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Can you use contact solution as eye drops?

Jakub Odcházel, DiS.

Medically reviewed by Jakub Odcházel, DiS., Chief Optician, on 14 Nov 2023. Written by Lentiamo

Table of contents

While many people use both, contact lens solution and eye drops serve distinct purposes in eye care. Solutions are primarily designed for cleaning, disinfecting, and storing contact lenses. Eye drops tackle symptoms such as dryness or irritation.

In this article, we'll explore the key differences between contact lens solution and eye drops and provide essential tips for using each one.

What is the difference between contact lens solution and eye drops?

Multi-purpose contact solutions are intended for cleansing, disinfection, and storing contact lenses. It ensures lenses stay comfortable and safe for wear. On the other hand, eye drops are formulated to alleviate various eye discomforts, such as dryness, red eyes, or eye itchiness, but they aren't suitable for lens maintenance.

In summary, contact lens solution is essential for lens hygiene, while eye drops provide relief for general eye irritation. Both play unique roles in maintaining good eye health.

Key differences between contact lens solution and eye drops

Contact solution

  • Used to moisturise, disinfect, and store bi-weekly, monthly, and extended wear lenses
  • Contains agents to eliminate debris, proteins, and lipids from lenses
  • Ensures that lenses maintain their proper shape and function

Eye drops

  • Used to alleviate discomfort or instil medication
  • Contain lubricating ingredients that work with the eyes directly
  • Don't disinfect or remove proteins, lipids, and other debris  

Can you use contact solution as eye drops?

No, contact solution and eye drops are not interchangeable.

Using any type of contact solution as eye drops can potentially even lead to irritation, inflammation, redness, or even damage to your natural tear film. Additionally, contact lens solution won't alleviate symptoms that require eye drops.

Multi-purpose, saline, or hydrogen peroxide solutions should be used for their intended purposes only. 

close up image of eye drops, contact lense case, and glasses on white table

What happens if you put contact solution in your eyes?

Repeated use of contact solution directly in your eyes can have unpleasant consequences, including:

  • Irritation: Initially, you might not notice anything unusual, but you'll likely experience eye irritation over time.
  • Inflammation: Prolonged use may lead to inflammation of the cornea and conjunctiva.
  • Redness: Redness or bloodshot eyes can be uncomfortable or even painful. 
  • Tear film damage: Continuous use of contact solution can damage your natural tear film, causing persistent dry eyes and discomfort.

What should you do if you accidentally get contact solution in your eyes?

  1. Remove your contact lens if needed.
  2. Take a moment to blink naturally, allowing any residual solution on your eyes to disperse.
  3. Wait 10-15 minutes before inserting your contacts again.

If irritation persists, consult an eye care professional. They'll be able to advise you and examine your eyes if necessary.

It's crucial to follow directions for any contact solution, especially when using hydrogen peroxide solutions. If the neutralisation process is not completed, direct contact between your eyes and peroxide formulas can cause stinging, burning, or temporary damage to the cornea. Follow package instructions to ensure the solution is neutralised before inserting contacts.

Alternatives to eye drops

close up image of plain eye drops bottle in front of window

Unfortunately, there are no suitable alternatives to eye drops if you've run out. There are however a few things you can do to keep your eyes comfortable, especially as a contact lens wearer:

  • Properly care for your contacts to prevent the buildup of debris and irritants.
  • Follow a lens wearing schedule that suits your needs to prevent discomfort.
  • Try different types of contact lenses under the guidance of your eye care professional.
  • Avoid allergens to prevent unwanted irritants from causing irritation.
  • Use a humidifier and stay hydrated to lessen the chance of dry eyes.
  • Keep your contact lens case clean to further ensure healthy eyes.

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Can you use eye drops as contact solution?

No, eye drops cannot be used as contact solution since they have different ingredients and uses. Trying to use eye drops in place of the appropriate solution can ruin the constitution of the lenses. It can also lead to discomfort, eye infections, or other complications.

Eye drops don't contain the necessary cleaning, disinfecting, or moisturising ingredients typical of most multi-purpose or hydrogen peroxide solutions.

Frequently asked questions

Can you use saline solution as eye drops?

While saline solution is safe for your eyes, it shouldn't be used in place of contact solution or eye drops. Saline solutions are simple, pH balanced solutions designed to rinse contacts before inserting them. They don't contain cleansing, disinfecting, or soothing agents.

Can I use multi-purpose solution as eye drops?

No, multi-purpose contact solutions contain ingredients that aren't safe for use when applied directly to the eyes. Using it in place of eye drops can lead to irritation, tear film damage, and more.

Closing thoughts from Lentiamo

In conclusion, understanding the differences between contact lens solution and eye drops is crucial for maintaining good eye health. Using each product for its intended purpose is essential to ensure your eyes and contact lenses stay comfortable and safe.

If you have further questions or concerns, consult your eye care professional for personalised guidance.

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