasn't been thoroughly washed with soap and water into your eyes can cause an infection, such as conjunctivitis, to flare up. Recent evidence shows that the coronavirus can also be transferred from the hands to the eyes.
  • Rubbing is harmful to people with certain pre-existing eye conditions. If you have progressive myopia (short-sightedness caused by a lengthened eyeball) or glaucoma (a condition that damages the optic nerve), rubbing your eyes can exacerbate the condition and worsen eyesight. Eye rubbing is particularly bad for a glaucoma patient with already heightened eye pressure. It can engender nerve damage and permanent vision loss.
  • Retinal tear or detachment can occur due to the heightened eye pressure caused by the rubbing.
  • Excessive eye rubbing can negatively affect your appearance. It can cause tiny blood vessels to break, resulting in bloodshot eyes, dark circles and wrinkles around the eyes.

Why Do You Rub Your Eyes?

When your eyes are feeling itchy, it is natural to rub them. Sometimes you do it and are not even aware you are rubbing your eyes. But this can cause some big problems.  Sometimes rubbing your eyes just makes it worse because they itch and bother you even more. This happens because rubbing your eyes causes the release of histamines. Histamines can start the itching and allergy response. Allergy medicines are commonly called anit-histamines because they block histamines. This is the way they stop itching.

Rubbing your eyes isn’t all bad, sometimes it can temporarily help. It releases more tears, which in turn causes the meibomian glands, situated within your eyelids, to secrete much-needed oil into our eyes. That adds moisture and protects your tears from evaporating.

However, if you frequently rub your eyes because they are dry or irritated, contact Dr. Harold Ashcraft immediately.

What You Can Do To Stop Rubbing Your Eyes

Keep your eyes hydrated by using artificial tears or eye drops. They can be found over the counter at the pharmacy, and are especially effective against dry eyes. Certain eye drops, such as antihistamines and mast cell stabilizers, can be prescribed by Dr. Harold Ashcraft to help prevent the itchy feeling that leads you to instinctually rub your eyes. In more severe cases, such as in allergy sufferers, steroid eye drops can be used to avoid chronic eye rubbing.

Excessive eye rubbing, whether due to chronic dry eye, itchy eyes, or habit, should be addressed to prevent any ocular and vision damage. Contact Family Eyecare Center of Optometry at  Westchester, Los Angeles to schedule a visit, determine the cause of your itchiness, and find out which drops to use in your specific case.

 

We Are Open! COVID-19 ReOpening—Expectations
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the safety and well-being of our patients, staff and doctors is our first priority. Read Safety Protocols. Please read our safety protocols here.