Yes, you can use certain eye drops with contact lenses—but there are rules around which drops are safe to use and how you should use them. For example, you should almost always remove your contact lenses before putting in the drops and wait a while before wearing them again. 

Whether you’ve been wearing contact lenses for a while or have only started recently, you may be curious about the best ways to use eye drops to offset dryness or eye irritation. In this article, we’ll go over what eye drops can and can’t be used with contacts. We’ll also talk about using eyedrops with contacts safely to protect your lenses and eyes.

How to Know if You Can Use Eye Drops With Contacts

Using eye drops while wearing contact lenses is safe as long as the eye drop packaging says “safe for use with contact lenses.” Pretty intuitive, right? 

Unfortunately, it does mean that not all eye drops are safe to use with your contacts. Some drops can cause reactions and unwanted eye symptoms.

Before purchasing your eye drops, there are a couple of additional steps we recommend each contact-wearer take:

  • Determine your eye concern: Different types of eye drops treat different eye problems. The wrong drop may worsen your symptoms, so it’s vital to determine the eye concern you want to address before choosing an eye drop. We recommend booking an eye exam to get a professional diagnosis.
  • Read the eye drop label thoroughly: The label tells you the eye drops’ purpose, who should take it, and how to use it properly.
  • Consult your doctor: Both over-the-counter and prescription drops should be treated like any other medication—that is, you should make sure it’s the right product for your health needs. We encourage all contact-wearers to talk with their eye doctor before purchasing eye drops to help them make an informed decision.

Eye Drops That Can Be Used With Contact Lenses

There are several different types of eye drops, and because eye conditions manifest in various ways, there is no one type that works for all. Understanding each eye drop’s specific purpose can help you determine which drops should be used with contacts. 

Rewetting Eye Drops

Rewetting eye drops are made specifically for use with contacts, so it’s safe to use them with your lenses. These drops lubricate the eye and hydrate the lenses, which can make wearing contacts more comfortable. They also help clear out any debris and residue under the lenses. 

Preservative-Free Eye Drops  

These eye drops or artificial tears have no preservatives in them. If you’re wearing contacts, certain preservative chemicals can soak into the lenses, causing redness, dryness, or irritation. So, these drops are recommended for contact wearers over those that contain additives or preservatives. 

Eye Drops That Can’t Be Used With Contact Lenses

Although some eye drops can be applied in conjunction with contacts, you’ll want to avoid others that can potentially harm your lenses or your eyes. 

Thicker Drops for Dry Eyes

Certain lubricating drops are safe to use when wearing contacts, but if the drops are too thick or viscous, they can stick to your contact lenses and make your vision cloudy. 

Vasoconstrictor (Redness Relief) Eye Drops

This type of eye drop helps to reduce eye redness with ingredients called vasoconstrictors, which shrink the tiny blood vessels in the eye. Using these drops while wearing contacts is never a good idea, as they can leave residue on your lenses, blur your vision, and even cause more redness to occur. 

Medicated Eye Drops

Medicated eye drops treat eye diseases and infections. They can be used for acute conditions such as pink eye (conjunctivitis) as well as for eye diseases like glaucoma. Some medicated eye drops are available over the counter, whereas others need to be prescribed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist

These eye drops are not typically approved for use with contacts, so it’s best to avoid wearing your lenses if you know you’ll be using them. (As always, check with your eye doctor for guidance.)

How To Use Eye Drops With Contact Lenses

A gif displaying the five-step process for how to use eye drops with contacts

When using eye drops with contacts, follow these steps to protect your eyes and contact lenses:

Remember: Always Check the Label Before Using Eye Drops With Contacts

Several types of eye drops are available for purchase, but they don’t all work well with contact lenses. Remember to always look for text on the eye drops’ packaging that indicates they can be used with contacts. 

And keep in mind that the word “with” here isn’t literal—you should almost never put eye drops in at the same time you’re wearing your lenses (unless you’re using contact rewetting drops). Take your contacts out, put the eye drops in, wait, then resume your wearing contacts. 

And finally, if wearing contacts is causing you prolonged discomfort or you have any questions about eye drops, contact your eye doctor to help you find the best solution for your vision and ocular health. 

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