Contact lenses have come a long way since their invention, but wearing them can still be uncomfortable from time to time. Some of the most common causes of discomfort are dirt/debris, torn lenses, old lenses, dry eyes, and poorly-fitting lenses. In some cases, there may be an underlying medical complication causing your pain and discomfort, so it’s always best to talk to your eye doctor if you’re unsure of what the problem is. Through basic troubleshooting you should be able to determine what the problem is and take steps to correct it.
EditRecognizing and Diagnosing the Problem
- Identify the symptoms. If you’re experiencing contact lens discomfort, you may feel any number of sensations in your eye. Other symptoms may not be felt, but rather seen in a mirror or by others around you. Some of the most common symptoms pf contact discomfort include:
- Stinging, burning, or itching in the eye
- Gradual reduction in comfort the longer the lens is in
- The sensation of something foreign in your eye
- Excessive tear production
- Unusual fluid secretions
- Reduced vision or blurry vision
- Rainbows/halos/orbs around objects in your field of vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Look for signs of allergies. Allergies are a common cause of eye irritation, especially for contact lens wearers. Airborne allergens can easily latch on to your lenses, and if you don’t remove, clean, and replace your lenses as often as you should, exposure to those allergens could cause eye irritation.
- If you know you experience seasonal allergies, pet allergies, or other common environmental allergies, try taking allergy medication on a daily basis.
- You can buy over-the-counter eye drops that contain antihistamines. These can help reduce swelling, inflammation, and irritation in your eyes.
- Always follow the directions on your contact lens packaging or from your eye doctor on how often you should remove or replace your lenses.
- Check when you put contacts in. Wearing contact lenses for longer than the recommended time span can cause deposits to form on the surface of the contacts, which can cause mild to severe irritation. Always check the recommended wear times on your contact lenses to avoid this simple problem.
- Everyone has a different level of comfort regarding how long is too long to continuously wear contacts.
- Every brand that manufactures contact lenses has their own guidelines for how long to wear contacts before removing or replacing them. These guidelines are approved by the FDA and should appear on the packaging.
- Consider how old the lenses are. Wearing lenses that are past the recommended replacement date can lead to the same protein and mineral buildups that result from not taking out your lenses. Reusing old lenses can also increase the risk of lens tears, which can irritate or injure your eyes.
- Always follow the recommended replacement schedule indicated on your contact lens packaging.
- As a general rule, two-week silicone hydrogel lenses should be replaced every two weeks, one-month silicone hydrogel lenses should be replaced every four weeks, and daily disposable lenses should be replaced every day.
- Assess how long you’ve been using contacts. If you’re new to wearing contact lenses, your eyes will need time to adjust to having them in. Trying to wear contacts all day with no previous experience can cause irritation, pain, and discomfort.
- Limit yourself to four hours or less of wear time during the first two days.
- You can increase your wear time to eight hours on days three and four.
- On days five and six, limit your wear time to six hours.
- On the seventh and eighth days, increase your wear time to 10 hours.
- Only wear contacts for 12 consecutive hours after approximately nine to 10 days of wearing lenses.
- Make sure the lenses are not inside out. This is often an issue with people new to wearing contact lenses — they may be unable to identify when their contact lens is inside out and put them in the wrong way, causing discomfort. A simple way to check is to place your contact on the tip of a (clean) finger and observe its shape. Hold the contact up to your eye to get a close look — does it look like half of a ball or more like a soup bowl, with edges that flare out? If the contact looks like a sphere sliced in half, then it is correct and you can put it in your eye. If the sides are flared, then it is inside out.
- Learn the signs of a serious problem. Most eye irritation/discomfort is caused by environmental factors, like allergens and debris, or by improper use of contact lenses; however, sometimes eye discomfort is caused by a more serious problem. See your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Severe eye pain
- Persistent redness or irritation
- Signs of infection
- Flashes of light
- Persistent blurred vision
- Sudden loss of vision
- Goopy discharge
EditRemoving Debris From Your Eyes
- Wash your hands thoroughly. You should always wash your hands thoroughly before handling your contact lenses or touching your eyes. This is to prevent dirt and germs from entering your eye, which may cause irritation or infection.
- Use clean, running water to wet your hands.
- Apply soap and lather between your hands. Make sure you cover the fronts and backs of your hands, between the fingers, and underneath your fingernails.
- Scrub your hands together for at least 20 seconds to ensure you’ve covered every part of your hands and allowed enough time for the soap to clean your skin.
- Rinse away all the soap under clean, running water.
- Use a clean, lint-free towel to dry your hands.
- Make sure your fingernails are trimmed short and kept smooth so you do not accidentally scratch your eye.
- Rinse your contacts. Gently pinch each lens individually and remove it very carefully from your eye. Once the lenses are out, you’ll need to rinse them with contact solution to remove any debris that might be causing your eye’s irritation.
- Squirt a small pool of contact solution in the palm of your hand, then squeeze a few drops into the open “bowl” of your lens.
- Use your other index finger to gently rub the lens around in the contact solution you’ve put in your palm. Do not let your fingernail poke the lens.
- Shake off the excess solution and repeat for the other contact.
- While the lenses are out of your eyes, take a moment to examine them for any tears. A torn lens can cause a lot of pain and discomfort, and could damage your eyes.
- Re-insert your clean lenses. After rinsing your lenses (and while your hands are still clean), you’re ready to re-insert your contact lenses into your eyes. You’ll need to take great care to avoid damaging the lens or your eye, particularly with your fingernails.
- Make sure your hands are dry, or the lens will stick to your finger.
- Place the lens on the tip of your index finger.
- Use your other hand to lift and hold your eyelid and upper lashes. Be sure to keep the lashes completely out of your eyes.
- Slowly touch the lens to the surface of your eye. Don’t force it or you’ll end up poking yourself in the eye.
- Don’t blink until the lens floats into place.
- Clean out your storage case. The case you keep your contacts in should be rinsed on a daily basis and washed with soap at least once a week. You should buy a new replacement case every three months to ensure your contacts stay clean.
- Use contact solution to rinse out your case every time you put your contacts in. Change the solution in your case every day to prevent contamination.
- Use liquid soap (either dish soap or antibacterial hand soap) and warm water to thoroughly wash your case at least once every week.
- Be sure to add fresh lens cleaner when you’re finished washing the case, and make sure your lenses are completely submerged whenever they’re in the case.
- Replace your storage case every three months or as needed.
EditTreating Dry Eyes
- Use rewetting drops. The most common recommendation for dry eyes is to use rewetting drops or artificial tears. These eye drops can help lubricate dry eyes by replicating the composition and effect of real tears. If you use artificial tears, look for a brand that is preservative-free. The preservatives in regular over-the-counter drops or artificial tears can cause buildup on your contact lens and even cause you to develop an allergy.
- Wash your hands before inserting eye drops or touching your eyes in any way.
- Gently shake the eye drop container and remove the cap. Avoid touching the applicator tip so you do not contaminate it.
- Tilt your head back and hold the bottle upside down against your forehead, directly above your eye.
- Use your other hand to gently pull down your lower eyelid and eyelashes, and try to simultaneously raise your upper eyelid without touching it.
- Lightly squeeze the bottle until the desired number of drops fall onto your eye.
- Close your eye without squeezing it shut and gently dab at the outside of your eye with a clean tissue.
- Gently press on the inner part of your eye while your eyes are closed, and hold it for 30 seconds to prolong contact with the eye drops.
- Carry eye drops with you wherever you go if you are prone to dry or irritated eyes.
- Take anti-inflammatory agents. Depending on the severity of your dry eyes, your doctor may recommend an anti-inflammatory agent. This may be in the form of eye drops (like Restasis) or steroids.
- Anti-inflammatory prescriptions will help treat dry eyes caused by chemicals/medications, heat, or certain autoimmune disorders.
- Prevent the causes of dry eyes. Some causes of dry eyes, like medications or certain medical conditions, are unavoidable. But other environmental causes can be avoided or diminished with proper planning and care.
- Wear eye protection if it is windy outside, and try to limit exposure to the wind.
- Avoid smoke.
- Try to avoid dry air. Use a humidifier at home if your heating system is drying out the air.
- Carry eye drops with you wherever you go if you are prone to dry eyes.
EditTrying Different Contact Lenses and Alternatives
- Ask your doctor about the fit. If your lens is fitting you properly, it should rest on a thin film of fluid, which is refreshed each time you blink. A poor-fitting contact will interrupt this process, causing discomfort and potentially leading to a damaged cornea.
- If your optometrist does not check the fit of your contact lenses, ask her to do so.
- Your eye doctor should check the fit of both lenses each time you visit.
- A poorly-fitting lens can be easily fixed by adjusting your recommended lens curvature and/or diameter.
- Try daily disposable contacts. While soft contact lenses are generally considered disposable, some people find that opening a new pair of lenses each day can significantly reduce discomfort. This is particularly helpful for people who suffer from allergies and are exposed to pollen, dander, and other airborne allergens on a daily basis.
- Some newer daily contact lenses are produced with a “water gradient” that improves comfort even more than traditional daily contact lenses.
- Be aware of the cost. If you dispose of contact lenses after each day’s use, you’ll need to buy 720 lenses each year (and possibly more if any of your lenses get lost or damaged).
- Daily disposal of your contacts can quickly add up, though the exact price will depend on where you purchase your contacts and what kind of coverage you have. Most manufacturers are aware of this and will offer rebates to help offset the cost. You may also save money because you won’t need contact lens solution or a case.
- Use silicone hydrogel contacts. Soft lenses made with silicone hydrogel are more “breathable” than regular soft contact lenses. That’s because the material allows oxygen to flow through the lens, which can help prevent dry eyes. Silicone hydrogel contacts also absorb moisture faster and more effectively than regular contact lenses, further reducing the risk of dry eyes.
- Silicone hydrogel lenses improve eye comfort, especially while wearing lenses over prolonged periods of time.
- Some users report allergy-like reactions that include redness, itchiness, and discomfort while wearing silicone hydrogel contacts; however, there is currently no formal evidence of allergic reactions found by researchers.
- If you believe you have a silicone allergy, talk to your doctor before you try wearing silicone hydrogel contact lenses.
- Try contacts FDA-indicated for dry eyes. If you experience severe dry eyes, you may find comfort in a contact lens that was specifically designed for your concern. Some soft, disposable contact lenses are acknowledged by the Food and Drug Administration as being able to improve discomfort caused by dryness.
- If you suffer from severe dry eyes, talk to your optometrist about which lenses might be best for your condition.
- Wear glasses. If contacts are causing you discomfort or irritation, your eyes may be more sensitive than other people’s eyes. This is okay, and you should consider reducing your use of contacts or avoiding wearing contacts altogether if you believe this may be the case.
- Take out your glasses and wear glasses instead any time your eyes are uncomfortable or irritated.
- Wash your hands before you touch the contacts.
- Add new contact solution every time you take your contacts out.
- If only one eye is bothering you, carefully remove the lens and then inspect the contact for signs of a tear.
- Check your eyelashes. You may have an eyelash that is shorter and points down towards your eye instead of curling up, resulting in it poking your lens and moving it around each time you blink. If the pain is severe, you may have to wait a week or so for the eyelash to grow out until you can wear your lenses.
- If your eyes burn after putting in your contacts, you may be suffering from an allergic reaction. While allergies to the lenses themselves are extremely unusual, you may be sensitive to the type of solution you use. Talk to your optometrist about alternate contact lens solutions.
- Some people have sensitive eyes and cannot wear contact lenses comfortably. Try wearing glasses instead if you find your eyes uncomfortable for much of the time the contacts are in.
- Certain (generally older) soaking solutions are not compatible with silicone hydrogel contact lenses and cause discomfort when worn. Try changing your soaking solution and see if that provides relief.
- If your eye hurts after you take the contact out, your eye may be scratched. See your eye doctor as soon as possible.
- If you get soap in your eye or your eye is scratched, see a doctor before you put contacts in again.
- Make a Fake Contact Lens Using Tears
- Remove Contact Lenses
- Convince Your Parents to Let You Get Contact Lenses
- Put in Contact Lenses
- Care for Contact Lenses
- Save Money on Contact Lenses
EditSources and Citations
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