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Can I Use Allergy Eye Drops if I Wear Contact Lenses?

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Updated June 13, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Can I Use Allergy Eye Drops if I Wear Contact Lenses?

Allergens such as pollen and pet dander may cause dilatation of blood vessels in the conjunctiva, the membrane covering the eye. The resulting reddening of the eyes is called allergic conjunctivitis, and is usually accompanied by itching and watering.

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Question: Can I Use Allergy Eye Drops if I Wear Contact Lenses?
Answer: Usually. People who suffer from eye allergies experience redness and itching of the eyes. Treatment of eye allergies may include antihistamine pills, nasal sprays, as well as topical allergy eye drops. I am frequently asked by my patients who suffer from eye allergies if they can continue to wear their contact lenses when using allergy eye drops.

Most allergy eye drops, including over-the-counter ones such as Zaditor (ketotifen) and prescription forms such as Pataday (olopatadine) and Optivar (azelastine), can be used with soft contact lenses. The prescribing information for all of these eye drops recommends placing the drops into the eyes while not wearing the contact lenses, then waiting at least 10 minutes before inserting the contact lenses. The reason for this is to prevent the anti-bacterial preservative, benzalkonium chloride, from absorbing into the contact lenses.

Of course, before using these drops, you should be sure that your eye-redness is truly due to allergies and not a reaction to the contact lenses. If you're not sure, speak to your doctor.

Learn more about the use of over-the-counter eye drops for allergies.

Sources:

Ono SJ, Abelson MB. Allergic conjunctivitis: Update on pathophysiology and prospects for future treatment. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2005; 115:118-22.

Bielory L. Allergic and Immunologic Disorders of the Eye. Part II: Ocular Allergy. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2000; 106:1019-32.

Prescribing Information for Pataday. Accessed June 24, 2010.

Prescribing Information for Optivar. Accessed June 24, 2010.

Zaditor Patient Information Website. Accessed June 24, 2010.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this site is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your physician for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

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