Contact lenses can change your life for the better. Some like the natural, unburdened look of being free of glasses, and some need to rid themselves of glasses so they can play sports or get active. Contact lenses are your avenue to ditching glasses, excepting laser eye surgery, of course.
But wearing contact lenses can cause changes in the cornea in terms of structure, tear production, and variations in oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. These changes in themselves can lead to irritations, or in severe cases, infections. The good news, however, is that they are not without their respective remedies.
Special Lenses for Any Patient
Sometimes, patients don’t get a contact lens fitting that can account for unique problems with their eyes. If you have corneal irregularities, issues with your eyelids, or other eye conditions that affect contact lens use, you might need special contact lenses to correct the problem.
But even when your contact lens fits you correctly, you could still experience problems from wearing them! Here, Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care, home to your trusted eye doctor in Alexandria, VA, examines what our patients complain about and what can be done.
Contact lenses can easily trap irritants like smoke, pollen, dust, smog, and makeup. Their buildup can cause red, itchy, or burning eyes, and it could even lead to conjunctivitis. Redness is mostly a sign of irritation!
Solution to Redness
Redness is usually quite common, and it’s the first sign that your contact lens use might not be going well. If it’s just redness, first make sure your cleaning habits and techniques are thorough and sensible. Ensure you clean them with the solution your optometrist approves, and follow cleaning instructions to the letter! This advice can help with almost every contact lens problem you might have.
Burning & Itchiness
Burning and itchiness with redness after contact lens use might owe to allergic reactions. Technically speaking, symptoms falling under allergic reaction would fall under allergic conjunctivitis. If it only really affects you when you use your contact lenses, you might actually have an allergic reaction to the contact lens material or the cleaning solution you’re using.
Solution to Burning & Itchiness
Your optometrist might prescribe you antihistamines, anti-inflammatory eye drops, or steroids to treat your allergic reaction. If the cause is your contacts or your cleaner, your eye doctor might have skin tests, blood tests, or a conjunctival scraping (for lab analysis) to determine that.
Ask your optometrist for brands with different contact lens materials. Manufacturers often conduct research and development to provide alternative materials for consumers with allergies. If you need a prescribed cleaning solution free of ingredients that, for you, have become allergens, your optometrist might be able to find a replacement.
Burning or itchiness alone could indicate an allergic reaction to your contacts. But burning and itchiness with a mucus discharge could indicate a bacterial or viral infection.
Pink eye technically includes bacterial, viral, and allergic conjunctivitis. Still, it might be better to think of allergic conjunctivitis as separate from the bacterial and viral types. The critical difference lies in the discharge coming from your eyes.
Solution to Eye Discharge
Your optometrist will probably need to prescribe you antibiotic eye drops to treat the infection. But as far as contact lens wear goes, it comes back down to cleaning habits. Thoroughly cleaning your contacts kills viruses and bacteria before they can take root in your eye. If you’re not cleaning them well, your eye surface becomes a sheltered breeding ground for microorganisms.
Grittiness might be due to pink eye, or it might come back to irritants. Grittiness from pink eye occurs when bacterial or viral infection swarms your eye.
Grittiness from small foreign objects could scratch your cornea, dulling your vision with a physical injury.
Solution to Grittiness
If you’ve got a foreign object stuck in your eye while you’re wearing contacts, carefully remove the contact lens, store it in a sterile container, and flush your eye with cool, clean water.
If you’re feeling grittiness due to pink eye, the same steps that treat discharge, itching, and burning can also resolve that gritty feeling. You can then refocus on cleaning habits to ensure your contact lenses won’t be the source for possible reinfection.
Wearing lenses for prolonged periods can lead to corneal ulcers and abrasions that make the eye extra sensitive to light. Other possible causes of corneal abrasions include dirt, metal particles, sand, and certain medicines.
Solution to Light Sensitivity
Your eyes need rest. Wearing contact lenses for prolonged periods can hurt your eyes. It’s also important to keep tiny foreign objects out of your eye and flush them thoroughly. If small particles become embedded in your contact lenses, they’ll need to be replaced.
This mostly occurs when you wear dirty or damaged contact lenses. In more severe cases, blurry vision can result from glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts, or some form of infection. Blurry vision coming from excessive contact lens use owes to a condition called hypoxia.
Your cornea needs to gather oxygen from the natural level of tears in your eyes. If there’s a seal formed over them by conventional contact lenses, they can’t get oxygen from the water content in your tear film.
Solution to Blurry Vision
As always, your optometrist will know what to do. But if your cornea has been starved of oxygen due to excessive contact lens wear, you may need a steroid prescription to help your corneal cells cease their swelling and heal.
Like some other contact lens problems, preventing hypoxia is possible through special lenses. Rigid, gas permeable (RGP) lenses allow oxygen particles through to your cornea, so they can still “breathe.” One type of RGP contact lenses is those used in Ortho-K, a prosthetic treatment for patients with select refractive errors.
When contact lenses interfere with the natural hydration and cleaning of your eyes, the effects can compound over years. Dry eye can sometimes develop as your eyes struggle to keep dirt out and oxygen in.
Dry eye syndrome can have many causes, and it usually takes a tailored treatment plan to manage. Wearing contact lenses as dry eye develops and worsens can affect your comfort and even cause your eyes to become red and itchy.
Solution to Dry Eye due to Contact Lenses
Scleral lenses are special contact lenses that fit over much of the eye. For some patients, they can effectively manage dry eye and corneal damage from dry eye while correcting their vision. If conventional contact lenses aren’t helping, the buffer zone formed by a scleral lens’ reservoir design might help.
Ask for Help With Contact Lenses
The best way to avoid these irritations is to take care of your contact lenses and use them as directed by your optometrist. If you have an issue with your lenses, we can change them or update your prescription as needed. That’s why you should schedule an eye exam in Rockville, MD, as soon as you begin to notice changes in your vision.
You might also consider laser eye surgery in Washington, DC, as a permanent solution to contact lens problems!