(BPT) - More than half the adults in the United States wear contact lenses or glasses to correct their vision. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a whopping 45 million people choose contacts. Contact lenses, which today include more comfortable materials and advanced technologies, are a great choice and patients prize the comfort and convenience of not having to wear glasses to achieve clear vision. But what happens when wearing contacts becomes a source of discomfort?

"Wearing contacts should generally be a comfortable experience," says John Doane, M.D., cornea and refractive surgeon at Discover Vision and member of the Refractive Surgery Council editorial advisory board. "Things like stinging, pain, swelling, dryness or feeling like there's something in your eye are not normal and could be signs of a condition we call contact lens intolerance. It's important to speak with an eye doctor to determine the cause and take appropriate action so you can see clearly without discomfort.'

Contact lens discomfort, like irritation, burning, dryness and grittiness, can be part of the experience with contact lens intolerance, which can start even if you've comfortably worn contact lenses for many years. A common misconception is that these symptoms are a normal part of wearing contacts and should be tolerated. However, If your eyes or lenses are uncomfortable or you are not seeing well, it's important to talk to an eye doctor who can conduct an exam to determine the source of irritation when wearing contact lenses.

How to speak with your eye doctor

The Refractive Surgery Council, which helps people make informed decisions about vision correction options, recommends noting when you experience discomfort and logging how long you are wearing your lenses each day. Gathering this information, along with the following, will help you be ready when you speak with your doctor and find the right solution for you:

  • What are your symptoms and how often do they occur? When did they start?
  • Are there specific environments or activities that trigger symptoms?
  • What are you doing to help manage your symptoms?

Options for relief

"Many people try home remedies to reduce these symptoms, such as warm compresses, eye drops or limiting contact wear to a few hours at a time. This might provide temporary relief but is not a lasting solution. These symptoms shouldn't be ignored. In some cases, alternative approaches can allow a patient to continue to wear contacts but about 6 million people in the U.S. discontinued contact lenses last year due to intolerance," said the Kansas City-based Dr. Doane.

In addition to answering your eye doctor's questions, your appointment is an important time to discuss your vision correction options. Inquire if your eyes are healthy enough to continue wearing contact lenses and what steps you need to take to keep them healthy. You might also consider asking if you are a candidate for a vision correction procedure.

Today there is a spectrum of treatments available for different types of vision problems which means more people are candidates for laser vision correction procedures, including LASIK, SMILE and PRK. For those who are not good candidates for LASIK, the SMILE procedure, the most recent FDA-approved laser vision correction procedure which stands for Small Incision Lenticule Extraction, may be an option for patients with nearsightedness and astigmatism. The bottom line is, with the many ways to see clearly without relying on glasses and contacts available today, your vision correction choices warrant a conversation with your eye doctor.

Don't accept eye discomfort

Your vision is an invaluable sense, impacting how you see and interact with the world. If you are experiencing discomfort wearing contacts, make an appointment to speak with your eye doctor today. To learn more about eye health, contact lens intolerance and more, visit AmericanRefractiveSurgeryCouncil.org/blog.