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How to Treat Eye Irritation from Contact Lenses

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A pair of contact lenses sitting in a contact lens case.

You may have experienced some eye irritation and discomfort when wearing contact lenses. While contact lenses are a convenient and practical solution for vision correction, they can also cause your eyes to become irritated and inflamed from time to time.

While eye irritation can have many causes, several simple solutions, like talking to your optometrist about new lens solution, refreshing your education on good contact lens hygiene, or taking breaks from your contact lenses, can help reduce eye discomfort. A comprehensive eye exam can help uncover the source of your irritation and provide individualized solutions.

What Causes Eye Irritation from Contact Lenses

Contact lenses are a great alternative to eyeglasses, but they can also cause eye irritation. Fortunately, most possible causes of eye irritation can be avoided with proper usage, cleaning, and maintenance. Consulting with your eye doctor for the best contact lens type, wear schedule, and cleaning solution is crucial to avoid the most common causes of irritation.

Dry Eyes

Dry eye disease, whether pre-existing or induced by contact lenses, is a common cause of eye irritation among contact lens wearers. Soft contact lenses absorb the natural tears from the eye’s surface, causing symptoms such as:

  • Burning or stinging 
  • Blurred vision
  • Grittiness or feeling like something is in your eye
  • Excessive tears
  • Light sensitivity

Finding the right pair of contact lenses is crucial if you have naturally dry eyes, and several options are available to help relieve dry eye symptoms. You can also consult your eye doctor about using lubricating drops or artificial tears to manage dry eye symptoms.


Another possible cause of eye irritation is eye infections like conjunctivitis or keratitis. Contact lenses can harbor harmful microorganisms that cause severe eye infections like fungal keratitis. To avoid these infections, follow good hygiene practices when handling and cleaning your contact lenses.

Contact lens wearers have an elevated risk of developing infections, which can include symptoms such as:

  • Eye irritation
  • Pain in or around the eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Unusually watery eyes or discharge

Wearing Lenses for too Long

Another reason you might experience eye irritation from contact lenses is that you wear your contacts for longer than they’re designed to be worn. Contact lenses are designed to be worn for specific lengths of time. Overwearing them can lead to irritation and related complications. Only wear your lenses for the prescribed time as instructed by your eye doctor and the manufacturer.

A woman rubs her irritated eyes.

How to Relieve Eye Irritation

You don’t have to suffer from eye irritation. Several treatment options can help manage the discomfort until you find a permanent solution.

Clean Your Contacts Regularly

One of the most important things you can do to prevent eye irritation from contact lenses is to clean them regularly to remove bacteria and debris that can irritate your eyes. When you remove and insert your lenses, you should inspect them for debris or particles that can irritate your eyes.

To clean your lenses, gently rub them on your palm with lens solution to remove surface buildup. You can reduce the risk of eye irritation by following the proper cleaning and disinfecting instructions for your lenses. It’s also crucial to replace your contact lenses as recommended by your optometrist and the manufacturer so they remain in the best condition possible.

Use Lubricating Eye Drops

Eye drops can provide relief if your eyes feel dry or itchy from your contact lenses. Lubricating eye drops are designed to soothe dry, irritated eyes caused by contact lens wear. You can purchase these eye drops at your local drugstore without a prescription, but it’s best to consult your optometrist to ensure you’re using the right eye drops for your eyes and contact lenses.

Take Regular Breaks from Your Contacts

Wearing contact lenses for extended periods can cause eye fatigue, but regular breaks from your contacts can help reduce eye strain and irritation. Remove your lenses and wear your glasses if your eyes feel tired or dry. This can help to alleviate eye irritation and allow your eyes to rest.

Replace Your Contact Lens Solution

It’s essential to keep your contact solution bottle sterile, too. Always close the bottle cap after every use; the contact lens solution can become contaminated with bacteria and other debris. If the contact solution isn’t helping with irritation, your optometrist may recommend switching to a different brand or formula better suited to your eye concerns.

Consult with Your Optometrist

If you continue to experience eye irritation despite taking steps to prevent it, you should schedule an appointment with your optometrist. During a comprehensive eye exam, they can diagnose your symptoms and recommend measures to help provide you with relief.

Find Relief from Irritation when Wearing Contact Lenses

For many people, switching to contact lenses are a convenient and practical solution for vision correction, but they can cause eye irritation and discomfort under the right conditions. But uncomfortable symptoms aren’t inevitable.

Visit the optometry team at McCauley Celin Eyecare Associates to assess your eyes, diagnose the root problem, and find solutions to help you wear contact lenses without feeling them in your eyes.

Dr. Caitlin McCauley

Written by Dr. Caitlin McCauley

Dr. Caitlin “Caity” McCauley has been interested in optometry since she was 15 years old. In high school, she started at the family practice as an optometric assistant and never looked back.

Dr. McCauley graduated top 10 in her class at Ohio State University, first in 2003 with her Bachelor of Science and then in 2007 with her Doctorate of Optometry. She completed rotations in ocular disease and contact lenses, as well as externships at the Dayton VA hospital and with LASIK specialists in Canton, Ohio.

With a particular interest and passion for pediatric vision, Dr. McCauley remains the practice’s resident authority on children’s eye care, including myopia control. Supporting and interacting with her incredible patients brings Dr. McCauley a strong sense of fulfillment in her work.

More Articles By Dr. Caitlin McCauley

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