Can Eye Drops Be Used With Contact Lenses?
Is it safe to use eye drops when I wear my contact lenses?
There are many kinds of eye drops, but not all of them would be suitable to be used by contact lens wearers. Some eye drops have been specially formulated to use with contacts, and obviously these are perfectly safe to use.
Many medical-use eye drops however (e.g. for eye infections, glaucoma, hay fever etc) should not be used when wearing your lenses. These products usually contain preservatives and using these types of eye drops can cause clouding of the contact lens and lead to problems with comfort and vision.
In such cases, you should remove your contacts prior to instilling the drops, then wait about 15 minutes before putting your lenses back on your eyes. If you are unsure, then ask your optometrist to confirm whether your drops are safe to use during contact lens wear.
All eye drops are sterile solutions, and you must be careful when instilling them into your eyes. Ensure that you do not touch the dropper tip with your finger, eyelid or your eye to avoid any possibility of contamination.
What types of eye drops can I use?
Which eye drops are suitable for use with contact lenses?
Most over-the-counter (OTC) eye drops fall into one of four broad categories.
Eye Drops For Read Eyes
Some brands of drops are marketed as Red Eye Drops or Bloodshot Eye Drops and are generally best avoided. They contain chemicals called “vasoconstrictors” which work by narrowing the blood vessels in the conjunctiva (the clear tissue that coats the white part of the eye).
These products will produce a ‘whiter eye’, but this effect is only temporary and after prolonged use, they can actually make your eyes redder. This is known as ‘rebound hyperaemia’.
These drops also contain preservatives and so are not recommended for contact lens wearers as these chemicals can cause deposits to form on your lens surface resulting in increased discomfort and reduced vision.
A better option would be to use Thealoz Duo or Hycosan drops which will help by treating the underlying dryness problems within the eyes thereby reducing the red appearance of the eyes.
Allergy Eye Drops
Many contact lens users may also suffer from airborne allergies such as hay fever, pet fur, or house dust. These individuals may benefit from using eye drops that are specifically designed to help reduce the watering and discomfort in the eyes due to allergens like pollen.
However, most allergy eye drops are not suitable for use with contacts as some of the ingredients may interact with the contact lens material and damage it. Using the drops with lenses in may also reduce the beneficial impact on the allergy symptoms.
For this reason, if you want to use allergy eye drops then we advise that you instil the drops before lens insertion and wait 15 minutes before putting your lenses back in.
Alternatively, comfort drops, such as Intensive Relief or Lacri-fresh drops can be very useful in providing symptomatic relief to the eyes as well as helping by ‘flushing out’ the pollen from the eyes, especially in milder cases.
Eye Drops For Dry, Irritable Eyes
Eye drops for dry eyes may not have the same effect as “rewetting drops” for contact lenses. The two categories do have some overlap but can be very different. Dry eye drops are also known as artificial tears and are designed to lubricate the eyes and will not necessarily moisturise the contact lenses.
Some formulations of artificial tears are specially created to be able to be used with & without contact lenses while others are not. If you are unsure, then ask your optometrist to confirm whether your drops are safe to use during contact lens wear.
Recommended options include Thealoz Duo or Hycosan drops which provide symptomatic relief to the eyes by treating the underlying dryness problems within them. When these are used in combination with a heat mask and TTO lid wipes (to treat any lid or gland dysfunction) they will offer the best long-term solution to dry & irritable eyes.
Contact lens re-wetting drops
Contact lenses are comfortable and easy to use. However, some people may experience mild discomfort or dryness in their eyes when wearing them. Your natural tears provide lubrication and nourishment to the eyes, but sometimes they aren’t able to supply enough moisturising fluid for your eyes to remain comfortable during lens wear.
Rewetting drops are designed specifically to hydrate the eye and the contact lens surface to make your wearing experience more comfortable. You can use these drops as often as you need to, and they are a great way to improve comfort and increase wearing time with your lenses. They can be instilled into the eye while the contact lens is in place and using preservative-free versions is recommended because soft contact lenses are made from materials that can absorb preservatives, which could potentially damage the lens, or even the cornea.
People who wear their lenses for long periods or use screens for work or leisure or those who have reusable contacts (e.g., monthly, 2-weekly or annual replacement lenses) are most likely to benefit from using rewetting drops.
Recommended options include Intensive Relief or Lacri-fresh drops which provide a better moisturising effect on the lens surface resulting in greater comfort whilst wearing the contacts. If you suffer from general dry eye conditions, then using a heat mask and TTO lid wipes to treat any lid or gland dysfunction will offer the best comfort when wearing your lenses.
Prescription eye drops
These are eye drops that are prescribed to treat specific eye conditions and should only be used as directed by an eye care or medical professional. Examples include antibiotic drops, drops for glaucoma, allergies eye drops (including for hay fever) and drops used for treating ocular inflammation.
These drops should not be used when wearing your lenses. Instead, you should remove your contact lenses prior to instilling the drops, then wait about 15 minutes before putting your contact lenses back on your eyes.
If you are unsure, then ask your optometrist to confirm whether your drops are safe to use during lens wear, but do not stop using the drops unless you are specifically advised to do so.