Common Contact Lens Problems and how to Fix them
Common Contact Lens Problems
Wearing contact lenses should be a pleasant, hassle free experience, and the majority of contact lens wearers will have no issues, however, it’s not uncommon to experience the occasional problem, particularly in the early days of contact lens wear.
Below we list the most common problems that contact lens wearers experience and how to deal with them.
Irritation on Insertion
Your contact lenses should be comfortable, and settle very quickly after insertion, if you are experiencing discomfort or irritation upon insertion then this could be due to a number of reasons such as irritable deposits on your lenses, a nick or chip, or the lens being inside out.
Damaged Lens: If this is the first time this has happened, remove the lens and check that it is not damaged, Look for nicks, chips, or tears, if this is the case dispose of the lens and insert a new one.
If there is no damage, wash and dry your hands, then simply re-clean the lens with fresh solution and reinsert, in most cases that should solve the problem.
Build-up of Dirt or Allergens: If you wear reusable lenses and your eyes have become increasingly irritated over the past few days it could be that your lens has a build-up of allergens, dirt or bacteria. It is advisable to dispose of this lens and start with a new one.
If the irritability persists, remove the lens and speak with your optometrist, who may need to check your eyes and discuss other cleaning options or even daily disposable lenses.
Irritation/dry itchy eye on removal
It’s not uncommon to experience some dryness or itchiness on the removal of contact lenses, after a day of wearing them, your contact lens creates a microenvironment under the lens which your eye has adjusted to, and when you remove the lens your eye takes a little while to readjust to the natural environment.
If your eyes are more than a little itchy or irritated on removal of your lenses it could be that you are overwearing your lenses and your eyes are telling you to take a break.
Try wearing your lenses for a little shorter each day, if the problem continues make an appointment to see your optometrist.
Reasons for Uncomfortable Lenses
If you are experiencing discomfort whilst wearing your contact lenses then this could be due to either the contact lens or the environment.
The reasons a contact lens may become uncomfortable include an ill-fitting lens, the lens being inside out, damage to the lens, overwearing, and drying out. In these cases it is advisable to remove the lens, check for damage, if no damage is found, clean the lens and reinsert. If the discomfort continues, then remove the lens and dispose of it.
You should give your eyes a break before inserting a new fresh lens in case there is any mild irritation that needs to settle, if the new lens is also uncomfortable, remove the lens and speak to your optometrist. If itchiness or burning is accompanied by any mucous discharge this could indicate you have an eye infection, remove the lens and seek advice from your optometrist or general practitioner.
The environmental reasons that could cause a contact lens to become uncomfortable include - the ambient humidity of a room, it could be too dry or too moist, air conditioning blowing onto your face, a foreign body in the eye, dry eyes, some medications, etc
In these cases if you can change the environment that's great, if not remove the lens. Give your eyes a break and speak to your optometrist
Ripped or Chipped Contact lens
If you notice your lens is chipped or ripped do not insert it, dispose of it immediately - a ripped or chipped lens cannot be fixed and cause scratches, irritability and damage to your eye.
If you think a lens has become torn whilst in your eye, remove the lens and dispose of it.
Your eyes should not be red and it is not normal for contact lenses to cause red eyes.
If you are a contact lens wearer and experience red eyes then this could be due to overwear, the lens or lenses, becoming contaminated with dirt or bacteria etc, remove the lens and dispose of it. Do not insert another lens but wait a day or two, if the redness does not disappear or if you are experiencing high levels of pain, seek out medical attention either from your optometrist or your general practitioner.
Styes are small red bumps near the edge of your eyelid. Some people suffer from styes more than others, this can be due to other health issues such as blepharitis or rosacea. If this is the case then it is important to treat the underlying cause, but whatever the cause, if you have a stye, remove your lenses and do not wear them until the infection has healed.
If you think your contact lenses are giving you headaches ask yourself
How long is it since your eyesight was checked?
Is my prescription out of date?
Headaches can be caused by wearing the wrong prescription contact lenses - or glasses- so if the answer to the questions above ages and yes, then it’s definitely time for a sight test, if the answer is not long ago and no, then it still a good idea to speak with either your optometrist or your general practitioner, to discover the reason for your headaches.
Lost a lens in your eye
Don't panic, it doesn’t matter what horror stories you have heard, due to the anatomy of the eye it is physically impossible for contact lenses to get stuck behind your eyes, however, they can stuck or trapped under your eyelid.
It’s pretty easy to remove a “trapped or stuck” contact lens. You may find the use of rewetting drops helpful, put a few rewetting eye drops into the affected eye and then close the eye for a few seconds. You can massage the upper or lower eyelid using your fingertips with your eye closed to help the contact lens move to the centre of the eye.
Once you feel the lens is near the centre of your eye, you should be able to easily take it out. Clean the lens thoroughly in solution and check it for any damage, before putting it back into your eye.
A Dropped Lens
If you drop a contact lens, find the lens fast, the longer the lens is out of solution and out of your eye the greater the risk the lens will dry out and become totally irretrievable.
If it is a daily disposable lens, then there may be enough solution left in your blister to give the lens a good clean before insertion, if not your only option is to dispose of the lens and start with a new one.
If you drop a monthly or extended wear lens, then you should have enough solution to give the lens a good clean before use.
If you can't find the lens quickly and it has started to dry out and develop “ a crinkled edge” then your only option is to throw it out. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen often.
Check out our in-depth guide to can a contact lens get stuck in my eye.
Slept with your lenses in
I’m sure you’ve been told many times not to sleep in your contact lenses, but let's face it, it happens.
The first thing is don’t panic, as soon as you realise you have slept with your lenses in,- unless it's an extended wear lens-, remove the lens and give your eyes a break, don’t wear lenses for at least 24 hours to give your eyes a chance to breathe and rehydrate.
You may experience red, swollen sore eyes and even blurred vision, this is not uncommon and is called “overwear syndrome”, and is due to a lack of oxygen reaching your cornea. This normally resolves on its own, however, if any of these symptoms persist, and especially if you are still experiencing pain after 4-6 hours you should contact your optometrist and explain your symptoms and how long you slept with your lenses in.
Most common contact lens problems are not serious and can be dealt with at home, however, there are some problems, if they persist should definitely be checked out with your optometrist or your general practitioner.
Author: John Dreyer Optometrist Bsc(Hons), MCOPTOM, DipCLP
Created: 13 Oct 2023, Last modified: 24 Oct 2023