Tear exchange beneath a contact lens facilitates ongoing fluid replenishment between the ocular surface and the lens. This exchange is considerably lower during the wear of soft lenses compared with rigid lenses. As a result, the accumulation of tear film debris and metabolic by-products between the cornea and a soft contact lens increases, potentially leading to complications. Lens design innovations have been proposed, but no substantial improvement in soft lens tear exchange has been reported. Researchers have determined post-lens tear exchange using several methods, notably fluorophotometry. However, due to technological limitations, little remains known about tear hydrodynamics around the lens and, to-date, true tear exchange with contact lenses has not been shown. Further knowledge regarding tear exchange could be vital in aiding better contact lens design, with the prospect of alleviating certain adverse ocular responses. This article reviews the literature to-date on the significance, implications and measurement of tear exchange with contact lenses.
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