Allergy to Contact Lens Solution

May 8, 2013

Allergic to Contact Lens Solution

After using a contact lens solution for a long time, possibly years, you may become suddenly allergic to it.  The offender is usually the preservative – chemical that prevents the growth of bacteria and other germs.  The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) requires that all eye drops and solutions intended for more than one-time use contain a preservative.  The requirement applies to all sterilizing, cleaning, and storage solutions.

Symptoms you may be experiencing:

The first symptoms of allergy are likely to be itching and burning in your eyes and decreasing tolerance to wearing the contact lenses.  Later, your eyes may become red, and stay red even after the lenses have been out for a while.  Other symptoms include swelling of the conjunctiva (the membrane over the white of the eye), small lumps under the eyelid, and a mucus discharge.  Your contact lenses may be smudged, and coated with deposits that increase in quantity almost daily.


As a first step, stop wearing your contact lenses, at least for a little while.  Also discard the lenses that have already been in your eyes.   You may be given a prescription for an anti-allergy eye drop to be used until the allergic reaction quiets down.

When your eyes do clear up, you will have to take care of your contact lenses in a different way, completely avoiding the offending chemical(s), which are most commonly thimerosal, chlorhexidine, or some form of sorbate, such as sorbic acid.  We will help you choose either a cold-sterilizing and lens cleaning method that is free of those chemicals, or an allergy-free heat-sterilizing method using preservative-free saline, which is available in several forms.  It will cost a little more for maintenance and care of your contact lenses if you have to use preservative-free saline and other forms of non-allergic care.

*excerpted from Triad Notes with permission

Dr. Jeffrey D. Gold is an award winning surgeon specializing in state-of-the-art Epi-LASIK vision correction. He practices at Liberty Vision in Hamden, CT and recently won the New Haven Adovocate Readers' Poll for BEST PLACE FOR LASIK 2015