Using Eye Drops With Contact Lenses

Certain eye drops can be used with contact lenses. Many contact lens wearers use rewetting drops to make their contacts feel more comfortable. However, some eye drops should not be used with contact lenses.

Woman putting eye drops in her eyes
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Types of Eye Drops

Medicated eye drops are rarely intended for use with contact lenses. Thus, if you have an eye infection such as pink eye, your best bet is to avoid contact lenses while using prescribed eye drops. Similarly, if you are using medicated drops for allergies or have an eye injury, it's best to avoid lenses while using the drops and waiting for your eyes to heal.

If you are using over-the-counter, non-medicated eye drops to relieve dryness or irritation, you'll find that there are three available categories of drops: “dry eye" eye drops, “get the red out” eye drops, and “contact lens” eye drops.

'Contact Lens' Eye Drops

Contact lens eye drops are often called re-wetting drops. Re-wetting drops lubricate your eye and hydrate the contact lens, making your eyes more comfortable while wearing your contact lenses. These eye drops are labeled “For use with soft contact lenses” and are usually located next to contact lens cleaning solutions in the store. Eye care professionals usually encourage frequent use of re-wetting drops, as it improves comfort and helps clear out debris underneath your contact lenses.

'Dry Eye' Eye Drops

Dry eye drops come in a variety of formulations. Some are thicker than others and may actually cloud your vision or “gum up” your contact lenses. While some of them may be OK for use with contact lenses, they are designed to not only lubricate the eye but to promote healing of the eye’s surface. It is best to stick with eye drops that specifically state, "for contact lenses." However, many other artificial tears for dry eyes are OK to use with contact lenses. If you are unsure about which brand to use with your contacts, check the insert before inserting the drops.

'Get the Red Out' Eye Drops

"Get the red out" drops have special ingredients called vasoconstrictors. These drops shrink the tiny blood vessels in the conjunctiva, the clear tissue that coats the white part of your eye. These eye drops could cause deposits to form on the surface of your contact lenses and if used repetitively to re-wet your contact lenses, could cause “rebound” redness. Rebound redness occurs when the vasoconstrictor wears off. The blood vessels dilate larger, ​causing the eyes to appear bloodshot. This may cause dependency or mask underlying infections or inflammations. Bottom line, your best choice may be to remove your contacts rather use these drops while wearing them.

When to Take Out Your Contacts

In some cases, the wisest course is to remove your contacts. According to the CDC, If you have any of the symptoms below, remove your contact lenses. If the symptoms continue after a couple of hours, or if they get worse, call your eye doctor.

  • Irritated, red eyes
  • Worsening pain in or around the eyes
  • Light sensitivity
  • Sudden blurry vision
  • Unusually watery eyes or discharge
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Article Sources
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  1. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Can you use contact lens rewetting drops to moisten your bare eye? Updated April 23, 2019.

  2. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Redness-Relieving Eye Drops. Updated August 31, 2018.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other Complications. Updated March 21, 2016.