Can I Use Eye Drops With My Contact Lenses?

The answer is "sometimes!"

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Certain eye drops can be used with contact lenses. That said, however, there are some eye drops that should not be used with contacts--and there are eye conditions that are actually caused by contacts. 

Types of Eye Drops

Medicated eye drops are rarely intended for use with contact lenses. Thus, if you have an eye infection such as pink-eye, your best bet is to avoid contact lenses while using prescribed eye drops.

Similarly, if you are using medicated drops for allergies, or have an eye injury, it's best to avoid lenses while using the drops and waiting for your eyes to heal.

If you are using over-the-counter, non-medicated eye drops to relieve dryness or irritation, you'll find that there are three available categories of drops: “dry eye" eye drops, “get the red out” eye drops, and “contact lens” eye drops.

'Contact Lens' Eye Drops

Contact lens eye drops are often called re-wetting drops. Re-wetting drops lubricate your eye and hydrate the contact lens, making your eyes more comfortable while wearing your contact lenses. Theses eye drops are labeled “For use with soft contact lenses,” and are usually located next to contact lens cleaning solutions in the store. Eye care professionals usually encourage frequent use of re-wetting drops, as it improves comfort and helps clear out debris underneath your contact lenses.

'Dry Eye' Eye Drops

Dry eye drops come in a variety of formulations. Some are thicker than others and may actually cloud your vision or “gum up” your contact lenses. While some of them may be OK for use with contact lenses, they are designed to not only lubricate the eye, but to promote healing of the eye’s surface.

It is best to stick with eye drops that specifically state, "for contact lenses." However, many of thinner artificial tears for dry eyes are OK to use with contact lenses. If you are unsure about which brand to use with your contacts, check the insert before inserting the drops.

'Get the Red Out' Eye Drops

"Get the red out" drops have special ingredients called vasoconstrictors. These drops shrink the tiny blood vessels in the conjunctiva, the clear tissue that coats the white part of your eye. These eye drops could cause deposits to form of the surface of your contact lenses and if used repetitively to re-wet your contact lenses, could cause “rebound” redness. Rebound redness occurs when the vasoconstrictor wears off. The blood vessels dilate larger, causing the eyes to appear bloodshot. This may cause dependency or mask underlying infections or inflammations. Bottom line, your best choice may be to remove your contacts rather use these drops while wearing them.

When to Take Out Your Contacts

In some cases, the wisest course is to remove your contacts. According to the CDC, If you have any of the symptoms below, remove your contact lenses. If the symptoms continue after a couple of hours, or if they get worse, call your eye doctor.

  • Irritated, red eyes
  • Worsening pain in or around the eyes
  • Light sensitivity
  • Sudden blurry vision
  • Unusually watery eyes or discharge

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthy Contact Lens Wear and Care. Web. 2017.

 

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