6 Tips for Contact Lens Wearers With Allergies

Many contact lens wearers with allergies seem to encounter discomfort during certain times of the year. This discomfort is due largely to allergens in the air that become adhered to contact lenses. The allergens seem to cause miserable symptoms such as itchy, watery, and swollen eyes. Here are five tips to help you through the periods of discomfort.


Keep Your Eyes Moist

Woman putting eyedrops in eyes


Allergens tend to cause dry eyes. Keep irritated eyes moist with artificial tears. The artificial tears will also wash or at least dilute the irritants out of your eyes. Healthcare providers recommend putting in artificial tears in very frequently, sometimes as much as every two hours. The more frequent you instill the eye drops, the more it will keep antigens that cause allergies from sticking to the contact lens surface.


Wear Eyeglasses When Possible

Man looking at computer screen


Allergens such as pollen and dust often adhere to the thin surfaces of contact lenses. Switching to eyeglasses at least part-time will help you avoid an allergy attack.


Clean Your Contacts Often

Contact Lenses being doused with solution
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Cleaning will keep your contact lenses free of allergens. Consider using a preservative-free solution, to help avoid possible allergic reactions. Some people have allergies to the preservatives that are found in some disinfecting systems or artificial tears. Although preservative-free artificial tears are a bit more expensive, they often work wonders for eye allergies. If you wear disposable lenses, consider replacing them more often. Many contact lens wearers use a general, multi-purpose contact lens solution. Ask your healthcare provider about switching to a peroxide-based disinfecting system such as ClearCare or Aosept. The peroxide systems are slightly more complicated to use but they are very good at removing all debris completely from the surface of the lens.​


Use Cool Compresses on Your Eyes

woman uses Eyelid scrubs
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When your eyes are red and swollen, resist the urge to rub them. Rubbing will make the inflammation worse by spreading the allergens. A cool, damp compress will help relieve discomfort. Even better, instill "chilled" artificial tears or contact lens re-wetting drops into your eyes while wearing contact lenses. Put the bottle right in the refrigerator to keep them cool. Anytime you can think about it, preferably at least four or more times per day, grab the bottle out of the fridge and put a drop into each eye.


See Your Eye Doctor

a doctor and patient meet and discuss her vision
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Your eye doctor will recommend medical products for your particular symptoms. There are several prescription and non-prescription eye drops on the market that help decrease allergic symptoms. Some products may even help prevent allergy attacks. You should also see your eye doctor to rule out possible problems that may not be allergy-related.​


Switch to Daily Disposable Contact Lenses

person holding contact lens on finger
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Ask your healthcare provider about switching to daily disposable contact lenses. Daily disposable lenses seem to help alleviate dry eye symptoms and also do wonders for allergies. Daily disposable contact lenses are actually disposed of every day. Simply toss them in trash whether you wear them for an hour or ten hours. When you change a lens daily, you get rid of all the debris that adheres to the lens, in particular, allergens that can reactivate allergies.

3 Sources
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  1. Urgacz A, Mrukwa E, Gawlik R. Adverse events in allergy sufferers wearing contact lenses. Postepy Dermatol Alergol. 2015;32(3):204-9. doi:10.5114/pdia.2015.48071

  2. Alipour F, Khaheshi S, Soleimanzadeh M, Heidarzadeh S, Heydarzadeh S. Contact lens-related complications: a review. J Ophthalmic Vis Res. 2017;12(2):193-204. doi:10.4103/jovr.jovr_159_16

  3. Osuagwu UL, Alanazi SA. Eye rubbing-induced changes in intraocular pressure and corneal thickness measured at five locations, in subjects with ocular allergy. Int J Ophthalmol. 2015;8(1):81-8. doi:10.3980/j.issn.2222-3959.2015.01.15

By Troy Bedinghaus, OD
Troy L. Bedinghaus, OD, board-certified optometric physician, owns Lakewood Family Eye Care in Florida. He is an active member of the American Optometric Association.