7 Reasons Your Contacts Are Giving You Red Eyes

Could you be allergic to your contact lens solution?

If you develop red eyes while wearing contact lenses, consider it a warning sign. A contact lens may seem small and harmless. But 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 wearing them too much. But there are many conditions that can cause increased eye redness while wearing contacts.

Keep reading to learn the top seven reasons why your contacts may be causing red eyes.

causes of red eyes with contacts

Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin

1

Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis

Giant papillary conjunctivitis (GPC) is a condition usually found in people who wear contact lenses. GPC is a type of inflammation caused by having a foreign body in the eye.

It occurs because contact lenses can sometimes irritate the surface of the conjunctiva, the clear tissue that covers the white of the eye.

GPC may make your eyes red and itchy. It can cause your contact lenses to move around on your eyes.​

2

CLARE

CLARE stands for "contact lens-induced acute red eye." Caused by bacteria, CLARE 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 stick to a contact lens.

These toxins build up and can create a very unhappy red eye. CLARE 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. The constant itching, eye rubbing, and tearing caused by allergies can make you miserable. But having a contact lens in your eye can make your eye allergy symptoms even worse.

Contact lenses collect pollen and allergic particles that float in the air around you. These substances can stick to your lenses. This makes your allergies worse.

5

Corneal Ulcer

Corneal ulcers are open sores on the surface of the eye. They're always taken seriously in the eye care field because they can cause complications quickly if not treated.

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. You may even have increased light sensitivity, tears in your eye, and pain.

If you have these symptoms, seek care immediately. Corneal ulcers have the potential to cause corneal scarring. They can permanently reduce vision and sometimes cause blindness.

6

Poorly Fitted or Defective Lenses

Lenses that are too tight can restrict normal tear flow underneath your lenses. They also reduce the amount of oxygen to your corneas. Occasionally, a compression ring or red ring around the cornea is visible in the examination room.

Your eyes may seem fine in the morning, but as the day goes on, they may become red and begin to ache.

Contact lenses that are too loose may cause redness as well. A loose lens moves with every blink. It creates redness and makes you feel that a foreign body is inside your eye.

You should never wear a defective or torn lens. This is because 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. This gives bacteria an easy pathway into your eye and can 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. This does not allow 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 extremely dry, you may not be able to wear your lenses for more than a couple of hours at a time.

Summary

If you wear contact lenses and have red eyes, your eyes are trying to warn you that there may be a problem. Sometimes eye redness may mean you're wearing your eye contacts too much, or allergies could be the cause.

At times, eye redness is a sign of a more serious issue. You could have a corneal ulcer, which needs treatment immediately. Sometimes red, irritated eyes are because of dry eye syndrome or poorly fitted contact lenses. It's important to see your doctor so they can determine the cause of your eye redness.

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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. Giant papillary conjunctivitis.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Contact lenses: Other complications.

  3. Miller D. Pharmacological treatment for infectious corneal ulcers. Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2013;14(5):543-60. doi:10.1517/14656566.2013.775248

  4. 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