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How to Deal with Contact Lens Discomfort

Do your eyes itch or burn when wearing contact lenses? There are several reasons why you may be experiencing contact lens discomfort. Discover the possible causes behind the problem and see what you can do to relieve your discomfort.

What Causes Contact Lens Discomfort?

Some of the top causes of uncomfortable contacts are:

Dry eyes

Dry eye syndrome is a common condition that arises when your tears can’t keep your eyes sufficiently lubricated due to an imbalance in the tear film. Certain diseases, medications and environmental factors, like high levels of dryness and wind, can cause or contribute to red, itchy or irritated eyes, especially when wearing contacts.

Allergies

Allergens are typically harmless substances that induce an allergic response in certain people. Pollen, mold, dust and pet dander are some of the most common airborne allergens that trigger eye allergies. Cosmetics and certain eye drops, such as artificial tears with preservatives, can also induce eye allergies, which can make contact lens wear uncomfortable.

Corneal irregularities

The cornea at the front of the eye may be irregularly shaped due to astigmatism, keratoconus, eye surgeries (i.e. LASIK or cataract surgery), eye injuries or burns, scarring, corneal ulcers and/or severe dry eye. Irregular corneas often prevent traditional contact lenses from fitting correctly and comfortably.

Symptoms of Contact Lens Discomfort

  • Burning, itchy, stinging eyes
  • Sensation of something being stuck is in the eye
  • Excessive watering or tearing of the eyes
  • Unusual eye secretions
  • Redness of the eyes
  • Reduced sharpness of vision
  • Blurred vision, rainbows, or halos around objects
  • Sensitivity to light

How to Relieve Contact Lens Discomfort

Try Different Contact Lenses

Nowadays, there are many types of contact lenses on the market, including specialty contacts for dry eyes and astigmatism. Meet with our optometrist for a personalized eye exam for contacts.

With the variety of contact lens brands available, switching to a different contact lens may be the simplest answer if you’re experiencing discomfort that isn’t connected to improper fitting or issues with tear production. If your existing lenses fit well but still irritate and dry out your eyes, speak to us about trying a different design or brand of contact lenses, or changing your lens-wearing schedule.

Artificial Tears or Eye Drops

Over-the-counter artificial tears or eye drops are a common way to temporarily relieve contact lens discomfort. However, it’s important to keep in mind that unless prescribed by an eye doctor, they may not be treating the root of the problem.

Moreover, certain eye drops are incompatible with contact lenses, and may damage your contacts or harm your eyes. We also recommend staying away from products that claim to remove redness from your eyes, which temporarily reduce the size of blood vessels to lessen redness, but do not address the underlying cause of the condition, and can actually worsen it over time.

Take Good Care of Your Lenses

Inadequate contact lens care leaves residue on your lenses, which can discomfort, harmful eye infections and inflammation. Below are a few important contact lens hygiene guidelines to follow:

  • Before handling your contact lenses, thoroughly wash and dry your hands.
  • Remove your lenses before showering, bathing or swimming to prevent infection.
  • Do not sleep in your contact lenses (unless they are approved for sleeping).
  • Replace your contact lenses according to the manufacturer’s instructions (e.g., don’t reuse daily wear lenses).
  • Regularly clean your contact lens case and ask your eye doctor when to replace it.
  • Only use a contact lens solution that is appropriate for your lenses.
  • Never reuse or mix contact lens solutions.
  • Schedule regular appointments with your eye doctor.

If you are experiencing discomfort with your contact lenses, get in touch with Southern Eyecare Associates in Norfolk today. We’ll get to the bottom of the problem and provide effective solutions for all-day comfort.

Q&A

What kinds of contacts are available?

Contact lenses are available in a wide range of materials and replacement schedules. Disposable contact lenses and extended wear contacts are the most convenient for many users.

I’ve already been fitted for contact lenses, so why did my optometrist ask me to come back?

If you’re asked to return a week later, it’s because your optometrist wants to rule out any issues, such as contact lens-related dry eye or irritation.

If it’s been around a year since your last eye checkup, you’ve likely been contacted to check whether your prescription has changed and to evaluate your eye health. The sooner problems are detected and treated, the better the outcome.

Risk Of Overusing Eye Drops

If you find yourself constantly reaching for eye drops, it’s time to start looking into the bigger issue: Why do you need them so often? While they may provide a quick and satisfying fix for irritated or itchy eyes, they don’t focus on what might be causing the irritation to begin with.

Two signs that you’re overusing eye drops: you often exceed the daily recommended dose and/or you view eye drops as a cure rather than a temporary treatment.

Risks of Overusing Eye Drops

When overusing eye drops you can run the risk of:

  • Washing away your natural tears. Artificial tears feel great as they lubricate your eyes and help with insufficient tear production. But overuse can literally wash away the natural moisturizers and your natural tears that protect your eyes.
  • Rebounding. As the effects of the eye drops subside or upon discontinuation of the drops, the original eye symptoms may return stronger than before. This is known as eye rebounding. Eye drops clamp down on the blood vessels in the eye to stop itchiness, which means your sclera isn’t getting the oxygen and nutrients it needs. When you stop using eye drops, or their effects wear off, your eyes may work in overdrive to deliver oxygen to those vessels.
  • Masking a more serious problem. Addressing the symptoms of red, itchy eyes rather than the cause could be more serious than you think.

Conditions That Eye Drops Could Be Masking

Red, itchy eyes are a symptom of several conditions, including:

  • Blepharitis – Red and inflamed eyelids, caused by a fungal or bacterial infection, gland dysfunction, parasites, or dry eye, all of which require treatment beyond over-the-counter eye drops.
  • Eye trauma – Scratching or rubbing your eye can cause blood vessels to break, making the eye itchy and red. Some more serious traumas will require prescription eye drops or surgery.
  • Eye strain – Focusing on work all day and night can cause irritated, tired, and strained eyes.
  • Foreign objects – An eyelash, dust, or something worse could be in your eye. If you have long-term issues with itchy or dry eyes, make sure a foreign body isn’t the culprit.
  • Allergies – Allergies to the environment or pets can cause dry, itchy eyes.
  • Pink eye – A bacterial or viral eye infection, also called conjunctivitis, can cause burning, swelling, and itchiness.
  • Dry eye syndrome – Irritation, redness and itchiness are common symptoms of dry eye syndrome. In severe cases, DES can damage the cornea.

Regardless of why you often use eye drops, the only way to get to the root cause of your symptoms is a thorough eye exam. Don’t cover up the symptoms with eye drops.

If you’re suffering from irritated, dry eyes that haven’t resolved on their own, contact Southern Eyecare Associates in Norfolk. We can help you find the long-lasting relief you’ve been looking for.

At Southern Eyecare Associates, we put your family’s needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 757-588-5423 or book an appointment online to see one of our Norfolk eye doctors.

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Frequently Asked Questions with Dr. John Dragon

Q: What are symptoms of dry eye syndrome ?

  • A: Irritation, redness and itchiness are common symptoms of dry eye syndrome. In severe cases, DES can damage the cornea.

Q: Are OTC eye drops safe ?

  • A: Eye drops may provide relief. But don’t overuse them. Overuse can cause more harm than good. Find out what happens when you overuse those relieving eye drops.

Quality Frames For Prescription Eyeglasses & Computer Glasses In Norfolk, Virginia. Visit Southern Eyecare Associates for an eye exam and eyeglasses that match your style.

How Sleep Apnea Affects The Eyes

Did you know that some eye conditions are associated with sleep apnea? According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 18 million Americans have sleep apnea, and Health Canada reports similar prevalence. It’s a sleep disorder where people stop breathing — often multiple times per night — while sleeping.

If you have sleep apnea: it tends to take longer for your tears to be replenished, you’re more likely to have ocular irritation, you have a higher chance of developing floppy eyelids, and you’re at increased risk for glaucoma.

What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

There are different types of sleep apnea. The most common one is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). During OSA, your airway becomes partially blocked due to relaxed muscles in your nose and throat. This causes apnea (the absence of breathing) or hypopnea (abnormally shallow, slow breathing). It’s twice as common in men, and is more likely to affect people with obesity, hypertension, diabetes or heart disease.

What are the common symptoms of sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax too much to allow normal breathing. These temporary breathing lapses cause lower-quality sleep and affect the body’s oxygen supply, which can lead to potentially serious health consequences.

While snoring is a common symptom, not everyone who snores has sleep apnea. Interrupted sleep can cause excessive daytime sleepiness, fatigue, irritability or depression, headaches in the morning, difficulty concentrating and thinking, and a sore throat.

Which Eye Conditions Are Associated With Sleep Apnea?

Glaucoma

Glaucoma occurs when increased pressure within the eye damages the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, leading to vision loss and sometimes blindness. In some cases, it might be due to a drop in blood oxygen levels, which happens when you stop breathing. However, CPAP machines, one of the most common treatments for sleep apnea, can also cause glaucoma.

So, people with sleep apnea — even if it’s being treated — need to get their eyes checked on a regular basis for glaucoma.

Floppy Eyelid Syndrome

Floppy Eyelid Syndrome (FES) is an eye condition where a person has an unusually large and floppy upper eyelid. It can cause eye redness, irritation, discharge, or blurry vision — and over 90% of people with FES also have sleep apnea.

Non-Arteritic Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy

Non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION) is an eye condition that occurs when there is a loss of blood flow to the optic nerve. Patients typically complain of significant vision loss in one eye without any major pain. Approximately 70-80% of patients with NAION have been found to have OSA.

Retinal Vein Occlusion

Also referred to as an ‘eye stroke,’ retinal vein occlusion (RVO) is a blockage of the small veins that carry blood away from the retina. A recent study of 114 RVO patients found that sleep apnea was suspected in 74% of the patients that had previously been diagnosed with RVO.

Other Eye Health Issues Associated With Sleep Apnea

Some other ocular conditions that are more common in patients with sleep apnea include: papilledema, keratoconus, and central serous chorioretinopathy. Furthermore, in addition to glaucoma mentioned above, CPAP machines are associated with dry eye syndrome and bacterial conjunctivitis.

Talk To Your Doc

Get eye exams regularly to rule out eye disorders and prevent potential vision loss, especially if you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea. At Southern Eyecare Associates in Norfolk we encourage you to share your medical history with us so we can better diagnose and treat any eye conditions or ocular diseases you may have, and help you keep your eyes nice and healthy.

Frequently Asked Questions with Dr. John Dragon

Q: What Causes Sleep Apnea?

  • A: Sleep apnea occurs when in-part or completely stop breathing when sleeping. This causes your lungs to strain harder for oxygen, and makes the brain send signals that jerk your body awake to resume proper breathing.

Q: What are the Warning Signs of Sleep Apnea?

  • A: A common sign of sleep apnea is loud snoring. Snoring that is loud enough to disturb the sleep of the patient as well as others around, even across the walls. That said, not everyone who snores suffers from obstructive sleep apnea.

Quality Frames For Prescription Eyeglasses & Computer Glasses In Norfolk, Virginia. Visit Southern Eyecare Associates for an eye exam and eyeglasses that match your style.

Are Face Masks Causing Dry Eye Symptoms?

woman wearing a mask 640Face masks and social distancing have become the first line of defense in COVID-19 prevention.

While these protective measures are essential to combating the virus’ spread, eye doctors are seeing an increase in dry eye cases among people who wear masks. If you are seeking relief, contact us.

What is Mask-Associated Dry Eye (MADE)?

Mask-associated dry eye (MADE) was first described by an ophthalmologist in May 2020 based on the higher rate of dry eye he was seeing in his practice among patients who wore masks. Patients with existing dry eye reported worsening symptoms when wearing a mask.

When a face mask doesn’t fit securely, it can push air from the nose and mouth upward, onto the eyes, causing the tear film — the liquid layer that coats the eyes’ surface — to evaporate more quickly. This leads to MADE.

Dry eye leaves the eyes feeling sore, gritty, dry and irritated. Left untreated, dry eye can cause damage to the cornea.

There are many causes of dry eye, including eye and health conditions, age, gender and certain medications. Insufficient blinking when looking at a digital device or book, poor indoor air quality and pollution can all play a role. Situations that increase how quickly the tear film evaporates can quickly and significantly dry the eye’s surface, leading to more pronounced symptoms.

What Causes Dry Eye When Wearing a Mask?

Wearing a face mask significantly reduces the spread of air when breathing out from the mouth and nose. Instead of moving out, the air moves upwards towards the eyes’ surface. This forces a stream of air over the surface of the eye, causing the tears to evaporate more quickly.

This is the same reason that eyeglasses fog up when wearing a mask.

When masks are worn for long periods of time, this repeated evaporation may lead to dry spots on the eyes’ surface.

 

How to Prevent or Alleviate MADE?

Here are some simple measures to help reduce dry eye while wearing a mask:

  1. Ensure your mask fits well, and consider taping the top edge to prevent air from rising from your mouth toward your eyes.
  2. Limit your time in air-conditioned or heated environments when possible. Also, take regular breaks from digital devices.
  3. Consult your eye doctor, who will examine your eyes and prescribe the best treatment.

Having to wear a face mask to prevent COVID-19’s spread may cause dry eye, but relief is available. Contact The Dry Eye Center of Southern Eyecare Associates if you are experiencing dry eye symptoms. We will determine the underlying cause of your dry eye and offer you the best solution so you can get back to having comfortable eyes and vision.

 

The Dry Eye Center of Southern Eyecare Associates serves patients from Norfolk, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, throughout Virginia.

 

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