Contact Lens Dryness
A consistent issue that I see in my practice, and one that is most likely also encountered by other Charleston eye care specialists, is caring for patients with substantial contact lens dryness. Some of the symptoms I consistently hear are:
- Continuously feel the contact throughout the day
- Intermittent blurred vision because the contact may move around
- Have to blink a lot to keep things clear
- Eyes that feel tired all of the time
- Not being able to get through the work day with contacts
- Have to take them out right when getting home from work because they are dry
- They move around on my eye
Perhaps you feel some of these symptoms too. I can tell you firsthand that you are not alone. Some people just grin and bear it, because “that’s how contact lenses are for me.” Others give up altogether because the discomfort is just not worth it.
Why contacts get dry
There are many reasons why contact lenses get dry. Throughout the day, depositing takes place on the front surface of the lens, which affects how tears flow over it. The deposits keep the tears from blanketing the lens leaving bare plastic to rub against the insides of the upper eyelids. This friction causes tissue swelling of the upper lid which causes the sensation of something being in the eye. Going further into the day, more and more depositing takes place, and the eye feels worse and worse. This, unfortunately will also lead to a chronic allergic response underneath the eyelid, where redness and increasing dryness will occur both with and without the contact lens in place.
The reason why depositing occurs has to do with the biological makeup of our tears (types of molecules contained within them) combined with the type of material with which the lens is made. Some people's tears have more components that are attracted to lens material, and thus creating deposits. That is why material choice of contact lens is important. Unfortunately, cleaning the lenses overnight in good solution will not remove all of the depositing, which is why two week or monthly lenses tend to have more dryness issues. They are worn day after day, and will continue to pick up more deposits every time they are worn. Solution brand matters as well. Older "no rub" solutions typically are not as good as new formulations, while hydrogen peroxide based cleaners are the best a deposit removal.
Mild Allergies Matter
Making matters worse, we live in an area that has an almost continuous allergy season. You might not think that you have allergies. However most people in this area do but aren't symptomatic, or have adapted to the issue. But if you combine mild allergies with contact lens wear, then you will most likely feel dry with your lenses. Even without the presence of contact lens deposits.
One more thing to mention is that the amount of water in the lens does not make a huge difference to how it feels at the end of the day. It's all about depositing.
The Contact Lens Dryness Solution
The solution to dry eye with contact lenses is two-fold, and they both have to do with single use contacts. First, switching to a single use lens, which is the lens is thrown away at the end of the day, solves a major issue. The patient gets a clean lens every day, so recurrent depositing on the lens is not possible. Secondly, manufacturers have come out with awesome new lens materials that keep depositing to a minimum, which ultimately reduces friction. This provides more successful end of day comfort. So much so that a lot of my patients report that they can’t feel the lenses on the eye, and because they forgot, they have to get out of bed to remove them before sleeping.
Now, you might have the opinion that single use contacts are more expensive. Well, they do carry more cost up front than reusable lenses, but you have to consider the extra costs required to maintain two-week or monthly replacement lenses. On average contact lens solutions cost around $100 per year. And if you use them because your eyes feel dry with your current contacts, artificial tears or lens re-wetting drops for dryness typically cost from $5 to $10 per bottle. These costs add up over time.
One other very important point worth mentioning, is that single use contacts reduces the risk of infection and reduces allergies as well. If you've ever had a corneal infection, you know how painful they are, and how expensive the antibiotic drops are that are required to treat one. Not to mention the fact that getting a corneal infection increases the risk of permanent vision loss in that eye.
Increasing comfort, adding convenience, and reducing risk? Makes sense to me!
Manufacturers like Alcon and Vistakon have made a huge push into single use lenses. Both companies are now offering up to $200 in rebates when you purchase a year's supply. And when you add in the convenience of not having to soak your lenses every night, it makes the decision that much easier.
At our office, we give you the opportunity to try several different brands to help you identify which contact you like the best. You get to judge which one performs the best in your life. You choose which lens provides you with the value you expect. And, we have lenses that treat nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, and presbyopia (difficulty with seeing at close range). So don't think that your prescription can't be treated with newer, more comfortable lenses.
Come See Us
So if you have dryness with your contact lenses, please let us help you. If you have quit contact lens wear because of dryness, these new lenses will help. Day after day, we have success stories of people getting back in to, and loving their contact lenses. Schedule your appointment today with me, Dr. Morabito, or with Dr. McCoy today!
Michael Z. Morabito, O.D.