Two things that never used to go together are contact lenses and dry eyes. It used to be that having dry eyes meant, in simple words, inability to wear contact lenses. Today things are different, contact lenses and dry eyes can and do go very well together.
Having dry eyes simply means that you may have to evaluate a variety of lenses before finding the right kind for you. A qualified contact lens fitter should be able to find a specific lens that will work well for most any eye, even dry eyes.
Soft contact lens manufacturers such as CooperVision and Vistakon have developed materials that are designed specifically to stay hydrated while on a dry eye. Lenses such as the Proclear Compatibles, Acuvue Oasys, Extreme H2O, and Purevision work wonders in a dry eye environment. Each lens is made from a unique proprietary plastic that retains water content, hydration, and/or shape throughout the day.
Rigid gas permeable lenses also work very well on dry eyes. An RGP lens is made of a rigid plastic that does not absorb as much solution as a soft lens. Therefore, RGP lenses do not dehydrate on an eye, which is what causes dry eye discomfort. RGP’s can made of a number of plastics, including some that are extremely oxygen permeable and some that have a very low wetting angle. A low wetting angle means the lens will feel moist while being worn.
The latest advancement in RGP lenses for dry eyes is plasma treatment. Paragon Vision has discovered a way to alter the surface molecules of an RGP contact lens making it more comfortable for most people. Plasma treatment has proven to be a major advancement RGP contact lenses and dry eyes.
Still another option for dry eyes is semi-scleral gas permeable lenses. Semi-sclerals are made of gas permeable materials, yet are the size of most soft lenses. The outcome is a lens that is as comfortable as a soft lens, with the non-dehydrating benefits of a gas permeable.
The type of contact lens used is only part of the equation. The solution and care system is a major portion of lens success. Just how lenses and lens materials are different, so are all care systems. Depending on the type of dry eye and lens used, a different conditioning solution, cleaner, or rewetting drop may change the way you wear your contacts.
Just because you have dry eyes doesn’t mean you can’t be a successful contact lens wearer. Given the new contact lens designs and materials available coupled with new solution systems the world of contact lens wear possibilities is open to you.
Steve Cogger is a contact lens specialist from New York City and a fellow of the Contact Lens Society of America. In order to provide a resource for all lens wearers, he is also the webmaster of our web site