Why Do My Contacts Burn?

by Brittany McComas

Contact lenses can cause serious conditions that need treatment by a physician.

red eye image by Ken Marshall from Fotolia.com

Contact lenses are thin lenses, made of hard or soft plastic, intended to correct vision without the use of glasses. Contact lenses can be used to treat certain eye diseases, to cosmetically change the color of your eyes, or create a dramatic effect for theatre and film. Contacts can also irritate sensitive eyes. Removal and cleaning, as well as not wearing them for a few days will often result in the eye irritation resolving itself. However, there are a different types of irritation that may require consultation of a physician.

Conjuctivitis

Conjunctivitis is a result of contact irritation. Often called “pinkeye,” conjunctivitis symptoms are redness, irritation, and excessive watering of the eye. This can be caused by an allergy to the solutions or cleaning product you use or simply an infection. Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by a pus-producing bacteria. Eyes will appear crusty and irritated with a possible discharge. Bacterial conjunctivitis can lay dormant for three days in the eye before symptoms appear. Easily spread on towels and wash cloths, it can require antibiotics though usually resolves on it's own over time. Allergy induced conjunctivitis can be caused by an allergy to the cleaning and/or storage solution you use. If you inadvertently soak your contact lenses in cleaning solution or soap solution it can result in redness of the eye, coupled with pain. Use drops or wash the eye to relieve the pain, and avoid wearing contact lenses until the condition resolves.

Corneal Ulcer

Redness of the eyes accompanied by pain, blurred vision, and light sensitivity is a more serious sign and potentially blinding condition, called a corneal ulcer, an open sore on the cornea that develops when tiny rips on the corneal surface are infected by irritation of contact lenses. Symptoms can include: pain, irritation, watering, and a white or gray spot on the cornea. Application of cool compresses, meticulous hand and eye hygiene, and over-the-counter pain relievers can all help with the pain. Consult a physician to discuss the possibility of a corneal ulcer and whether antibiotics or prescription pain medication should be prescribed. Discuss a possible surgical corneal transplant, if necessary.

Contact Slipping

If your contact slips off your eyelid and repositions itself underneath it can do a great deal of damage to your eye, and should be one of the major concerns for any wearer. The contact lens should rest on the surface of the eye. If it slips it may not be able to travel back to the front or cornea of the eye. If you cannot reposition the contact onto your cornea, you may need to contact a physician to help remove the lens and assess any eye damage.

Blepharitis

Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelid margins where the eyelashes are located, often called a stye. The condition can be itchy, red and irritate the eye. It is essentially a staph infection of the edge of the eyelid. Eye lashes may mat together, and you might feel as if there is a foreign body in your eye--sometimes feeling like sand or grit under the lids. A physician can prescribe topical antibiotics for this type of blepharitis. The infection is often resolved by removing your contact lenses and simply waiting for the infection to pass. Warm wet compresses and careful removal of debris, can help alleviate pain.

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About the Author

Brittany McComas has been writing since 2000. She has served as a scriptwriter, freelance writer, editor, dramaturg and producer for theater, television, radio and film. She wrote for a television series that won a Royal Television Society Award. McComas holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in theater from West Virginia University and a Master of Arts in scriptwriting from Bath Spa University.