If you develop red eyes from contact lenses, that should be considered as a warning sign. contact lenses may seem harmless initially, however, you should keep in mind that a contact lens is a type of foreign body that rests on the surface of the eye. Should your eyes turn red while wearing them, it can mean you’re overusing them, or not cleaning them properly. However, there are also certain conditions that can increase eye redness and irritation during use. In this guide, I’ll go over the top reasons why contact lenses can cause irritation and eye redness.
Common Causes of Contact Lens Irritation
Many contact lens wearers will complain of eye irritation, which is why using the best eye drops can be a great go-to solution that can soothe irritated eyes caused by contact lens use. Using contact lenses incorrectly is the number one cause of redness, however people with sensitive eyes can also encounter this problem. Fortunately, there are some things you can do that can prevent redness and irritation.
While for many, contact lenses can be a lifesaver, especially for those who have worn glasses all their lives, for some people they can be more trouble than they’re worth.
If you’re wearing contact lenses and you’re experiencing irritation and red eyes, then the following conditions and issues may be to blame.
Sleeping with Contact Lenses
Do you sleep with your contacts lenses in? Unfortunately, the more you wear your lenses, the less permeable they will be and the dirtier they will become. Did you know that lenses that are no longer able to breathe oxygen are more likely to lock in dirt and grime and other irritants that can affect eye health?
Sleeping with contact lenses in is the most common cause of this issue. While you may be tempted to sleep with your lenses in after a long day, it’s important that you take the time to remove and clean them, thus giving your eyes a well-deserved break and preventing irritation.
Chronic Dry Eye Syndrome
Dry eyes are another common problem that contact lens wearers have. Contact lenses require a significant amount of lubrication on the surface of the eye in order to remain in place and hydrated. Commonly, without lubrication these lenses can end up sticking to the surface of the eye as they suck up all the tears that the eye produces. The result? Irritated and red eyes. The effects of this can become worse if the contact lens wear also suffers from chronic dry eye syndrome. This is a condition in which the eyes are not able to produce enough tears.
Defective Contact Lenses
If the contact lenses you’re using are defective, it’s often because they’re torn. A torn lens can be dangerous and very irritating to the eyes. Lenses that are defective can also scratch the cornea, which leads to infection, redness, irritation, and discomfort
The Wrong Size
If the contact lenses you’re wearing are too large, then you’ll notice that they move around the surface of your eye each time you blink. This will cause friction between your eye and the lens, especially if your eyes already cannot produce enough tears. If enough irritation is generated, the eyes will begin to turn red and ache.
Lenses that are too tight can obstruct the flow of tears, while reducing the amount of oxygen that’s delivered to the cornea. Ill-fitting lenses may not be noticeable initially, but by the end of the day, you’ll develop compression rings on the cornea that a doctor will be able to detect during an exam.
Ulcers can occur anywhere in the body and it’s a condition in which the body’s natural tissues begin to erode. A corneal ulcer is a type of ulcer that specifically develops on the front of the eye. Redness is the first symptom of a corneal ulcer. Irritation is often what incites an ulcer, so people that wear contact lenses are particularly prone to them.
Contact lenses and allergies are not a good mix. Even when you don’t wear contacts allergies can cause significant eye irritation, which can cause you to rub your eyes frequently in order to find relief. When wearing contacts, the lenses can rub up against the cornea, increasing irritation. Additionally, the lenses themselves can trap allergens against the eye which will worsen the effects of your allergies.
The Wrong Contact Lens Solution
It’s also possible for the contact lens solution that you’re using to cause an allergic reaction. In some cases, this allergy will develop over time. Even if you don’t have allergies, you can develop an allergy to the solution.
Underlying Eye Condition
There are also many underlying eye conditions that can be exacerbated with contact lens use. You may not even know that you have an underlying condition until you begin to experience irritation and redness with your new contacts.
GPC, or giant papillary conjunctivitis is a medical condition that is commonly diagnosed in contact lens wearers. This condition occurs due to having a foreign body in the eye. In this case, contact lenses. For some, contact lenses can irritate the surface of the conjunctiva. This condition can make the eyes itchy and red, causing the contact lenses to move around with every blink.
Contact Lens Induced Red Eyes
This condition is caused by bacteria and it’s a reaction to the normal bacteria and toxins created in the eyes. Typically, toxins in the eyes would normally be flushed out every time a person blinks. Unfortunately, contact lenses can bind the bacteria to the eyes. As these toxins begin to build up, it will create chronic red eyes. This condition is more commonly found in people who sleep with their lenses in. To learn more, click here to read my article on Causes Contact Lens Discomfort?
Signs and Symptoms
Discomfort caused by contact lenses can occur for a number of reasons. In order for a lens to work the way it’s meant to, it’s important to care for them correctly, and follow a replacement and maintenance schedule that’s recommended by a healthcare professional. If maintenance and care it’s not followed, then irritation and problems with your vision can develop over time.
The following eye issues can occur if your lenses are not cared for properly:
- Eyes may burn, itch, or sting
- A decrease in comfort
- The feeling that a foreign body is in the eye
- Eye secretions
- Increased tear production
- General irritation
- Decrease in vision quality
- Blurred vision
- Light sensitivity
If the irritation and discomfort that you’re experiencing stops once you remove your lenses, then take a close look at your lenses. If your contact lenses appear to be damaged in any way, avoid putting them back in your eyes. Instead, place the lenses in their case and contact your optometrist. If your lenses have some type of foreign body on them such as an eyelash, or grime, or if the issue stops and the lens appears damaged, make sure that you clean and disinfect the lenses thoroughly before replacing them in the eye. Once the lenses have been reinserted, if the irritation continues, then remove the lenses immediately and speak with your eye care professional.
If any symptoms of irritation continue once they’re removed, or when you reinsert new lenses, you may be dealing with a serious infection, neovascularization, a corneal ulcer, or an injury to the cornea. Avoid replacing the lenses and speak with a professional immediately in order to determine the underlying problem and avoid serious eye damage.
During contact lens use it’s important that you follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and replace the lenses based on your contact lenses wear schedule. Doing so is the best way to ensure that your eyes remain healthy and your lenses stay comfortable.
The signs and symptoms of contact lens irritation can include redness of the eyes, swelling, photophobia, itching, discomfort, and watery eyes. In many cases, this condition will only present in one eye.
Treatment for contact lens induced red eyes includes temporary and immediate discontinuation of lens use, in addition to an anti-inflammatory eye drop. In some cases, antibiotic drops may also be prescribed if disruption of the outermost layer of the cornea is involved.
After the inflammation subsides new contact lenses should be prescribed. Wearing new contact lenses can often do the trick since they can provide more oxygen transmission. Additionally, replacing lenses more frequently, and the elimination or reduction of overnight use can also prevent future cases.
The use of artificial tears can help to relieve dry eye symptoms. Follow your doctor’s recommendations since some drops may be incompatible based on the type of contact lenses you wear. If you use drops that are not compatible with your contact lenses it can essentially ruin them or cause discoloration. Not all drops are approved and designed for contact lens use.
For eye dryness, avoid using products that claim they can get the red out. The job of these drops is to constrict the blood vessels that are located in the whites of the eyes. Constructing these blood vessels can eliminate the appearance of red eyes, but they will not treat the underlying cause.
The eyes need to produce enough tears in order for contact lens used to be comfortable. However, it’s not only the amount of tears that your eyes produce it’s also the quality. As an example, an imbalanced tear chemistry can cause rapid evaporation of the tears which can lead to the same issue as not producing enough tears
Research has shown that taking a omega-3 fatty acid supplement, in addition to flaxseed oil can help improve the quality of the tears. This will help to discourage tear evaporation.
This condition involves poorly functioning tear ducts that are unable to produce enough tears. Treatment consists of inserting a small piece of acrylic or silicone called a punctual plug. The plug is designed to minimize tear drainage, which can help to keep the surface of the eye well- lubricated. These plugs are temporary and dissolve on their own and can be a good solution to chronic dry eye suffers who wear contact lenses.
Lenses For Dry Eyes
If the current lenses you use are a good fit but you’re still experiencing redness, irritation some discomfort, then your eye care specialist may recommend switching to a different type of lens or adjusting your wearing schedule.
There are many different types of lenses available to choose from. Your doctor may recommend llenses that are specifically designed for people who suffer from chronic dry eye syndrome. While these lenses may not work for everyone, they can have a positive impact on eye health if worn correctly and taken care of properly. These lenses have a different water content and are able to hold different amounts of water once they have been fully hydrated. The water content is solely based on the material characteristics. Some people find that lenses that have a lower water content are more comfortable to wear, While others prefer Lenses that have a higher water content. If you find yourself constantly struggling with dry eye symptoms than speak with your eye care specialist regarding changing your lenses to one with a higher water content.
Use the Right Solution
Always use the best contact lens solution, one that your doctor recommends. Using rewetting drops or solutions that are not compatible with your lenses degrades the quality of lenses which will impact your comfort and vision quality. Even if the lens solution works well at first, overtime some people can develop a sensitivity to certain formulas. This is especially true for a lens solution that contains preservatives. Your doctor may request that you switch to daily disposable lenses, which require no solution use.
Red eyes from contact lenses can occur for a variety of reasons, whether you have developed a sensitivity to your lens solution, you’re not taking care of your lenses properly, or your lenses do not fit correctly. If you experience redness and irritation more than two times a week, or general discomfort with contact lens use, remove the contact lenses and speak with your eye care specialist immediately for guidance. They may request you make an appointment, switch to new lenses, or request that you change lens solution. The bottom line don’t allow the redness and irritation to continue, otherwise, you may develop a serious eye condition over time, or possible infection.