As a contact lens wearer, you may have to deal with dried-up contacts. Depending on the water content and how often you wear your lenses, some lenses may turn dry sooner than others. The more the water content, the more moisture they need to stay flexible. Forgetting to add solution or leaving them out overnight, among other factors, can dry out contacts.
Can you rehydrate contacts that have dried out? It depends on how and where they were stored. In some cases, you can rehydrate them and be good to go, but in other circumstances, you should never put that contact back in your eye.
What happens if contacts dry out?
Before you begin, note that there’s a difference between your eyes getting dry and your contacts being dry and making your eyes uncomfortable. If your eyes are dry, check these contact lenses for dry eyes. For a dry contact lens: the solution is contact solution!
Dried out contacts: what to do?
Contacts are an important part of your overall health and eye health. If one shriveled up from dryness, your first thought is to save your lens. It can be done, but only under specific circumstances. Think about where your contact lens was and how long it was there. Was it sitting in your case without solution, or was it found in between the cushions after being lost for a week? In cases where your lens was well protected, you can try to rehydrate.
How to rehydrate contact lenses?
A dry lens will be extremely brittle and more susceptible to damage. Clean your contact lens case properly, then place the lens in and fill to the brim with fresh saline solution. Cap it tightly and leave for anywhere from two to 24 hours. Clean and disinfect the lens thoroughly before attempting to use it.
Dr. Joe Wende, Medical Director for ContactsDirect offers this advice, “If you rehydrate a contact lens, be sure to use every precaution when wearing it next. Inspect it closely for any small tears at the edges, any scratches on the lens, or any signs of contamination or buildup.” Do not take any risk with damaged contacts. Dispose of the lens and use a new one. If the lens looks fine, go ahead and wear it, but remove it immediately if any discomfort occurs.
In cases where you're dried-out contacts were not protected from bacteria, scratches, or cracking, you would never want to re-wear them. Contact lens solutions are made for hydrating, cleaning, and disinfecting lenses. If you rehydrate the lens and use it without proper disinfecting, you could risk infection or damage to your eyes.
How to keep contacts from drying out?
To keep your contacts from drying out, only use them for the recommended amount of time (overwearing contacts can dry out your eyes along with the lenses). When you aren’t wearing them, store in a sterilized contact lens case topped up with contact lens solution to keep them hydrated and safe for use until the next time you need them.
Risks of using dried out contacts
Finding your lenses and thinking they are clean or undamaged doesn't mean they are safe to use. Bacteria and other harmful elements can contaminate your lenses.
Wearing dried-out contacts can pose serious risks to the health of your eyes. When lenses dry out and become brittle, they are more susceptible to scratches and tears, and the same is true of your eyes when you wear dried-out contact lenses. Plus, contact lenses that are improperly cleaned or unprotected from bacteria put you at risk of having eye problems or permanent loss of vision. Throw the lenses out and start with fresh new contacts!
It’s not fun to lose your contact lenses but consider the circumstances and see if rehydrating the lens will be safe. If there is any doubt, throw it out. The cost-benefit of having to reorder new contact lenses outweighs the cost of an eye infection. With a three-month supply of contact lenses for only $25, it’s a no-brainer to choose to get new contact lenses.