Many people with correctable vision problems choose to wear contact lenses instead of eyeglasses, either for cosmetic reasons or comfort issues. Many forms of contact lenses come with their own set of problems, however, and one of these problems can be an unpleasant dryness over time. While there is no specific type of contact lenses for dry eyes, recent improvements in the materials used to create contact lenses have made them more comfortable for those with dry eye conditions. Contact lens brands such as Proclear® Compatibles and Acuvue® Oasys, for example, are made from a hydrogel material containing much less water than previous lenses.
Ideally, a soft contact lens floats on a protective film of natural tears during use. For people with chronic dry eye conditions, or who are constantly exposed to environmental drying agents such as cigarette smoke or air conditioning, this natural tear layer may be compromised. The result is an uncomfortably dry contact lens which does not move freely across the eye. Using special moisturizing eye drops can help reduce the discomfort temporarily, as can re-soaking the lenses in a cleaning solution.
The problem with many traditional contact lenses is that they contain significant amounts of water, up to 75% in some instances. This may not sound like a problem at first, but wet contact lenses tend to lose moisture through dehydration throughout the day. The water evaporates through the front of the lens, and the contact lens material draws, or wicks, tear fluid from the eyes to compensate for the loss. This creates an uncomfortable dryness which can only be relieved by rehydration of the lens. Ideally, contact lenses for dry eyes should not have such a high water content.
The common alternative to moisture-absorbing soft contact lenses is a harder contact lens known as a Rigid Gas Permeable, or RGP. RGP contact lenses contain no water, so ostensibly they should work well as contact lenses for dry eyes. In actuality, RGP lenses can become even more uncomfortable than soft contact lenses if the wearer's tear film has been compromised over time or if he or she works in a very dry environment.
Both Proclear® Compatibles and Acuvue® Oasys contact lenses are made from an advanced material which only contains 30% water. When used in conjunction with approved eye drops or prescription medications such as Restasis, these hydrogel contact lenses are perhaps the best contact lenses for dry eyes available on the current eyewear market. Many contact lens manufacturers are continuing to experiment with new materials and techniques in order to address the problem of eye dryness associated with the use of contact lenses.