What someone complains of contact lens discomfort, an eyecare specialist will first take a look at the eyes to determine if the type of lenses used are to blame or if there is an underlying medical issue going on, such as an infection. If those findings are found to be normal, then an eye care specialist may recommend changing contact lenses, lens solution, may reassess the wear schedule, or obtain information on how you’re caring for your lenses. Many patients are not up front with their doctors about lens discomfort and are afraid that once they discuss this problem with their doctor, that the only alternative will be to go back to wearing eyeglasses. However, that’s not the case since there are many lens alternatives available to choose from. So, what can cause lens discomfort? How can it be treated? What other lens alternatives are available? Let’s find out.
What Lens Discomfort Can Mean
Lens discomfort can be caused by a variety of conditions ranging from a poor fitting lens, and proper care, or an underlying medical condition such as DSD, or dry eyes. It could also be a matter of not using the best contact lens solution or caring for your lenses as directed by your physician. In the case of DSD, this is a more serious matter and one that must be addressed by your healthcare professional. DSD can commonly be mistaken by the contact lens wearer as chronic dry eye syndrome. However, this condition is not the same and can be easily diagnosed during a routine physical exam, as long as a contact lens wearer is honest and very detailed when they give their medical history and contact lens use, care, and symptoms.
When a Lens Change is Needed
If you experience red eyes from contact lenses, or general discomfort, then it’s crucial that you report this to your eye care specialist. Unfortunately, some contact lens wearers will hide this from their doctor in the fear that they will be told that they cannot use contact lenses any longer. Fortunately, there are many solutions and contact lens alternatives should you find that your current lenses are uncomfortable to wear.
If you don’t disclose to your physician that your lenses are uncomfortable, they will automatically assume that your lenses are fine. However, once you admit your discomfort your doctor can present you with many different types of contact lenses that can improve your comfort. If by the end of the day if your eyes are tired, sore, and tender, then it’s important to say something.
During this time, your physician will consider many factors when they choose the right type of lens for you. The two common considerations include replacement schedule and material type. Both of these considerations can have a big impact on your comfort.
If you’re used to removing your lenses at the end of the day and soaking them overnight in solution, then reusing them the following day, then your physician may prescribe silicone hydrogel lenses. The patients who are reusable lenses are excellent candidates for one-day lenses. These lenses provide increased oxygen transmissibility and can often be a safer and healthier choice for the lens wearer.
Once your physician has determined the right type of lens material for you, they’ll also need to consider how frequently you should change and replace the lenses. Usually, this is once a month, or every two weeks. If you’re someone that cuts corners and doesn’t clean your contact lenses each time you use them as required per your doctor’s instructions, then they may recommend the one-day lenses which do not need to be disinfected or cleaned.
However, if you’re already using one day lenses and you’re still experiencing discomfort, there are still some alternatives available that you can try that will make wearing lenses a more comfortable experience.
There may also be an underlying health condition, or a more serious eye condition involved that’s causing your daily eye irritation. Fortunately, your doctor should be able to determine whether the lenses are to blame or if something else is going on that’s causing your discomfort.
Many people who wear soft contact lenses will experience a condition called DSD
DSD, also known as delayed subjective dryness, often gets diagnosed in the later stages because contact lens wearers assume that it is a common issue that occurs with soft contact lens use. Essentially, it’s progressive and can result in reduced contact lens wear time and contact lens failure. If you’re experiencing delayed subjective dryness, it’s an expected and normal consequence of daily contact lens wear. Because of this, contact lens wearers will end up ceasing lens use and switch to glasses since glasses are more convenient and comfortable to use.
In many cases, your eye care specialist will take a history of contact lens use and will be able to diagnose DSD based on your answers. An eye care specialist will ask when you wear your lenses whether you feel that your eyes are dry by the end of the day. If you answer yes to this question and you use soft contact lens that have the proper fit and are stable, then you should not be experiencing any symptoms related to DSD.
With further questioning a contact lens wearer may reveal that they begin to experience discomfort after a few hours of use. Some people may not feel discomfort for a period of 12 hours or more. However, well-fitted lenses should be comfortable once they have been inserted until the time, they are removed based on your wear schedule.
People that have DSD will feel that the dryness becomes worse with time until they feel they have no other choice than to remove the lenses. Using the best eye drops will be of little help and will provide relief for a only a few minutes at a time if DSD is the culprit. If you find that lubricating drops can provide immense relief then you may not have DSD. Instead, you should look for signs of chronic dry eye, allergies, or some type of environmental factor.
Dry Eyes or DSD?
A thorough exam can reveal whether your contact lens discomfort is due to dry eyes or DSD. If tears are found to be normal and the contact lens wearer admits that their eyes feel dry after several hours of contact lens use, the dryness gets worse over time once it starts, if the condition doesn’t respond to lubricating drops, or if a patient admits that they have to remove the contact lenses at the end of the day due to increased pain then the problem is DSD and not dry eyes.
Of course, it’s possible for a patient to have DSD and dry eyes, however these two conditions are unrelated, and the causes are different.
Eye infections are common in new contact lens users. These infections occur when lenses are not taken care of properly. A person may also practice poor hygiene habits and touch their lenses without first washing their hands. They also avoid soaking them overnight, may end up reusing the lens solution, or wearing their lenses longer than they should. Caring for your contact lenses properly and using them as directed can help avoid many issues including infection. If you’re not able to keep up on proper lens care then speak with your eye care provider and request a change in the type of lenses you use and make the switch to disposables. The problem may also be as simple as having your prescription updated or changing the type of lens solution you use to one that’s non-irritating to your sensitive eyes. Honesty and communicating with your physician will be the best way to go about solving your ongoing irritation and discomfort with contact lens use.
Contact lens discomfort can be caused by many things, including contact lenses that do not fit properly, poor hygiene habits, dry eyes, or DSD. The important thing here is to notify your physician once you begin to experience daily discomfort. The solution can be as simple as switching to disposable lenses, a different lens material, changing the wear schedule, or treating an underlying infection. Unfortunately, patients are not always upfront with their physicians in terms of lens use discomfort. But admitting to your doctor that you’re having issues with your contact lenses will be the only way to find the root cause of this issue and ensure that contact lens use is comfortable for the foreseeable future.