Understanding Contact Lens Discomfort: Allergies and Intolerance

ICOICE Feb 10, 2023

If you're experiencing discomfort, redness, or irritation when wearing contact lenses, it's essential to identify whether you're allergic to the contacts themselves or the lens solution. This article aims to provide insights on how to differentiate between the two and offers guidance on finding the appropriate solution.

Contact Lens Allergy:

A contact lens allergy typically arises from the accumulation of contaminants on the lenses rather than the materials of the lenses themselves. Over time, proteins from your eyes can build up on the lenses, and when these proteins enter your bloodstream, your immune system recognizes them as foreign invaders, triggering an allergic reaction. This reaction may lead to a condition known as giant papillary conjunctivitis (GPC). Symptoms of a contact lens allergy include redness, swelling, heaviness in the eyes, discharge, itchiness, watery eyes, pain, sensitivity, and the presence of small bumps (papillae) on the inside of your eyelids.

Contact Lens Intolerance:

Contact lens intolerance refers to the inability to wear contact lenses due to eye pain or irritation. Several factors can contribute to this condition, such as nearsightedness, astigmatism, farsightedness, ocular conditions, chronic dry eye, other allergies, improperly fitted lenses, or underlying issues.

Steps to Determine the Cause:

Evaluate Symptoms:
Take note of any symptoms you experience, such as redness, swelling, heaviness, discharge, itchiness, or pain. It is crucial to share these symptoms with your optometrist for a thorough evaluation.

Consult with Your Optometrist:
During your consultation, your optometrist will inquire about your symptoms and medical history, including any known allergies. They may also conduct an eye examination and assess the fit of your lenses to rule out other potential causes.

Consider Lens Solution:
Lens solutions often contain preservatives, and these preservatives, even in trace amounts, can occasionally trigger an allergic reaction. If you suspect that the lens solution might be causing your discomfort, consider switching to a solution designed for sensitive eyes or one that is thimerosal-free or preservative-free. Monitor whether the change in solution alleviates your symptoms.

Maintain Good Hygiene:
Irrespective of the cause, maintaining good contact lens hygiene is crucial in preventing irritation and infections. Follow proper hygiene practices, such as washing your hands before handling your contacts, cleaning your lenses daily with a recommended solution, inspecting your lenses for damage or debris, regularly replacing your contact case, and avoiding irritants like dust, dirt, pollen, or other allergens that can contaminate your contacts.

Seek Professional Advice:
If your symptoms persist or worsen, it is important to seek further evaluation and guidance from your optometrist. They may recommend adjustments to your cleaning routine, a change in lens type or solution, or suggest a period of rest from wearing lenses to allow your eyes to recover.

Remember that a proper diagnosis and guidance from a healthcare professional are vital in determining the cause of your discomfort and finding the appropriate solution. By following these steps and seeking professional advice, you can address contact lens-related issues effectively and ensure the well-being of your eyes.