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Contact Lens Irritation: 7 Common Causes and How to Fix Them

Young woman with contact lens irritation in front of laptop computer

Did you know one of the top reasons people don’t switch from glasses to contact lenses is fear of discomfort from touching or scratching their eyes?

It's true that some people suffer from contact lens irritation. However, any discomfort you may experience could be a sign you're not wearing them correctly. When used as instructed, contacts act as a second "skin" over your eyes, which means you should barely feel them.

Contact lenses are comfortable and can provide a lot of freedom for people who need to correct their vision. If you're experiencing any problems with your contact lenses, there are ways you can fix it.

Here are 7 common causes of contact lens irritation and how you can protect your eyes.

1. Contacts That Don’t Fit Right

Male ophthalmologist checking female patient’s eyes

Everyone is born with different shapes and sizes when it comes to eyes. Sometimes, a person's own two eyes aren't even identical! Most people don't have to worry about their eye shape if they don't need contacts. But if you try to buy contact lenses without an accurate prescription, the contacts may feel uncomfortable.

Visiting the eye doctor before transitioning from glasses to contacts is always a great idea. The doctor will measure each eye and ensure you get contacts that fit your eyes’ unique shapes. If you're bothered by your contacts, check with your doctor to make sure you have a proper fit.

2. User Errors

Close-up of a man inserting a contact lens in his eye

To the outside observer, putting in contact lenses may look simple. But there are a few things that can go wrong during insertion. One common reason contacts feel uncomfortable after they're inserted is incorrect application. Before you put in your contacts, make sure the contacts form a smooth cup. If your contacts have any ridges, they are inside out. If that’s the case, flip your lens so it's smooth.

Another possible issue is you may have put the wrong contacts in your eyes. Swapping left and right lenses isn't a big deal if both eyes have the same prescription. However, if each eye has special needs, switching the lenses can cause discomfort.

To avoid confusion, develop a routine where you take care of the same eye at the same time every day. If you always start from the right to the left or vice versa, you're less likely to make mistakes.

3. Dry Eye

You don't have to cry to produce tears. Our eyes have a constant supply of this lubricating fluid. These function as the glue that seamlessly connects your contacts to your eyeballs. If you experience dry eye, the contacts can start rubbing against your eyes and cause irritation. Anyone who wears contacts should always keep a bottle of artificial tears on hand in case this problem arises.

Persistent dry eyes can be a result of several problems. Aging may be a factor or it could be something more serious, like diabetes or lupus. If you’re concerned about constant dry eyes, consult your doctor.

4. Wearing Contacts for Longer Than Recommended

There are many contacts on the market designed for different needs. Some contacts are safe to sleep with them on, whereas others are disposable. Following the instructions for your set of contacts is imperative for optimal eye health.

If you leave your contacts in longer than the instructions outline, your eyes will protest. If you also try to extend the lifespan of your contacts to save money, this can lead to infection. Always replace old contacts once you hit their expiration dates.

More and more people are switching to disposable contact lenses to avoid the maintenance hassles. If you want contacts that are easy to care for, you should consider daily contacts, too.

5. Allergic Reactions

Woman surrounded by yellow flowers and sneezing

Everyone dreads allergy season. Most symptoms include a runny nose, sore throat, and all-day exhaustion. For contact wearers, allergies can also wreak havoc on the eyes.

Contacts are designed to hold moisture in so they can rest on your eyes. While this is great for your comfort, it can work against you if you live in a dusty or allergen plagued area. Dust, allergens, and other pollutants can stick to your contact lenses. Not only can this dry out your eyes, but it can also scratch them.

To avoid this, you need to disinfect your lenses every day. Flushing your eyes with drops prior to wearing your contacts can also help soothe irritation. Don’t take antihistamines unless necessary, since they can further dry out your eyes.

If you don't want to go through all the trouble, switching to daily contacts can keep your eyes fresh and happy with less to worry about.

6. Not Following Proper Care Instructions

Nobody enjoys going to the dentist to find cavities, so we brush our teeth every day to avoid it. People who wear contacts have another chore to add to their daily routine, but it is also well worth the effort.

If you don't wear disposable lenses, you need to follow a routine to take care of your contacts. This means cleaning them every night and regularly washing the lens case. If you try to cut corners, then you could wind up with irritated eyes or a nasty infection. Always use fresh lens solution and handle your contacts with thoroughly washed hands.

7. Eye Infections

Smiling young female eye doctor in front of eye exam equipment

If you know the first 6 issues in this list are not the cause of your discomfort, you may have contracted an eye infection. Contacts themselves are safe and can never cause an eye infection if used properly. Human error is what creates a bad environment where bacterial overgrowth can occur. Should you happen to experience an infection, make sure you learn to properly take care of your contacts so you can avoid future problems.

If you suspect you have an infection, don't delay a trip to the doctor. Infections are easily treated, and ignoring the symptoms can lead to permanent eye damage. In some cases, even blindness can happen.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know some of the most common reasons for contact lens irritation, you can take the necessary steps to prevent future eye discomfort. If you're experiencing frequent irritation, don't hesitate to contact your eye doctor. They will surely be able to pinpoint the cause and offer a solution to get your eyes back to feeling great!

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