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Why your eyes burn when you put in contact lenses
Medically reviewed by Alastair Lockwood on 7 January 2021
When clean and properly fitted, contact lenses should not cause any problems and should be very comfortable indeed.
If you experience any burning sensation or irritation from contacts, there could be a range of causes, including the following:
1. Eye allergies
Burning sensations when wearing contact lenses can be a result of allergic reactions. Irritants that cause eye allergies include dust and pollen which can accumulate on or beneath your contacts, causing redness, itchy eyes, watery eyes and a burning feeling.
You may also experience burning and watery eyes with contacts if you’re in a smoky or smoggy environment.
2. Sensitivity to preservatives
You may experience your eyes burning in response to preservatives or other ingredients in your contact lens solution. Even if you’ve been using the same solution for years, it’s possible to develop an allergy overtime. The burning sensation may even be a reaction to an expired contact solution, so always check the date before use.
3. Dirty contact lenses
The accumulation of protein deposits and debris on your contact lenses can cause your eyes to burn by reducing the oxygen permeability of your lenses. If you feel burning after putting in your lens, remove it immediately and rinse it with sterile saline solution to remove any dirt that may be causing this.
4. Dry eyes
Dry eyes can include a range of symptoms including redness, tearing and a burning sensation. Whilst there are a range of factors that can cause your eyes to burn when wearing contacts, the only way to identify which one is the cause is to visit your eye care specialist.
How do you get your eyes to stop burning?
Depending on what’s causing your eyes to burn while wearing contacts, your optician or ophthalmologist can prescribe you a variety of treatments to stop the uncomfortable sensation. For example:
If the burning is caused by allergies, it may be recommended that you reduce the length of time you wear your lenses for or avoid wearing them in certain places. If your eye burning is a result of a sensitive reaction to your contact lens solution, it may be recommended that you switch to a preservative free contact lens solution.
Replacing your contact lenses on a more regular basis may be recommended if the cause of burning is a build-up of protein deposits and debris. Using daily disposable lenses is a good idea in this instance.
Why are my contacts suddenly bothering me?
There are many reasons as to why you may be experiencing irritation from contacts suddenly. You may have developed an underlying ocular condition such as dry eye or allergies.
Another reason can be failure to follow a good lens care routine or wearing your lenses for a longer period of time than recommended.
In addition to this, you may find you have watery eyes with contacts if you’ve switched to another lens. When putting in contacts, you might find you can’t tolerate the material or that the fit isn’t right.
Is it safe to use eye drops with contacts?
There are many eye drops on the market, designed to be used with contact lenses. For example, rewetting drops, which have been formulated to make wearing contact lenses more comfortable by adding lubrication to your eye and hydration to your contact lenses. These are safe to use with soft contact lenses.
Artificial tears can be used for dry eyes with most formulas being safe to use with contact lenses. However, we recommend checking the bottle before use. Our Blink Intensive Tears are perfect for those with busy lifestyles and can be applied whilst you have your lenses in.
Allergy drops are safe to use so long as you apply them prior to putting in contacts. This is because the ingredients in these drops are not designed to go with your lenses. It's recommended that you wait 15 minutes before reinserting your lenses. Following this procedure with allergy drops will allow maximum penetration into your ocular tissues.
Not all eye drops are safe to use with contact lenses. It is advised that you consult with your optician before using eye drops with contacts to be sure that you are safe.
Get the red out’ drops should be avoided if you wear contact lenses as they can form deposits on you lenses, making your eyes even redder overtime.
Whatever you do, before using eye drops with contact lenses, make sure you listen to the instructions provided by your doctor.
Why do my eyes hurt after taking out my contacts?
There are a number of reasons as to why your eyes might hurt after taking your lenses out. You may have been over-wearing your contact lenses for example, or the brand of contacts may not be the right fit for you. More worryingly, you could have a more serious contact lens-related eye problem such as corneal abrasion, a bacterial eye infection or a corneal ulcer.
If you find your eyes burning after inserting or removing your contact lenses, make sure to inform your doctor immediately to avoid risks of permanent vision loss.
Why do your eyes hurt after sleeping with contact lenses on?
Wearing contact lenses whilst sleeping will result in less oxygen reaching the eye, leading to dry eyes and possibly an eye infection. Both can cause discomfort, irritation and painful eyes.
When you sleep in your contact lenses, over time, small blood vessels may start to grow on the cornea (also known as neovascularisation) to try and make up for the lack of oxygen. The blood vessels can lead to corneal abrasion and inflammation, damaging your cornea. After sleeping with your contact lenses in, you may notice redness, eye strain, sensitivity to light and eye pain.
There is also a risk of developing keratitis after sleeping with your contact lenses in. This is a bacterial infection which causes inflammation as a result of over wearing your contacts.
If you find yourself forgetting to take your lenses out before going to sleep, you should consider wearing extended wear contact lenses. Due to their material matrix, these lenses allow more oxygen to reach the eye than daily wear lenses. This makes them safe to sleep in and will ensure that your eyes don’t hurt the next day. Speak to your optometrist as extended wear lenses must be prescribed and carefully monitored.
Why not check out our wide range of dry eye treatments to combat burning and irritated eyes today?
Quick links:What are extended wear contact lenses?
Are your eye drops OK to use with contact lenses?
What you should not do with contact lenses