Dry, red, and inflamed eyes go hand-in-hand with an eye condition known as dry eye. The main symptoms are discomfort and sensitivity to light. If you think your contact lenses are aggravating your condition, here’s what you need to know in order to find the best contact lenses for dry eyes.
The decision to make the switch from traditional glasses to contact lenses involves a lot of factors. Many people choose to wear contact lenses for various reasons, including convenience, cosmetic purposes, and a more extensive range of peripheral vision from not having frames to block off any of the side vision.
In some cases, contact lenses can provide better vision than glasses for certain vision conditions. A common problem amongst contact lens wearers is that their eyes are too dry, so making some lenses can be uncomfortable and irritating. Luckily with advancements in the industry, there are specific types of contact lenses for patients with dry eye syndrome.
What is Dry Eye and What Are The Symptoms?
Before being able to understand which contact lenses are the best for dry eyes, you have to know how the condition works and the factors that can exacerbate the problem.
Dry eye syndrome is a condition in which someone doesn’t produce enough quality tears to lubricate the eyes. Blinking of the eyelids spread tears across the front surface of the eye to create a smooth surface, providing clear vision. Symptoms of dry eye include grittiness, irritation, burning, or a foreign body sensation. Some patients may experience excessive tearing and blurred vision.
Tears help wash away debris and provide protection of the cornea as well as nourishing the eyes by keeping them lubricated.
The drainage system of the eye also plays a significant role in the tear production process. There are small drainage ducts (punctae) in the inner corners of the eyelids that help expel excess tears. An imbalance of tear production and drainage can cause dry eye syndrome.
Along with being able to produce and drain tears, the tears have to maintain an excellent quality to coat the front surface of the eyes entirely. A good quality tear film includes three layers: oil, water, and mucus. The oil layer prevents the water layer from evaporating too quickly, while the mucous layer helps spread the tear film evenly.
Other external factors can make dry eye syndrome more prominent. Environmental conditions, certain medical conditions, medications, and refractive eye procedures can all increase the rate of tear film evaporation. Be sure to visit your eye care professional so they can evaluate and determine the best way to make the contact lens wearing experience as comfortable as possible.
The Best Contact Lens Material for Dry Eye
There are numerous options available for contact lens wearers who suffer from dry eye with ever-changing technological advancements.
Soft contact lenses are made with hydrogels, which is a plastic material that can absorb moisture and stays hydrated with a solution. They also harden when they are exposed to oxygen for too long without contact lens solution. These were the most popular kind of contact lens due to its reasonable pricing and comfort compared to a more rigid or hard contact lens.
There are also silicone hydrogel lenses that have more of a gel-like material and retain more moisture. Silicone hydrogel lenses are a lot more absorbent and porous compared to standard hydrogels. These lenses allow more oxygen to reach the cornea, which allows the front surface of the eye to “breathe,” so to speak, which prevents conditions like dry eye and hypoxia ( lack of oxygen ) on the cornea.
Silicone hydrogel contact lenses can be worn as a daily lens, bi-weekly lens, or the traditional monthly contact lens. They are fresher and can be worn for more extended periods (12-16 hours) compared to the typical 8-10 hour timeframe. This can be especially helpful for people who spend a lot of time working in front of a screen or are more susceptible to dry eye syndrome. These are more popular now due to its ability to be used for extended wear.
Popular Contact Lens Brands For Dry Eye
With these lenses, patients don’t have to worry about storing and cleaning them each night because they are disposable lenses that you can throw away at the end of the day. This lens has superior oxygen transmissibility for the front surface of the eye to breathe. The water gradient technology provides a barrier of moisture over the cornea, which is ideal for patients with dry eye syndrome.
These aren’t the only lenses available for dry eye patients, so consult your optometrist before making any purchases online.
ACUVUE OASYS® Brand Contact Lenses deliver exceptional comfort and performance in challenging environments. The only daily lens with HydraLuxe™ Technology, a unique Tear Infused Design optimized to help make the feeling of tired eyes a thing of the past. Clinical trial results show superior performance to Dailies Total1® on comfort, vision, and handling.
The Baush+Lomb Ultra monthly lenses have MoitureSeal Technology that helps maintain their moisture for a full 16 hours. This is the perfect all-around lens for those who aren’t sure which lens is the best for their dry eye and a solid starter lens for those that have never worn them before.
Biofinity monthly contact lenses use Aquaform Comfort Science technology to bring you an advanced level of comfort in a monthly disposable lens. Aquaform technology brings together two essential elements for wearers: high oxygen performance and naturally wet lens material. Your eyes stay healthy and white from the oxygen, and lenses stay soft and deposit-resistant with the water-retaining lens material.
This brand also has a great lens to correct for astigmatism called the CooperVision Biofinity Toric.
Dry Eye Maintenance And Treatment
Mild cases of dry eye can be managed with over-the-counter artificial tears that can be used up to 2-4 times a day. This helps maintain the tears that are already created naturally. Preservative-free solutions are recommended for patients who are more sensitive to the additives in regular artificial tears and come in individual vials.
Patients who have tried artificial tears with no to little improvement will have to take additional steps for treatment, which should be discussed with an eye care professional.
Taking Omega-3 fatty acid supplements may help increase tear production. Your optometrist can also prescribe prescription-strength eye drops that can assist the tears in being produced more regularly.
Maintaining the balance between the drainage system along with the tear-producing process is a crucial factor, and there are in-office procedures that can help block the tear ducts for the eyes to retain the moisture better. Punctal plugs are tiny silicone plugs that sit on the lower inner corners to keep the tears from draining too quickly.
Remembering to blink regularly, especially while looking at a screen or reading for long periods, can help coat the front surface of the eye to create a smooth surface to see through.
Judy Bacdi, COA is a certified ophthalmic assistant in Albuquerque, New Mexico who is striving to be an optometrist and will be attending a Doctor of Optometry program in the future as a full-time student. Her experience as a certified ophthalmic assistant for the past 3 years has fueled her desire to pursue further education in the field. Her favorite contact lenses to wear are the Alcon Dailies Total 1 soft lenses for everyday use due to her dry eyes!