Eye Allergies and Contact Lenses

Editor: Dr. Russel Lazarus, Published December 13, 2020

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.

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.

If you suffer from eye allergies, following these tips can make your contact lens wear experience more comfortable.

However, 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.

If you suffer from allergies, speak with your optometrist to determine which contact lenses are right for you, and what else you can do to reduce your symptoms and make contact lens wear more comfortable.