Using Eye Drops With Contact Lenses

Certain eye drops can be used with contact lenses, including rewetting drops that make the eyes feel more comfortable. However, some eye drops should not be used with contact lenses and may end up causing eye irritation and redness.

This article looks at four types of eye drops found on most drugstore shelves and outlines which are safe and which can cause problems if you wear contacts. It also explains when to remove your contacts and call your eye doctor when problems arise.

Woman putting eye drops in her eyes
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Types of Eye Drops

Eye drops are not a one-size-fits-all solution. They are intended for specific purposes, and in some cases, need to be avoided if you wear contacts.

Rewetting Eye Drops

Contact lens eye drops are often called rewetting drops. Rewetting drops lubricate your eye and hydrate the contact lens, making your eyes more comfortable while wearing the lenses.

These eye drops are labeled “For use with contact lenses” and are usually located next to contact lens cleaning solutions.

Eye care professionals usually encourage frequent use of rewetting drops as it improves comfort and helps clear out debris underneath the contact lenses.

Dry 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 dry eye drops may be OK for use with contact lenses, they are designed to not only lubricate the eye but to promote the healing of the eye’s surface.

If your eyes are healthy, it may be best to stick with eye drops that specifically state "For use with contact lenses." If unsure, call your eye doctor.

Vasoconstrictor Eye Drops

"Get the red out" eye 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). While they are effective, vasoconstrictor eye drops can leave deposits on the surface of your lenses, causing cloudiness.

If used to rewet your lenses on an ongoing basis, vasoconstrictor eye drops can also cause rebound redness. Rebound redness occurs when the vasoconstrictor effects wear off and blood vessels in the eyes suddenly dilate and become bloodshot. This, in turn, can lead to eye drop dependency as you need more and more to relieve the redness.

In addition, the overuse of vasoconstrictor drops can "mask" eye infections or other inflammatory conditions affecting the eye.

If you need eye drops for bloodshot eyes, it is best to remove your lense and put them on only after the redness has fully cleared.

Medicated Eye Drops

Medicated eye drops are rarely intended for use with contact lenses. So, if you have an eye infection such as conjunctivitis (pink eye), your best bet is to avoid wearing contact lenses while using the drops.

Similarly, if you are using medicated drops for allergies or an eye injury, it's best to avoid lenses until your eyes fully recover.

Recap

The best eye drops for contact lenses are rewetting eye drops. Dry eye drops may be OK but can sometimes be thick and cause blurriness. Vasoconstrictor eye drops or medicated eye drops should only be used when your lenses are out and not as a substitute for rewetting drops.

When to Take Your Contacts Out

Although many extended-wear contact lenses can be worn for up to seven days, it doesn't mean that you should. There are also times when contact lenses need to be removed due to an infection, eye injury, or other concerns.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you should remove your contact lenses if you experience:

  • Irritated, red eyes
  • Worsening pain in or around the eyes
  • Light sensitivity
  • Sudden blurry vision
  • Unusually watery eyes
  • Eye discharge

If the symptoms continue for more than a couple of hours or get worse, call your eye doctor.

Recap

You should remove your contact lenses if ever you have eye redness, eye pain, sudden blurriness, unusual discharge, excessive tearing, or light sensitivity.

Summary

There are many different types of eye drops but not all are suitable for contact lens users. As a general rule, buy only those labeled "For use with contact lenses."

Rewetting eye drops are specifically designed for contact lenses to make them more comfortable in the eye. Dry eye drops may be fine, although some formulations are thick and can end up gumming up your lenses. Vasoconstrictor eye drops and medicated eye drops should only be used when your contacts are out and not as rewetting agents.

Remove your contact lenses if ever they cause redness, pain, discharge sudden blurring, light sensitivity, or excessive tearing.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long can you wear contact lenses?

    How long you can wear contact lenses depends on the type of lens. For example, daily disposable lenses are meant to be thrown away after one day of usage. Extended-wear contact lenses can often be worn for about seven days, while certain extended-wear disposable lenses can be safely used for up to 30 days. No matter which type of lens you use, be sure to follow your healthcare provider's instructions on how to handle the contact lens.

  • Can you use contact solution as eye drops?

    It is not recommended to use contact solution as eye drops. If the solution repeatedly touches your eye, over time it can cause irritation and redness. Contact solutions contain ingredients that are meant to clean the lenses between use. If you are looking for eye rewetting drops, it is a better idea to look for specific products that are meant for the eyes alone.

  • Can you use Visine with contacts?

    You should not use Visine while wearing contacts. The product label of Visine recommends removing contact lenses before use. It may also be a good idea to wait at least 10 or 15 minutes after using it to put in contact lenses. It's important to always follow your healthcare provider's instructions or the instructions listed on the product label.

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4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Redness-Relieving Eye Drops.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other Complications.

  3. American Optometric Association. Types of Contact Lenses.

  4. Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. Visine Allergy Eye Relief Multi-Action.