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  • Writer's pictureAtanas Bogoev M.D. and Maria Cholakova

Itchy Eyes after Wearing Contact Lenses? Here's What to Know.

Are your eyes itchy after wearing contact lenses? Do you have an irresistible urge to rub your eyes? Or maybe you wonder what might be causing this persistent itchiness? Well, you're not alone. Let's explore the root of the common and perplexing sensation of itchy eyes after wearing contact lenses. Learn what you might be doing wrong and how to make the itching stop.


Dangers of Contact Lens Misuse and Poor Maintenance


We start with the dangers of using, cleaning, and storing contact lenses wrong.


Sometimes, the root cause of the itchiness is not an external factor or a medical condition and is solely triggered by bad habits, such as:


  1. Overuse of contacts

  2. Sleeping with contacts

  3. Incorrect fit

  4. Poor maintenance


Overuse of Contacts


Wearing contact lenses for long periods without giving your eyes a break causes intense discomfort, itchiness, and redness. Depending on the type of contacts, there is a recommended duration that it is considered safe to wear them.


Using bi-weekly or monthly contacts does not mean you should keep them in your eyes the entire time. Remove the contacts every day before going to bed! It is safe to reuse them until their expiration - 2 weeks after opening for bi-weekly and 30 days after opening for monthly. Don't wear these types of lenses after they expire!


In between wears, store bi-weekly and monthly contacts in a clean container with a lens solution. Always clean the contacts with a cleaning solution after taking them off, before putting them away in the container.


Don't wear daily contacts for more than 8 hours straight. Throw them away after the first use. They are disposable and not meant for long-term wear or reuse! Any overuse can trigger infectious conditions and cause serious eye problems.

Follow the manufacturer instructions for how long to wear your lenses each day. Your eye doctor or optician can also share recommendations.

Sleeping with Contacts


Sleeping with contacts or forgetting a contact lens in your eye poses risks for your eye health.


Contact lenses, even the monthly ones, should not be worn to bed. Otherwise, you multiply the chances of bacteria or deposits accumulating on the lens surface, fostering irritation and itching upon waking up. Prolonged wear also diminishes the tear film's natural cleansing mechanism. So eyes will be more susceptible to inflammation.


In the case of daily contact lenses, they may dry up and stick firmly to your eye if you leave them overnight. If that happens, you will notice the contacts can be difficult and painful to remove.


When sleeping with contacts, there is also the problem of forgetting you have contacts on.


During sleep, the contacts may crumble up underneath the upper eyelash. So you can wake up with a terrible sensation of scratching, worse when blinking, and not even realize what is causing it. Leaving them for even a day more puts you at risk of getting the eye infected.


Incorrect Fit


An incorrect fit can also make your eyes itchy. If your contact lenses don't fit properly, they will be uncomfortable and scratch the surface of your eye. Such irritation can result in redness and annoying itching sensations.


Most contacts are soft with a standard size. But some may have different diameters and curvatures. To ensure you buy lenses that fit well, consult an eye doctor.


Poor Maintenance


Always clean your contact lenses properly in between uses. If your lenses are not clean or there's a buildup of proteins and debris, they can irritate your eyes. And if you wear dirty contacts for a few hours, you may even get an eye infection.


So, if something gets in your eye while wearing contacts, please remove them immediately. Especially if you get dirty water, debris, sand particles, cosmetics, or chemical sunscreen in your eye.


Everything that does not belong in your eye gets even more dangerous if you wear contacts because they can trap it inside or scratch your eye's protective layer (cornea).



Common Causes of Itchy Eyes after Wearing Contact Lenses


Ocular pruritus refers to the sensation of itching or irritation in the eyes. It is a medical term that describes the itching sensation in the eyes and surrounding areas.


The triggers are allergies, dry eyes, or other eye conditions, leading to the urge to rub or scratch the eyes. Understanding the reasons behind itchy eyes while wearing contact lenses is crucial and helps find lasting relief.


Dry Eye


Contact lenses may disrupt the natural tear film and absorb the natural moisture from your eyes. The result is faster evaporation of tears and insufficient moisture on the ocular surface. Contacts can also impede the flow of oxygen to the cornea. This further contributes to dryness and discomfort.


Dry eyes are a common cause of itchy eyes after wearing contact lenses. Naturally, when your eyes don't have enough moisture, you may feel scratching sensations. Dry eye symptoms are tearing, burning, blinking discomfort, or a feeling of having something in the eye, even when it appears normal.


eye scratchy feeling

Blepharitis


Often accompanying dry eye, blepharitis involves inflammation of the eyelids. Along with itchy eyelids, you might see crusty deposits or flakes on your eyelids. Blepharitis also manifests as watery eyes, burning, stinging, and a feeling of a foreign body in the eye. Reduced natural cleansing mechanisms and the presence of contacts can make people susceptible to blepharitis.


Contact Dermatitis


If your eyes get itchy after touching something like makeup, it could be contact dermatitis. This is when the skin around your eyes gets a rash from exposure to an allergen or irritant. Wearing contact lenses when skin irritation occurs can further enhance the itch and progress to infection.


Contact Lens-Induced Conjunctivitis


Also known as giant papillary conjunctivitis, this happens when contact lenses or allergens irritate the inner surface of your eyelids. Small bumps can form, leading to itching, redness, blurry vision, and a feeling of debris in your eye. Poor lens hygiene or having protein deposits on them can cause this. Sleeping with contact lenses can also cause or contribute to severe inflammation.


Allergies


Itchy eyes after wearing contact lenses often happen due to eye allergies. Allergens like pollen, grass, or pet dander trigger the release of histamines. They can make your eyes itchy and red, especially if the allergens get trapped under the contact lenses. That can make the itching worse.


Some people may also be allergic to the materials in the contact lenses or the cleaning solutions. If so, the lenses themselves can contribute to an uncomfortable experience.



Instant Relief for Itchy Eyes


You are probably looking for instant relief for your itchy eyes after wearing contact lenses. Here's what to do to alleviate the discomfort:


  1. Remove the contact lenses from your eyes.

  2. Resist the urge to rub your eyes - it can increase irritation and prolong the problem.

  3. Apply warm compresses to soothe the itchiness.

  4. Use a clean damp cloth to remove any crusts on your eyelids.

  5. Give your eyes a break by wearing glasses for a few days.

  6. Use artificial tears to combat dry eye and improve comfort when/after wearing contacts.

Choose preservative-free artificial tears that are safe for frequent use with your contact lenses.


Ask your eye doctor for specific eye drops recommendations.


Allergy Prevention Tips


  1. During allergy season, clean your lenses more often to remove allergens.

  2. Switch to a hypoallergenic lens cleaning solution to alleviate itching by allergies.

  3. Use artificial tears regularly throughout the day to wash away allergens


If you have eye allergies, take your antihistamine before wearing contact lenses. Taking prescription allergy medication regularly during allergy season can prevent itchy reactions.


Seeking Medical Advice


If the itching persists, talk to an eye doctor. They can recommend different types of contact lenses for example hydrogel lenses for dry eyes. Ophthalmologists can also prescribe specific treatments, like topical antihistamines, mast cell stabilizers, or corticosteroids, for contact lens-induced conjunctivitis.


Checked by Atanas Bogoev, MD.

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