Eye Health Contact Lenses Print 7 Reasons Your Contacts Are Giving You Red Eyes Could you be allergic to your contact lens solution? By Troy Bedinghaus, OD Updated August 14, 2019 Medically reviewed by a board-certified physician More in Eye Health Contact Lenses Glaucoma Cataracts Macular Degeneration Vision Loss Dry Eye Syndrome More Eye Issues & Safety Glasses Exams & Procedures Vision Improvement Surgery Eye Anatomy Kid's Eye Health View All If you develop red eyes while wearing contact lenses, consider it a warning sign. While a contact lens may seem small and harmless, you must keep in mind that it is a foreign body resting on the surface of your eye. If your eyes turn red while wearing your contacts, it may mean you are simply overwearing them. However, there are many conditions that can cause increased eye redness while wearing contacts. Below are the top seven reasons why your contacts may be causing red eyes. Illustration by Brianna Gilmartin, Verywell 1 Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis Giant papillary conjunctivitis (GPC) is a condition found commonly in contact lens wearers. GPC is a type of inflammation caused by having a foreign body (contact lens) in the eye. Contact lenses can sometimes irritate the surface of the conjunctiva. GPC may make your eyes red and itchy, and cause your contact lenses to move around on your eyes. 2 C.L.A.R.E. C.L.A.R.E. stands for "contact lens-induced red eye." Caused by bacteria, C.L.A.R.E. is a reaction to the toxins that normal bacteria create in your eyes. Toxins that would normally be flushed out of your eye by blinking can bind to a contact lens. These toxins build up and can create a very unhappy red eye. C.L.A.R.E. is found more commonly in patients who take long naps or sleep in their contact lenses. 3 Contact Lens Solution Use If your eyes are red, you may have an allergy to the disinfecting contact lens solution you are using. An allergy can develop at any time, even if you have used a particular brand of solution for several years. Some contact lens re-wetting or lubricating eye drops may contain preservatives that produce an allergic reaction. 4 Eye Allergies People who have allergies sometimes have a difficult time wearing contact lenses. While the constant itching, eye rubbing and tearing caused by allergies can make you miserable on their own, having a contact lens in your eye can exacerbate your eye allergies even more. Contacts may act like a vessel, collecting pollen and allergic particles that float in the air around you. These antigens can adhere to your lenses, worsening your allergies. 5 Corneal Ulcer Corneal ulcers are always taken seriously in the eye care field. The first sign of a developing corneal ulcer is often eye redness. You may also feel like there is a foreign body in your eye, and/or have increased light sensitivity, tearing and pain. If you have these symptoms, seek care immediately. Corneal ulcers have the potential to cause corneal scarring and permanently reduced vision, and sometimes blindness. 6 Poorly Fit or Defective Lenses Lenses that are too tight can restrict normal tear flow underneath your lenses and reduce the amount of oxygen to your corneas. Occasionally, a compression ring around the cornea is visible in the examination room. Your eyes may seem fine in the morning, but as the day goes on, your eyes may become red and begin to ache. A lens that is too loose may cause redness as well. A loose lens moves with every blink, creating redness and a foreign body sensation. You should never wear a defective or torn lens, as the defective part of the lens may constantly scratch your eye. It doesn't take much of a scratch to create small holes in your cornea, giving bacteria an easy route to your eye to cause infection. 7 Dry Eye Syndrome Even if you have absolutely no symptoms of dry eye syndrome, you may have very dry eyes when wearing contact lenses. To be a successful contact lens wearer, you must have a fairly healthy tear layer. A contact lens can soak up every tear you have, not allowing for lubrication of your eye or the lens. Dry eye symptoms often increase as the day goes on. Your eyes may become red, and they might feel scratchy. If your eyes are significantly dry, you may not be able to wear your lenses for more than a couple of hours at a time. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Sign up for our Health Tip of the Day newsletter, and receive daily tips that will help you live your healthiest life. Email Address Sign Up There was an error. Please try again. Thank you, , for signing up. What are your concerns? Other Inaccurate Hard to Understand Submit Article Sources American Academy of Ophthalmology. Giant papillary conjunctivitis. 2019. Sankaridurg PR, Sharma S, Willcox M, et al. Bacterial colonization of disposable soft contact lenses is greater during corneal infiltrative events than during asymptomatic extended lens wear. J Clin Microbiol. 2000;38(12):4420-4. Miller D. Pharmacological treatment for infectious corneal ulcers. Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2013;14(5):543-60. doi:10.1517/14656566.2013.775248 Markoulli M, Kolanu S. Contact lens wear and dry eyes: challenges and solutions. Clin Optom (Auckl). 2017;9:41-48. doi:10.2147/OPTO.S111130 Additional Reading Bennett, ES. and Vinita AH. Clinical Manual of Contact Lenses, 4th ed. pp 307-315. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2013.