Itchy Eyes and Contact Lenses: What to Do When the Itch Won't Stop

Image of a man rubbing his itchy eyes.

Do your contact lenses spend more time in their case than in your eyes? Itching and redness, common complaints among contact lens wearers, can make it difficult to wear the lenses for more than an hour or two. The uncomfortable symptoms often occur as a result of allergies, but may develop due to other reasons. Identifying the source of your itch is the key to finding relief.

Allergies

Allergies are a common cause of itchy eyes. In fact, it's estimated that almost half of the world's population is affected by some sort of allergy every year, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. If your itchy eyes are accompanied by sneezing and congestion, allergies may be to blame.

When you're exposed to allergens, such as pollen, grasses or pet dander, your body immediately switches to defensive mode in an attempt to get rid of the foreign substance. Although these allergens aren't dangerous, your body doesn't see it that way. It produces histamines, chemicals that trigger allergic responses designed to eliminate allergens as soon as possible. As histamines flood your body, your eyes water and itch. Your symptoms can be worse when you wear your contacts, as the lenses may trap allergens.

Allergies to contact lens cleaning solutions and the lenses themselves may also cause itching. Keep in mind that allergies can develop at any point in your life. Just because you've never had allergies in the past doesn't mean that they aren't the cause of your itchy eyes.

Contact Dermatitis

Sometimes itching occurs after you come in direct contact with an allergen or irritant. For example, makeup and other products you wear on your face can cause contact dermatitis. If you suffer from this condition, you'll develop an itchy rash where your skin touched the allergen or irritant.

Dry Eye

Dry eyes are another common cause of itching. Other symptoms of dry eye include tearing, burning or the feeling that something is stuck in your eye, even though it looks perfectly fine.

Blepharitis

Blepharitis, or eyelid inflammation, often accompanies dry eye, but can also occur on its own. If you have blepharitis, you may notice crusty deposits or dandruff-like flakes on your eyelids, in addition to itchy eyelids, watery eyes, burning, stinging and a foreign body sensation.

Contact Lens-Induced Conjunctivitis

Contact lens-induced conjunctivitis, also called giant papillary conjunctivitis, causes small bumps to form on the inner surface of your eyelids. The bumps develop when contact lenses or allergens irritate the lining of eyelids. Failing to clean your lenses often enough can cause the condition, but it may also occur if protein deposits build up on the lenses. Contact lens-induced conjunctivitis causes itching, redness, blurred vision and foreign body sensation. You may also notice an accumulation of string-like strands of mucus.

Try These Tips to Reduce Itching

Luckily, there are a few things you can do to reduce or stop itching and other unpleasant symptoms, including:

  • Clean Your Lenses Frequently: During allergy season, you'll need to clean your lenses more often to remove allergens.
  • Take Your Allergy Medication: Allergy medication prevents histamines from causing itching and other allergy symptoms. Taking the medication on a daily basis during allergy season can help you avoid itchy eyes.
  • Use Artificial Tears: Artificial tears can help combat dry eye. Look for products that are safe to use with contact lenses.
  • Change Your Solution: Relieving itching may be as simple as switching to a hypoallergenic solution.
  • Try Compresses: Warm compresses will soothe your itchy eyes and help remove crusts caused by blepharitis.
  • Wear Your Glasses: If you continue to wear your lenses when your eyes are itchy and uncomfortable, the problem may worsen. Wearing your glasses for a few days will give your eyes the rest they need.
  • Don't Rub: Although rubbing your eyes may make them feel a little better momentarily, rubbing can increase irritation and actually prolong the problem.
  • Call Your Optometrist: If the itching just won't stop, pay a visit to your optometrist. In some cases, trying a different type of contact lenses can help reduce itching. If you suffer from dry eye, switching to hydrogel lens that retain more moisture may be a good idea. When itching is caused by allergy or protein deposits, wearing daily wear lenses may be a better idea. If you have contact lens-induced conjunctivitis, topical anti-histamines, mast cell stabilizers and corticosteroids can reduce inflammation in your eyes.

Are you tired of living with itchy eyes? We offer treatments that can provide relief. Call us today to schedule your appointment.

Sources:

AAAAI: Allergy Statistics

http://www.aaaai.org/about-aaaai/newsroom/allergy-statistics

American Academy of Ophthalmology: The Itchy Eye: Diagnosis, Management of Ocular Pruritis, 2/10

https://www.aao.org/eyenet/article/itchy-eye-diagnosis-management-of-ocular-pruritis?february-2010

AllAboutVision.com: Remedies for Contact Lens Discomfort, 9/16

http://www.allaboutvision.com/contacts/cld-remedies.htm

Medscape: Contact Lenses and Allergy, 8/08

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/583607_5

Cleveland Clinic: Are You Allergic to Your Contact Lenses or Solution?, 12/8/16

https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2016/12/allergic-contact-lenses-solution/

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