Contact Lenses and Allergies

Reviewed by Denis M. Humphreys, O.D., VSP’s Optometry Director

Allergies Leave Many Contact Lens Wearers Seeking Relief

If you wear contact lenses and have allergies, you could be in for added discomfort. According to a recent survey by the American Optometric Association, more than 75 percent of contact wearers report eye discomfort caused by allergens adhering to their lenses during the pollen season.

“Soft lenses are most likely to cause irritation for people with allergies,” says David Jones, O.D., a veteran VSP doctor in Santa Rosa, Calif. “Essentially, they function as large sponges that keep the allergens in the eye, while preventing use of medications that you might want to apply.”

What’s a contact-wearing, allergy sufferer to do? Here are a few tips from Dr. Jones:

Switch to eyeglasses whenever possible. Since allergens such as pollen and dust often stick to the plastic surfaces of contacts, this strategy will reduce your chances of getting hit by an attack.

Moisten irritated eyes with artificial tears that help prevent drying caused by allergens, while also washing them out of your eyes. Warning: Don’t buy over-the-counter redness relievers to ease your allergic symptoms. Most of these products are cosmetic only and won’t reduce your symptoms.

Clean your contacts more often and consider using a preservative-free solution. Regular cleaning will remove allergens from your lenses and reduce allergy symptoms, and using a preservative-free solution will help avoid allergic reactions. If you wear disposable lenses, you might want to consider replacing them more frequently.

When allergy-linked itching sets in, do not rub your eyes. Excessive rubbing will only inflame eyes further. Instead of rubbing, place a cool, damp compress over your eyes to reduce swelling and itching.

See your eye doctor. Allergy sufferers can choose from a wide array of medical products designed to protect the eyes of contact-wearers from allergy attacks. The doctor also can make sure your symptoms aren’t being caused by an underlying medical problem.