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Is It Safe to Use Eye Drops for Contacts? Here's the Truth!

yellow sign saying “safety first” against blue sky

We've all been there. You wake up, a little groggy, only to find…oh no! An empty bottle of contact lens solution. You've got a big presentation at work today, a hot coffee date, and an important meeting. You can't wear your glasses! But you definitely haven't got the time to run out and buy a new bottle of lens solution.

You have no choice but to scrape your contact lenses out of their case. You grab that bottle of eye drops and rinse your lenses with a few squirts. Using eye drops for contacts is essentially the same thing as contact lens solution, right?

As it turns out, it's not that simple! The safety and effectiveness of substituting eye drops for solution is actually a widely-debated topic. The fact is, our eyes are delicate and it's crucial that we treat them properly! Are you good to go for a day or two using eye drops instead of real lens solution? Or do you really need to figure out something else?

Here's the truth about using eye drops for contacts when you're out of regular contact solution.

Why We Need Contact Lens Solution

Contact solution is a simple, but crucial element of eye care for all lens wearers. Contact solution is a chemical compound. Its specifically designed for disinfecting and cleaning contact lenses.

Most contact solutions contain preservatives, a buffer, a binding agent, and a wetting agent. They're made to clean lenses of built-up oil, makeup, germs, and other debris. Without contact lens solution, we'd be harming our eyeballs with increasingly germy and painful lenses!

Types of Eye Drops

different colored bottles of eye drops

If you've been a lens or glasses wearer for a while now, you likely know all about eye care products. You may have realized that there are a few different varieties of eye drops. Here are the main types:

Medicated Eye Drops

These are the ones you get directly from your optometrist. You had that weird bump on your eyelid or the tiny lesion on your eyeball. And when you went to get it checked out, your doctor sent you home with a tiny bottle of medicated drops.

If your issue cleared up with those drops, awesome! But unless you want some new problems, it's not a good idea to use medicated drops for contacts.

Medicated eye drops are created and prescribed to take care of certain issues. In fact, the simple act of wearing contacts while using medicated eye drops is not advised. If you're out of contact solution, medicated eye drops are not your friend.

Eye Drops for Dry Eyes

Eye drops for dry eye syndrome are a variety many lens wearers invest in sooner or later. These drops are meant to promote moisture. In the long term, they also help heal and lubricate the surfaces of the eyes.

However, when these eye drops are used in place of contact solution, they can make your contact lenses gummy or slimy. This can become a huge issue.

Contacts gather oil, makeup, microorganisms, and more buildup as you wear them. Contact solution helps to rid your lenses of this stuff. Dry eye drops, when used in place of solution, can actually add to the buildup. Plus, they're not designed for disinfecting.

Anti-Redness Eye Drops

Anti-redness eye drops help shrink the tiny blood vessels that cover the whites of our eyes. They do this by using ingredients called "vasoconstrictors" that shrink those microscopic blood vessels.

The vasoconstrictors in anti-redness eye drops can actually react with your contact lenses. This can cause small lesions, irritation, and dependency. They're not designed to do any disinfecting or lubricating. So using anti-redness eye drops in place of contact solution sets you up for new risks!

So Can I Substitute Drops for Solution?

woman wondering about eye drops for contacts

To put it simply...no!

Eye drops aren't designed to remove debris or disinfect contact lenses. On top of that, the primary functions of most eye drops actually lead to outcomes that are counterproductive. This compounds any problems from not having lens solution.

Before you reach for that bottle of drops, consider some temporary solutions you may have around the house:

Using water as a lens cleaner is one of the worst moves you can make. You may be tempted to use distilled water, but the water can still have bacteria and minerals within it. Similarly, boiled salt water should not be used in your sensitive eyes. Get the mix wrong, and you can do some damage.

So no! We would never, ever suggest substituting eye drops for contact solution. They're not made for the work you need them to do. You need a liquid thatll clean and disinfect your lenses. We suggest that you look away from eye drops when the need arises.

Want More Information on Using Eye Drops for Contacts?

“get the facts” in focus in a book

It's rare that someone can get through their whole contacts-wearing life without a run-in or two with that dreaded empty bottle of contact solution. Using eye drops for contacts when you're fresh out of solution isn't a great idea. There are other options!

Scavenge through the cupboards for saline solution or hydrogen peroxide (only if you have a platinum catalyst). You'll be able to at least clean your lenses of some debris and microorganisms. But you need to avoid distilled water or concocting your own liquid.

Eye drops are best kept for easing eye irritation. In this case, it’s always good to get the drops best suited for your particular condition. Your optometrist can give you more advice on the type of eye drops to buy. Better yet, get some daily disposables and you'll remove the issue altogether!

Knowledge keeps you ahead of the curve. Staying informed on the latest eye care tips can also help prevent future issues. For other important tips on how to care for your eyes, check out more of our blog!

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