Page header image

Tight Lens Syndrome

What is tight lens syndrome?

Tight lens syndrome is a group of symptoms that happen when a soft contact lens fits too tightly and starts to stick to the cornea (the clear outer layer on the front of the eye).

Soft contact lenses are like sponges. They are made of stretchy material that absorbs water. Like sponges, soft contacts expand and soften when they absorb moisture. But when they are allowed to dry out, they shrink and harden.

When a lens on your eye shrinks, it can squeeze the front of your eye like a suction cup. This causes discomfort, redness, and even blurring due to swelling of the cornea.

How does it occur?

Your lenses can dry out because:

  • You don't produce enough tears to keep them moist.
  • Hot, dry, or windy conditions may cause moisture to evaporate from the lenses.
  • Soft contacts absorb less moisture over time, so older lenses are more likely to dry out.
  • Storing lenses may cause them to dry.
  • The lens may fit too tightly.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms are:

  • discomfort
  • redness
  • decreased vision when you wear your lenses, or when you wear glasses right after taking out your contacts

How is it diagnosed?

Your eye care provider will ask about your symptoms and check to see if the lens moves normally on your eye. If the lens doesn't move very much, your provider will suspect tight lens syndrome. Also, a tight contact lens may be difficult to remove from your eye.

How is it treated?

Treatment of tight lens syndrome depends on how serious the problem is and what caused it. You may need to use rewetting drops every so often. The drops add moisture to the lens while it is on your eye.

Sometimes the lens may have to be replaced with one that is not as tight on your eye or one that allows more oxygen to reach your cornea. Sometimes your provider will recommend that you stop wearing contacts for a time or change to a new type of lens that is less dependent on moisture to keep its shape.

How can I prevent problems from tight lens syndrome?

Know the warning signs of tight lens syndrome. If you have any of the symptoms, don't wait. Take your lenses out and have your eye care provider check your eyes right away. Tight lens syndrome can put you at risk for a serious infection called a corneal ulcer, which can cause permanent scarring and vision loss.

Reviewed for medical accuracy by faculty at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins. Web site:
Developed by RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-09-08
Last reviewed: 2010-09-07
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2011 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
Page footer image