22 million Americans suffer seasonal allergies. If you’re one of them and a contact lens wearer, you may as well refer to it as misery season. That’s because allergens have a special attraction to contacts – especially the soft variety, which most contact lens wearers use. The American Optometric Association says that more than 75% of contact lens wearers complain of allergen-caused eye pain and irritation.
We talked with David Jones, OD, a veteran optometrist located in allergen-rich Santa Rosa, Calif. about the attraction allergens have toward soft contacts. Dr. Jones explains that the lenses, “function like large sponges. They keep allergens in the eye, but they also prevent using medications you might want to apply.” Allergy season calls for special tactics to keep you and your eyes happy. Here are some suggestions from Dr. Jones:
Switch to specs. You may not want to wear your glasses, but you’ll probably be more comfortable if you do. The allergens in the air, such as pollen and dust, love contact lenses, and the particles will stick on them. That means irritation.
Keep ‘em wet. Keep a container of artificial tears handy, and use them often. This will help your eyes feel better and also wash the allergens out. Say no to any brand of over-the-counter redness relievers and buy the artificial tears instead. Redness reducing solutions are only cosmetic and won’t do anything to make your eyes feel better.
Keep ‘em clean. In allergy season, get even more rigorous with your cleaning routine. Clean more often, and use a preservative-free solution (it’ll say so on the bottle). For disposable lenses, consider spending a little more and replacing them more often than usual.
That’s the rub. When you have an itch, you want to scratch it. But when it comes to your eyes, don’t. Excessive rubbing is just going make it worse. Instead, get a nice cool washcloth or other compress and gently treat your eyes to a little TLC. It can keep swelling and itching in check.
Get help. If you’re really suffering, by all means see your eye doctor. He or she can prescribe medications that could help. Also, an eye exam can rule out other more serious problems.