Let’s talk about dry eye and contact lens wear. If you are like 30 million Americans, you probably prefer to wear contacts over glasses. Unfortunately, if you develop a condition called Dry Eye Syndrome, lens wear may become more challenging. We see this in our office every day. Symptoms might include discomfort, grittiness, burning and blurred vision (amongst others). It can affect both young and old alike. It can also cause problems in people who have previously been successful lens wearers.
So, what are the causes of dry eye issues in contact lens wearers? It can be caused by environmental factors, certain medications, different diseases including autoimmune conditions, and hormones. It can also be caused by improper lens care and lens over wear. One of the main causes of Dry Eye Disease is a dysfunction of the Meibomian Glands. These tiny glands secrete part of our tear film. This particular cause of dry eye is more prevalent than ever before. Would you like to take a guess as to why? If you guessed computer use (and ipads, iphones, video games) you are correct. When we concentrate on our screens, we don’t blink as frequently or completely. This causes a decrease in function of those tiny glands, which in turn causes a decrease in our tear production and tear quality. When our tear film is not functioning properly for any of the aforementioned reasons, our contacts will dry out making lens wear less comfortable.
Lenses can also dry out faster if you do not follow the wear schedule, or if you are not caring for your contacts properly. The older a lens gets, the more build up the lens will have. This happens regardless of how well you clean them. The build up consists of bacteria, proteins and allergens, all of which can compromise lens comfort. That is why it feels better putting in a fresh lens. Fortunately, we have options to help. Sometimes, going into a daily lens will be enough to solve the problem. There are some amazing daily lenses on the market that have allowed some patients who have been contact lens intolerant to resume lens wear.
For mild to moderate dry eye, something as simple as adding an artificial tear may be enough to help. When these steps are not enough, it may be time to do some further investigating to figure out exactly what is causing the dry eye. In extreme cases, we can use a specialty contact lens called a sclera lens. This is a large, rigid gas permeable lens. The bowl of the lens is filled with a fluid that bathes the cornea through the day to keep it hydrated.
Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, the best way to find out the precise cause is by having a dry eye evaluation. This allows us to come up with the best possible treatment plan to help keep you in your contacts. To learn more about our Dry Eye Evaluation process and services, please click on Our Services found on the homepage of our website.
I look forward to providing you with the best possible vision care.