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Can You Wear Contacts with Pink Eye?

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A close-up of an eye with pink eye.

Pink eye (conjunctivitis) is an inflammation or infection of the transparent membrane (the conjunctiva) that lines your eyelid and covers the white part of your eye. This condition can cause redness, itching, and a gritty feeling in the eyes. 

Pink eye can be caused by allergies, bacteria, viruses, or irritants. Each type of pink eye is treated differently, so it’s important to know the cause of your condition so it can be treated and managed appropriately.

If you wear contacts and contract pink eye, you may wonder if it’s okay to keep wearing your lenses. Unfortunately, no, you should not wear contacts with pink eye. And you should talk to your eye doctor before wearing them after your infection has cleared up. 

What Causes Pink Eye?

There are various causes of pink eye:

  • Allergic conjunctivitis is triggered by allergens such as pollen, pet dander, or dust. It will likely go away when the allergy trigger is removed. 
  • Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by bacteria and can spread easily through contact with objects like towels or makeup brushes. It may need antibiotics.
  • Viral conjunctivitis is very contagious and often accompanied by other symptoms, such as a runny nose or sore throat. It’s caused by a viral infection, such as a cold or COVID and will go away on its own. 
  • Irritant conjunctivitis occurs when a foreign object, such as dirt or chemicals, enters the eye and causes irritation. Once the irritant has been removed, your eye should feel better. If it doesn’t, contact your eye doctor. You may have a scratch or other injury that needs attention.

Symptoms of Pink Eye

Common pink eye symptoms include: 

  • Redness in the white of your eye or inner eyelid
  • Watery eyes
  • Thick yellow discharge that crusts over eyelashes, especially after sleep
  • Green or white discharge
  • Gritty feeling in one or both eyes
  • Itchy eyes (especially when caused by allergies)
  • Burning eyes (especially when caused by chemicals and irritants)
  • Blurry vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Swollen eyelids

Risks of Wearing Contacts with Pink Eye

Wearing contacts with pink eye can worsen your symptoms or prolong the infection. Contacts can trap bacteria and other irritants against your eye, preventing proper healing. The contact lens acts as a barrier between your eye and the medication used to treat the infection, making it less effective. They can also make the infection spread to your other eye.

Wearing contacts with pink eye can also increase your risk of developing a corneal ulcer, which is a serious infection that can lead to permanent vision loss if left untreated. 

A pair of glasses against a beige background.

When Should You Stop Wearing Contacts?

If you suspect that you have pink eye, you should cease wearing your contact lenses immediately and schedule an appointment with your eye care provider. Your doctor will likely recommend that you stop wearing contact lenses while you have active symptoms and for a period after symptoms resolve to avoid re-infection. This usually means avoiding contact lenses for 1-2 weeks after symptoms have resolved.

In some cases, your doctor may prescribe a different type of contact lens or recommend disposable daily-wear lenses to help prevent future infections. 

Proper Care of Contacts Post-Pink Eye

Once your infection has cleared and you have the approval from your eye care professional to resume contact lens wear, make sure that you start with a fresh pair of lenses and a clean lens case to eliminate the risk of re-infection.

It is important to clean and disinfect your contact lenses properly according to the instructions given by your eye care provider or on the packaging of your specific brand. This includes using a multi-purpose solution and rubbing the lenses gently before soaking them in the solution for the recommended amount of time.

Remember to also replace your contact lens case every three months, as bacteria can build up over time and lead to infections. Always wash your hands before handling your contact lenses, and avoid touching them with dirty fingers or storing them in water.

For a Brighter Future

With the proper precautions and care, you’ll get through pink eye and back to wearing contacts in no time. 

At Total Vision Pacific Eyecare Optometry, we are here to provide you with the necessary information to keep your eye health in check. Book an appointment today with our eye healthcare team!

Written by Total Vision

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