Dry eye symptoms are the main reason that most people stop wearing contact lenses. There are many causes and reasons why someone may start to experience dry eye symptoms and begin to have difficulties wearing contact lenses, although it is more common as you get older. Your eyes can tolerate almost anything when you are young.  After the age of 40, you may start experiencing more dry eye symptoms. This is why many people tend to wear their glasses a lot more. While there is nothing wrong with wearing glasses, if you want to wear your contact lenses more frequently and are experiencing dry eye or discomfort, then you must address the issue.

Why do contact lenses cause dry eye?

Oxygen & dry eye

The cornea, the front part of your eye, receives oxygen directly from the air. When contact lenses partially block oxygen from reaching your eyes, your eyes can feel dry and itchy. Despite the fact that modern contact lenses are designed to let as much oxygen through as possible, this can still be an issue, especially after prolonged use.

Contact lens friction and dry eye

Our eye is covered by a layer of lipids and water called tear film, when someone has dry eye they may have a deficiency in their tear film. When a person with a deficiency in their tear film wears contact lenses it causes friction, this friction causes feelings of discomfort, dryness, and pain.

What are the symptoms of contact-lens induced dry eye?

Symptoms of contact lens-induced dry eye can vary in severity, but they tend to start out mild. They include:

How is contact lens-induced dry eye treated?

There are several ways to treat contact lens-induced dry eye.

Eye drops

For moderate dry eye you can start with using over-the-counter eye drops, eyelid treatments, and good hygiene.

Switching to daily lenses

Another way to treat dry eyes is to switch from monthly contact lenses to daily replacement lenses. They only need to last a day and they are typically a lot thinner. This allows for more frequent replacements, which helps with dry eyes. Dr. Levi Zurcher recommends Alcon's daily total 1s and precision 1s. Their outer layer contains high levels of water content and they're extremely slippery. They are designed in such a way that you barely notice you're wearing them. If you are thinking about stopping wearing contact lenses altogether, it is certainly worth trying these.


There are two main prescription drops used to treat dry eye called restasis and xiidra.

Check for Ocular Allergies

Contact lens discomfort is often caused by allergies. Anti allergy antihistamine eye drops can alleviate this discomfort.

Change your contact lens solution

Sometimes changing the solution of your contact lenses is all you need to treat dry eyes. Using a high quality brand instead of a generic store brand, especially clear care’s peroxide based solution, can help with dry eye issues.

Switching to Scleral Lenses

Scleral lenses are customized contact lenses that have a unique vaulted shape. This shape creates a pocket between the lens and the cornea. This pocket is filled with saline solution, which can make scleral lenses a solution for someone who wants to wear contact lenses but experiences dry eye.

More advanced dry eye treatments

There are a variety of more advanced dry eye treatments that should be discussed with your eye doctor after a full dry eye examination. During the dry eye examination the eye doctor is looking at the underlying causes for your symptoms in order to offer the best treatment.

These may include:

Punctal Plugs

A few studies have examined punctal occlusion and how it affects contact lens comfort. According to one study, the amount of comfortable time spent wearing contact lenses in the eye where the plug had been placed greatly increased three weeks after it was placed. Learn more about punctal plugs.

Meibomian Gland treatments

There are a variety of specialized treatments that heat and express the glands in our eyes that are often the cause of poor tear film. Learn more about Meibomian Gland.

Amniotic Membranes

For more severe corneal problems patients have experienced significant improvements with dry eye symptoms after having amniotic membranes used to heal their eye. Learn more about amniotic membranes.

Schedule your visit with our eye doctors for dry eye at our renowned optometry clinic in Olympia, attracting patients from Lakewood, Tacoma, and Lacey. Call (360) 491-2121 or fill out this form to make an appointment today.
Visit a Contact Lenses eye doctor at an Amplify EyeCare practice near you:


Contact Us To Amplify Your EyeCare