Eyes Irritated From Contacts: Common Reasons and Solutions

No one likes the dry, itchy sensation that's associated with a bad pair of contact lenses. The bloodshot eyes, the red and swollen eyelids, not to mention the temptation to rub that only makes matters worse - these unpleasant symptoms can truly throw off your day and make it impossible to be in the moment. For many, this is among the top reasons why they simply refuse to give contacts a try.

While it is true that eye irritation can occur with corrective or colored lenses - this is certainly no myth - there are fortunately tried and true methods of dealing with this common problem. Perhaps even more importantly, there are some simple measures that you can take to avoid the issue in the first place. If followed correctly, you'll never have to do the "slow blink" to try revitalizing your lenses - or any one of myriad other dubious homemade emergency techniques - again.

What Causes Contact Lens Discomfort?

Whether it's a user error or the result of wearing the wrong size of the lens, irritated eyes can have many different causes. Understanding the root of the problem will help you know how to deal with it and prevent any reoccurrences moving forward.

The most important takeaway is that any amount of discomfort is not a good thing, and you should take out your contacts as soon as possible. While it might be tempting to just tough it out and wait until the end of the day, you increase the risk of damaging your lenses and your eyes the longer you wait. Some of the consequences like a corneal tear or conjunctivitis - the infamous infection better known as pink eye - are highly unpleasant and often take a substantial amount of time to fully recover from.

Dried-Out Lenses

Dryness is a recipe for disaster when it comes to your contacts. When contact lenses start to lose their moisture, they become sticky, which is bad news for both your corneas - the invisible layer that goes over the top of your eyes - and the inside of your eyelid. It also makes the lenses brittle and prone to scratching or tearing. If you have eyes irritated from contacts, there's a good chance that the problem lies in the lenses themselves.

Lenses lose their moisture when they're not lubricated properly. This might mean that they haven't received their scheduled contact lens solution bath, they were soaked for too long, or possibly the entire contact wasn't fully submerged when put into its case.

If you were traveling and a lens case wasn't kept upright while in transit, it's easy for the liquid to settle in a way that leaves one side of the contacts exposed. While this theoretically shouldn't happen if the case is filled up all the way, it's still something to keep in mind. Other instances of improperly adding contact solution to a lens case can result in air bubbles that prevent parts of a contact lens from being moisturized.

Of all these examples, the much more common cause of dryness is overwearing your contacts. While it might seem like you can keep your lenses moisturized by blinking, the same way the body naturally wets the eyes, there is a severe lack of moisture able to reach the underside of the lens - the part that's up against your eye. That's why the lenses seem to fuse themselves to your corneas once this dryness becomes severe enough, which, needless to say, is not a nice thing to experience at all.

Of all the cases of overwearing contacts, the most egregious of all is sleeping in them. Whether it's due to an accidental nap or a lapse in your bedtime routine, keeping lenses in your eyes all night or even just for a few hours is sure to dry them out. The lack of moisture combined with the amount of time the contacts are wedged between your eye and eyelid without you blinking creates a breeding ground for bacteria, which should be enough information to motivate anyone to take the simple step of removing their lenses before going to sleep.

Dry Eyes

Some people just have eyes that are naturally dry. Something that's familiar to anyone dealing with this condition is the rough, itchy, irritated eyes that come with chronic dryness. Sometimes, eye drops are necessary to help the tear ducts keep up with the necessary production of fluid to keep the eyes functioning smoothly and comfortably. However, it's usually not advisable to use most types of drops while your contacts are in. You can find out more information by reading the directions and warnings on your particular brand of contacts or by talking to your physician.

Age of Contacts

Always take note of how long you've been wearing a particular pair of lenses and follow proper disposal guidelines. Once your contacts have gone past their intended wearability period, it's time to throw them away. Not only can they become dry and brittle, as in the examples above, but they can also be full of dangerous bacteria. The safest thing to do if you're unsure about a suspicious pair of contacts is to throw them out and treat your eyes to some brand-new ones.

Foreign Body

Few things are worse than having something stuck in your eye. This problem is exacerbated when the foreign body is stuck beneath your contact. If you don't get the particle out right away, it can easily cause tiny scratches on your eye that cumulate in noticeable soreness.

This might happen as a result of not fully rinsing off your lenses before either putting them into their case to soak or putting them in your eye, so it's always worth it to take extra care with this maintenance step.

Solutions for Eyes Irritated from Contacts

In general, the most helpful measure you can take to return your eyes to full health is giving them a rest from contacts until all irritation has subsided. If you try wearing your contacts again before the healing process is complete, you might find yourself set back even farther on the path of recovery. The faster you let your eyes heal themselves, the sooner you'll be wearing your lenses again with bright, clear eyes.

There are also a variety of contact lens solutions that are perfect for revitalizing lenses and hydrating the surface of your eyes. Certain eye drops can help keep the moisture levels up while also lowering inflammation. Before trying any new eye drop, it's important to make sure that it's safe to use with your lenses and that it's not going to cause a dependency with repeated use.

Do contacts feel weird at first?

People often worry before trying out contacts for the first time that they won't be able to ever get used to the sensation. In fact, plenty of contact-wearers still have that feeling after the first few times trying them out. After all, you are putting a foreign object into your eye, which is by no means a natural process.

However, one thing to keep in mind is that it should never be a painful experience. If you are experiencing pain during your first contact lens experience, it's a good time to call up the eye doctor's office and get their recommendation as to what might be going wrong

The more you put your lenses in and take them out, the more efficient you'll become at the process. The more efficiently you can handle your lenses, the less likely it is that your eyes will become irritated as a result. Soon, the process of inserting and removing your contacts will become as natural as anything else in your daily routine. And as long as you're following proper lens maintenance steps, it won't take long before you stop noticing the contacts in your eyes at all.

Who should not wear contact lenses?

You should always consult with your eye doctor before trying out contacts for the first time. It's also a good idea to check in with your eye doctor whenever you're considering trying out a new type of lenses. Hearing the professional opinion of an optometrist will give you peace of mind that you're taking care of your eye health and not putting your vision or body at risk.

If your regular eye doctor has advised against wearing contacts for any reason, it's always best to take their advice.

Naturally Dry Eyes

Those who have chronic dry eyes will almost definitely find contacts difficult to wear comfortably. Some people suffer from a condition called dry eye syndrome, where their eyes aren't able to keep up with the amount of tears needed to maintain healthily lubricated eyeballs.

If you suspect yourself to be a sufferer of this disorder, or even if you just have a tendency towards dried-out eyes, you should consult with a physician first. You might even want to consider whether contact lenses are really worth the potential discomfort and the amount of care necessary to avoid irritated eyes.

Other people who commonly struggle with uncomfortably dry eyes are those with severe allergies. Some only have this problem during certain times of the year while others are allergy sufferers year-round.

Keeping tabs on your allergies and when they tend to strike is valuable information when planning out your contact lens routine. If you know that your eyes get dried out in the spring, for instance, you can decide ahead of time that you'll be switching over to glasses and have your favorite frames at the ready

Recovering From an Eye Injure

If you have just recently experienced eyes irritated from contacts, there's a good chance that some lasting effects will remain even if you're not aware of them. When you choose to start wearing contacts again right away without giving your eyes a rest and allowing them to fully recuperate, you are perpetuating a vicious cycle that takes a long time to break out of.

The best thing you can do for your eyes when recovering from any form of inflammation, irritation, or scarring is to give them a break and not put anything in them for a while.

While it might seem inconvenient to have to wear your glasses again for this period of time, it will save you a substantial amount of discomfort in the long run, which would lead to even more glasses-wearing. In the meantime, keep your eyes hydrated and get plenty of rest to expedite the healing process.

Other Eye-Related Medical Conditions

Those with astigmatism might have a hard time finding a type of lens that is compatible with their eyes. They usually have to work with an optometrist or an opthalmologist to determine which brands are specifically designed with astigmatism in mind and which ones to avoid.

It's very possible that there's a lens type that will work for you; it's just a matter of finding it. Instead of searching blindly, you can talk to your eye doctor to find out more.

Blepharitis is another condition that can make wearing contacts difficult or even impossible. This causes the eyelids to become inflamed and is usually something that happens to people who have particularly oily skin. Blepharitis occurs in people both old and young, so you should always be aware of the possibility if you start to show symptoms.

Fortunately, you can clear up a standard case of blepharitis using simple warm compresses, so it's a good excuse to have a spa day.

Other medical conditions to watch out for if you're thinking about trying contacts for the first time include keratoconus, pellucid marginal degeneration, giant papillary conjunctivitis, and presbyopia. Also, if you've just undergone a major eye surgery such as LASIK or any other type of refractive procedure, it's not the best time for you to be wearing contacts just yet.

You'll save yourself a considerable amount of discomfort and irritation if you simply wait until it's safe to try out your new lenses. Follow the above guidelines and you'll be able to don your favorite contacts happily and pain-free.