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Many contact lens wearers with allergies seem to encounter discomfort during certain times of the year.1 This discomfort is due largely to allergens in the air that become adhered to contact lenses. The allergens seem to cause miserable symptoms such as itchy, watery, and swollen eyes. Here are five tips to help you through the periods of discomfort.1
Keep Your Eyes Moist
Allergens tend to cause dry eyes. Keep irritated eyes moist with artificial tears. The artificial tears will also wash or at least dilute the irritants out of your eyes. Healthcare providers recommend putting in artificial tears in very frequently, sometimes as much as every two hours. The more frequent you instill the eye drops, the more it will keep antigens that cause allergies from sticking to the contact lens surface.12
Wear Eyeglasses When Possible
Allergens such as pollen and dust often adhere to the thin surfaces of contact lenses.2 Switching to eyeglasses at least part-time will help you avoid an allergy attack.https://d0adfb5c0877a5a06288129b371ef6df.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html3
Clean Your Contacts Often
Cleaning will keep your contact lenses free of allergens. Consider using a preservative-free solution, to help avoid possible allergic reactions.1 Some people have allergies to the preservatives that are found in some disinfecting systems or artificial tears. Although preservative-free artificial tears are a bit more expensive, they often work wonders for eye allergies. If you wear disposable lenses, consider replacing them more often. Many contact lens wearers use a general, multi-purpose contact lens solution. Ask your healthcare provider about switching to a peroxide-based disinfecting system such as ClearCare or Aosept. The peroxide systems are slightly more complicated to use but they are very good at removing all debris completely from the surface of the lens.4
Use Cool Compresses on Your Eyes
When your eyes are red and swollen, resist the urge to rub them. Rubbing will make the inflammation worse by spreading the allergens. A cool, damp compress will help relieve discomfort.3 Even better, instill “chilled” artificial tears or contact lens re-wetting drops into your eyes while wearing contact lenses. Put the bottle right in the refrigerator to keep them cool. Anytime you can think about it, preferably at least four or more times per day, grab the bottle out of the fridge and put a drop into each eye.5
See Your Eye Doctor
Your eye doctor will recommend medical products for your particular symptoms. There are several prescription and non-prescription eye drops on the market that help decrease allergic symptoms. Some products may even help prevent allergy attacks. You should also see your eye doctor to rule out possible problems that may not be allergy-related.6
Switch to Daily Disposable Contact Lenses
Ask your healthcare provider about switching to daily disposable contact lenses. Daily disposable lenses seem to help alleviate dry eye symptoms and also do wonders for allergies. Daily disposable contact lenses are actually disposed of every day. Simply toss them in trash whether you wear them for an hour or ten hours. When you change a lens daily, you get rid of all the debris that adheres to the lens, in particular, allergens that can reactivate allergies.
Eye allergies can cause a host of uncomfortable symptoms, making contact lens wear difficult for many allergy sufferers.
Eye allergies can cause any of the following symptoms:
- Itchy eyes
- Red eyes
- Burning in the eyes
- Watery eyes
- Swollen eyelids
If you are a contact lens wearer, you may be thinking about shelving your contact lenses for the next few months and wearing your glasses instead.
While this is generally recommended if your eye allergies are severe, many contact lens wearers may be able to reduce their allergy symptoms by making some changes to their normal contact lens routine.
Here are some helpful tips to improve contact lens wear and alleviate uncomfortable eye allergy symptoms.
Switch to daily disposable contact lenses
Contact lenses attract airborne allergens, so bi-monthly and monthly contact lenses can actually make your eye allergies worse if they are not cleaned properly after each wear.
Daily disposable contact lenses are generally recommended for contact lens wearers who suffer from eye allergies. These contact lenses are replaced each day and help to eliminate any concern of allergen accumulation on the surface of your contact lens.
Clean your contact lenses effectively
If switching to daily disposables is not an option, or you wear rigid gas permeable (RGP) contact lenses that need to be cleaned and disinfected before and after each wear, be sure to pay close attention to your cleaning and disinfecting routine— especially during peak allergy seasons.
Many contact lens wearers clean their lenses with a multi-purpose contact lens solution. While this may be effective for people who don’t suffer from allergies, you may need something a little stronger, especially during allergy season.
Ask your eye doctor about switching to a peroxide-based disinfectant system. Some eye doctors feel this cleaning regime may be beneficial for some patients to ensure that all of the allergens and debris on the surface of your lenses are completely removed.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Not only is it important to hydrate your body by drinking plenty of water throughout the day, but it’s also important to hydrate your eyes— specifically during allergy flare ups.
Eye allergies can make your eyes feel dry and irritated and affect the way your contact lenses feel on your eyes. A preservative-free, over-the-counter artificial tears solution can be used as needed, throughout the day, to help replenish the moisture in your eyes.
Eye doctors generally recommend a preservative-free solution because some people are sensitive to the preservatives in eye drops and may experience an adverse reaction.
Artificial tears eye drops will also help to flush out any allergens from your eyes and prevent them from adhering to the surface of your contact lenses.
If you feel your allergies are impacting your contact lenses, contact an eye doctor near you, who can discuss the best options for you.
SEE RELATED: Top 8 Tips for Allergies and Contact Lenses
Find an eye doctor near you
Use hypoallergenic make-up
Certain creams and makeup products contain fragrances or ingredients that can irritate your eyes.
When shopping for makeup, look for products that say “hypoallergenic” on their labels to prevent an allergic reaction and eye irritation.
Use cool compresses
Applying cool compresses to your eyes can help soothe allergic eyes and reduce swelling, itching and redness.
Soak a small towel or washcloth in cold water. After wringing out the excess water, place the compress on your eyes for 10-15 minutes. Repeat as often as needed.
For further relief, keep a bottle of artificial tears eye drops in your refrigerator and place a few chilled drops in your eyes while you relax with a cool compress.
Inform your eye doctor
Always inform your optometrist about any known allergies during your contact lens exam.
Some contact lenses and contact lens products are more suited for people with allergies. Your doctor can also tell you which products to avoid and how to properly care for your contact lenses.
Wearing contact lenses when your eyes are severely dry or watery can lead to complications such as corneal abrasions and sight-threatening eye infections.
If your eyes feel sore and irritated, remove your contact lenses immediately and wear your glasses until your eyes feel better.