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Can You Wear Contact Lenses with Dry Eye Syndrome?

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For many, the freedom and comfort that contact lenses offer are unparalleled. However, wearing contacts might seem like a painful or unattainable dream for those suffering from dry eye syndrome. But is it?

Specialty contact lenses and strategies can make wearing contacts possible, even for those with moderate to severe dry eye symptoms. The first step is to get an eye exam and dry eye assessment to discover the severity of your dry eye. Then, during a contact lens fitting, you can try a range of options to find the most comfortable pair.

Understanding Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome is a common condition that occurs when your tears can’t provide adequate lubrication for your eyes or the tears are poor quality. It can be caused by various factors, from environmental to medical. The hallmark symptoms include:

  • Stinging or burning sensation  
  • Redness  
  • Feeling of scratchiness  
  • Sensitivity to light  
  • Watery eyes (a natural response to dryness)

Impact on Contact Lens Wearers

For those who already wear contact lenses, the effects of dry eye can be exacerbated with contact lens wear. You may notice that your lenses become uncomfortable more quickly than they used to. You might need to blink more often, subconsciously trying to moisten your eyes.

Many contact lens wearers have experienced those moments when their dry eyes make it feel like their lenses are sticking uncomfortably to their eyeballs.

Contact Lenses & Dry Eye Syndrome

Contact lenses and dry eyes can exist in the same space, but this combination requires a delicate balance and an understanding of the risks involved.

Risks & Considerations

Each blink normally provides a fresh layer of tears for lubricating your contact lenses. However, with dry eye syndrome, this process can become disrupted, leading to decreased tear production or changes in tear composition.

If tears evaporate too quickly or don’t spread evenly over the surface of the eye, the result is what wearers often describe as the feeling of grit under the lenses.

Tips for Managing Dry Eyes While Wearing Contact Lenses

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but there are several strategies that may help contact lens wearers with dry eyes:  

  • Use contact-lens-safe, preservative-free, lubricating eye drops before inserting your contacts.  
  • Choose lenses that are designed for more extended wear or retain more moisture.  
  • Take regular breaks from screen use to prevent the evaporation of tears.

Alternative Solutions for Contact Lens Users with Dry Eyes

In cases where wearing regular contact lenses becomes too uncomfortable, alternative solutions exist.


Switching to glasses when your eyes are too dry for contact lenses is a simple solution many overlook. It can give your eyes the complete relief and protection they need without the added stress of contacts.

Specialized Contact Lenses for Dry Eyes

Technology has come a long way in the realm of contact lens design. There are now specialized lenses explicitly crafted for those with dry eyes, designed to support better ocular health and comfort.

These lenses include:

Tips for Managing Dry Eye Syndrome

While managing dry eyes, regardless of contact lens use, a comprehensive approach is often the most effective.

Woman sitting on couch drinking water.

Lifestyle Changes & Home Remedies

Simple lifestyle adjustments can make an enormous difference:  

  • Increase humidity indoors, especially during winter.  
  • Stay hydrated. Proper water intake is crucial for your body’s ability to produce tears.  
  • Maintain a healthy diet, ensuring adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids.

Medical Treatments & Professional Advice

For severe dry eye cases, over-the-counter remedies might not be sufficient. Seeking the advice of your optometrist is key to finding the right path forward. Your doctor may suggest:

  • Intense pulsed light (IPL), which manages the inflammation of meibomian gland dysfunction and melts away oil blockages from the oil glands.  
  • LipiFlow, which uses heat pulses to clear blockages caused by meibomian gland dysfunction and restores healthy oil production.  
  • MiboFlow, which uses constant heat to dissolve oil blocks causing dry eyes.

Discover Dry Eye Treatment in Pennsylvania

Understanding how to manage dry eye syndrome while wearing contact lenses is not only about comfort; it’s also about protecting your ocular health. With the right approach, many contact lens wearers with dry eyes can continue to enjoy the benefits of contact lenses.For those in doubt, seek professional advice at Hazleton, Stroudsburg, Pottsville and NanticokeEye Specialists. Your eye care professional can provide personalized recommendations that suit your condition, lifestyle, and preferences. While dry eye syndrome may require some adjustments, it does not necessarily mean you have to give up your beloved contacts. Book an appointment to explore the range of contact lens options available.

Written by Dr. James Deom, OD, MPH, FAAO, FSLS

Dr. James Deom joined the practice in mid-2014. Dr. Deom grew up in the Hazleton area and attended Bishop Hafey High School. Dr Deom graduated from Wilkes University, where he received the highest honors. He went on to study at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry, where he received several commendations. He was the national president of the American Optometric Student Association, recipient of several scholarships, and received the highest academic average in the Health Sciences for MPH curriculum, as well as highest honors for the Optometry program.
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