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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 Bridlewood Eye Care in Calgary 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 Bridlewood Eye Care in Calgary. We can help you find the long-lasting relief you’ve been looking for.

At Bridlewood Eye Care, we put your family’s needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 403-873-2123 or book an appointment online to see one of our Calgary eye doctors.

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Frequently Asked Questions with Dr. David A. Blaine

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 Calgary, Alberta. Visit Bridlewood Eye Care 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 Bridlewood Eye Care in Calgary 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. David A. Blaine

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 Calgary, Alberta. Visit Bridlewood Eye Care for an eye exam and eyeglasses that match your style.

8 Ways to Protect Your Eyes at the Office

Everyone seems to be staring at a screen these days, whether their computer, their smartphone or another digital device. The stress it puts on your eyes can cause a condition called “digital eye strain” (DES) or “computer vision syndrome” (CVS). Symptoms include eye fatigue, dry eyes, blurred vision, headaches, neck and shoulder pain, red eyes, and eye twitching.

How To Protect Your Eyes While You Work

Below are a few things you can do to lower your risk or mitigate any discomfort associated with DES.

1. See your eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam

This is one of the most important things you can do to prevent or treat symptoms associated with computer vision syndrome. During your eye doctor’s appointment, make sure to speak with Dr. Blaine about your working habits, including the frequency and length of time you use a computer and other devices at work and at home.

If you get a chance before you come, measure the distance between your eyes and your computer screen and bring that information to the optometrist, so that you can get your eyes tested for that specific working distance.

Computer vision syndrome may be exacerbated by an underlying dry eye disease, which can be diagnosed and treated at our eye clinic in Calgary.

Sometimes people who have good visual acuity assume they don’t need any glasses. However, even very mild prescriptions can improve eyestrain and curb fatigue when working at a computer.

2. Good lighting is key

Excessively bright light, whether due to outdoor sunshine coming in through the window or harsh interior lighting, is a common cause of eyestrain. When using your computer, your ambient lighting should be about 50% dimmer than what is typically found in most offices.

You can reduce exterior light by closing drapes, blinds or shades and diminish interior illumination by using fewer or lower intensity bulbs. Computer users often find that turning off overhead fluorescent lights and replacing them with floor lamps is easier on their eyes.

3. Minimize glare

Eyestrain can be aggravated by glare from light reflecting off surfaces including your computer screen. Position your computer so that windows are neither directly in front of nor behind the monitor, but rather to the side of it. Consider installing an anti-glare screen on your display. If you wear glasses, get anti-reflective (AR) coating on your lenses to reduce glare by limiting the amount of light that reflects off the front and back surfaces of your lenses (more on that below.)

4. Upgrade your display

If you have a CRT (cathode) screen on your monitor, consider replacing it with a flat-panel LED (light-emitting diode) screen that includes an anti-reflective surface. Old-school CRT screens can be a major cause of computer eye strain due to the flickering images.

For your new flat panel desktop display, choose one with a diagonal screen size of at least 19 inches, and the higher the resolution, the better.

5. Adjust display settings for added comfort

Adjusting your computer display settings can help decrease eye strain and fatigue too.

  • Brightness: Adjust your device’s brightness to match the luminance around you. If the white background of this page looks like a light source, then it should be dimmed. However, if it appears dull and gray, it may not provide enough contrast, which can make it hard to read.
  • Text size: Adjust the text size for maximum eye comfort, particularly when reading, editing or writing long documents. Increase the size if you find yourself squinting, but bigger isn’t always better, since overly large text display may force your eyes to track back and forth too quickly for comfort.
  • Color temperature: This refers to the spectrum of visible light emitted by a color display. Blue light is short-wavelength visible light, whereas orange and red are longer wavelength hues. Exposure to blue light helps keep you alert but tends to cause eye fatigue after a while; yellow to red tints are more relaxing and may be better for long-term viewing, especially at night. Many devices allow the user to adjust the color temperature.

6. Get computer glasses

Nearly 70% of North Americans experience digital eye strain related to prolonged use of electronic devices. To combat these effects, Bridlewood Eye Care recommends digital protection coatings, which act as a shield to cut the glare and filter the blue light emanating from digital screens and artificial light.

For the greatest eye comfort, ask Dr. Blaine for customized computer glasses, which feature mildly tinted lenses that filter out blue light. These can be made with or without prescription vision correction, for the benefit of those with 20/20 vision or contact lens wearers, though many people with contacts actually prefer to have alternative eyewear to use when their lenses become dry and uncomfortable from extended screen time.

Bridlewood Eye Care can help you choose from a vast array of effective optical lenses and lens coatings to relieve the effects of digital eye strain.

7. Don’t forget to blink

When staring at a digital device people tend to blink up to 66% less often, and often the blinks performed during computer work are only partial which aren’t as effective at keeping the eyes moist and fresh feeling. Making a conscious effort to blink more while working or watching can prevent dryness and irritation.

8. Exercise your eyes

Another cause of computer eye strain is focusing fatigue. Look away from your computer every 20 minutes and gaze at an object located 20 feet away, for a minimum of 20 seconds. This “20-20-20 rule” is a classic exercise to relax the eyes’ focusing muscles and reduce computer vision syndrome.

 

The steps above don’t require a tremendous amount of time or money to be effective. Contact Bridlewood Eye Care in Calgary to make an appointment with Dr. Blaine and learn how the right eye drops, eye exercises, computer glasses, or AR coatings can improve eye comfort, reduce computer vision syndrome and potentially lead to increased productivity and job satisfaction.