Why Are My Contact Lenses Uncomfortable?

Dr. Russel Lazarus, October 1, 2021

Over 15% of the population wears contact lenses, but many experience discomfort and give up too soon.

Do your eyes itch, burn or tear when you wear contact lenses?

There are several reasons why you may be experiencing contact lens discomfort. Fortunately, most contact lens problems can be easily resolved— so don’t give up just yet!

Always, seek the advice of your eye doctor for the most effective treatment for your symptoms.

What causes contact lens discomfort?

Some of the most common reasons for contact lens problems and discomfort include:

1. Dry eyes

Dry eye syndrome can make your eyes feel dry, sore, irritated and gritty.

This common condition occurs when your tears are unable to efficiently lubricate your eyes.

Dry eyes occur when the tear film is imbalanced— usually from insufficient amounts of oil— or when there are not enough tears.  

Certain medical conditions, medications and environmental factors can put you at risk for dry eyes.

Dry eye is typically treated with eye drops or in-office treatment procedures to restore hydration to the eyes.

2. Allergies

Eye allergies can make your eyes feel itchy, dry, watery and sore, and make contact lens wear uncomfortable.

Pollen, mold, dust, and pet dander are some of the most common causes of eye allergies.

Cosmetics and eye drops, such as artificial tears with preservatives, can also induce eye allergies. Eye allergies are typically treated with antihistamine eye drops or oral medications.

3. Corneal irregularities

A regular contact lens is designed to sit on the cornea, the clear, dome-shaped outer covering of the eye.

An irregular shaped cornea can prevent a contact lens from fitting correctly on the eye and cause ocular discomfort.

Corneal irregularities can be caused by:

  • High astigmatism
  • Keratoconus
  • Laser eye surgeries such as LASIK
  • Cataract surgery
  • Eye injuries or burns
  • Corneal scarring after an eye infection
  • Corneal ulcers
  • Severe dry eye

Symptoms of contact lens discomfort 

If you experience any of the following symptoms, refrain from contact lens wear and schedule an appointment with your eye doctor.

  • Burning, itchy, stinging eyes
  • Feeling as if something 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

SEE RELATED: Common Contact Lens Problems

Contact your eye doctor if you are experiencing any discomfort from your contact lenses.

Find an eye doctor near you

How to find relief?

There are many ways to find relief from contact lens discomfort — but the fastest way to find an effective solution for your individual problem is to consult with your eye doctor.

1. Artificial tears or eye drops

Over the counter artificial tears or eye drops can provide temporary relief for dry eyes.

Note: Always consult with your eye doctor before using any type of eye drops because many eye drops are incompatible with contact lenses and can actually damage your lenses.

Also, avoid using eye drops that claim to remove redness from your eyes. While these eye drops reduce the size of blood vessels to lessen redness, they do not address the underlying cause of the condition.

2. New contact lenses

Every year, new designs of contact lenses are manufactured to make contact lens wear more comfortable. 

If your existing lenses cause eye irritation or dry eye, talk to your doctor about switching to a different lens design or brand of contact lenses, or changing your lens-wearing schedule.

3. Scleral lenses

Scleral lenses offer improved vision clarity, especially for dry eyes.

If wearing contact lenses all day causes discomfort and dry eyes, consider switching to scleral lenses.

Scleral lenses are hard, RGP lenses that are designed to vault over the cornea and sit on the sclera, or white part of the eye. These lenses contain a reservoir of solution for constant hydration and relief of dry eye symptoms.

4. Take care of your lenses

Inadequate contact lens care can leave a residue on your lenses and cause discomfort, inflammation and serious eye infections.

Your eye doctor provide detailed instructions on how to care for your lenses, but keep the following in mind:

  • Before handling your contact lenses, wash your hands thoroughly and dry them completely.
  • Remove your lenses before showering, bathing or swimming.
  • Do not sleep with your contact lenses (unless they are approved for sleeping).
  • Replace your contact lenses according to the manufacturer’s instructions (don’t reuse daily wear lenses).
  • Clean and replace your contact lens case regularly.
  • Only use contact lens solutions approved by your eye doctor.
  • Never reuse or mix contact lens solutions.
  • Schedule regular appointments with your eye doctor.

LEARN MORE: Guide to Contact Lenses

If you are experiencing discomfort with your contact lenses, it’s important to see your eye doctor as soon as possible.

Most contact lens problems can be easily resolved, and may sometimes be as simple as switching contact lens brands! Your eye doctor can discuss the many successful options.