What Are Contact Lenses?
Contact lenses are optical lenses similar to eyeglasses in how they correct vision problems but different in that they rest on the cornea which is the front of the eye. Most contacts are made from a material that allows oxygen to pass through it so the cornea can breathe. There is no contact lens that is made of glass. Today’s contacts are so advanced that virtually everybody who needs glasses is a candidate to wear them.
Should I Wear Contact Lenses?
If it is determined by your optometrists that you need a vision correction and you have a healthy cornea, then you could be a candidate for contact lenses. Your optometrist will be able to guide you through the process of deciding which is the best option for your individual needs. Other factors that will be important in this decision are: your own eye’s sensitivity, job conditions, daily visual demands, hygiene habits, quality of your tear film and more.
Advantages of Wearing Contact Lenses
Comfortable, convenient and easy to care for
Clear peripheral vision
Don’t fog up or smear under rain conditions or change of temperature
Appropriate for athletics and active lifestyle
Enhancement of one’s personal appearance
Reduction in visual distortion and in some cases enhances visual acuity compared to eyeglasses
Disadvantages of Contact Lenses
Require daily monitoring of vision and apparent eye health
Some types require daily cleansing and/or lubricatio
First time wearers have an adaptation period
Must return to your optometrist every 6 to 12 months so your ocular health can be monitored
How Do I Get Started With Contact Lenses?
First, call your optometrist and schedule an appointment. Optometrists are the most qualified eye care professionals to help you with this endeavor. Remember that some optometrists specialize in contact lenses. Your optometrist will start by giving you a comprehensive eye health evaluation including dilation of the eye. After determining that your eye will tolerate a contact lens, s/he will order a design that will provide optimum vision while maintaining normal health. Contact Lenses are a medical device that require continual monitoring. When deciding on where to get your contact lenses, it is best to choose a provider that offers quality eye examinations, experience in fitting the type contact lenses you need, gives thorough lens wear and care instructions and strongly encourages follow-up care. Ask questions about what services are provided with the fees that you are quoted.
Your Contact Lens Wearing Experience
Wearing contact lenses can be an exciting experience for a first time wearer. It is important to follow instructions given by your optometrist. The follow-up care will vary with the type of contact lens and the person wearing it. If you are told to remove your lenses at night – do it. Don’t assume that just because your lenses are FDA-approved for over-night wear that it will be a successful venture. Remember that you take responsibility for safe contact lens wear when you leave the optometrist’s office. Following instructions on the discard cycle for disposable lenses, the proper wearing schedule and contact lens solutions, and the time to return to the office is paramount to your long-term contact lens wearing success.
Give yourself a daily eye check up. Ask yourself these three questions:
Do the lenses feel comfortable on my eyes? Do my eyes look clear and healthy?
Is my vision clear at all distances?
If you think there is a problem, remove your contact lenses and call your optometrist.
Types of Contact Lenses
There are two main types of contact lenses used to correct vision disorders: soft and rigid gas-permeable (RGP). The old hard lenses which were used exclusively in the 1960’s are still available but have been replaced because RGP’s correct vision the same but allow oxygen to get to the cornea. Your optometrist will determine which type is the best for your individual needs.
Rigid Gas-Permeable Contact Lenses
The name came from the fact that it looked like the old hard lenses but was made from a type of plastic that oxygen could pass through. Oxygen permeability is necessary for long term corneal health. RGPs are custom-made for a patient which means more types of vision disorders can be corrected compared to soft lenses. RGPs also allow more oxygen to the cornea compared to soft lenses. RGPs are now made from materials such as silicone and fluorine combined with a plastic called polymethylmethacrylate. The average life for RGPs is two years. They are not available in a tint that will change your eye color. RGPs come in daily or extended wear and are often the lens of choice for people with high degrees of astigmatism. Another instance where RGPs excel is they slow the progression of nearsightedness.
Soft Contact Lenses
Soft lenses are available in many different types and colors. They are made from a plastic combined with water in most cases. Soft lenses are not as deposit resistant as RGPs and require more frequent replacement. Your optometrist evaluates many factors when deciding which lens and discard cycle is right for you. Soft lenses come in a variety of wearing options. They include:
Daily Wear Conventional
To be taken out daily and cleaned and disinfected. Have an average life of 6-12 months
Extended Wear Conventional
FDA-approved to be worn up to six nights and then removed. Average life 6-12 months.
Single use lenses to be removed before sleeping and discarded.
Two Week Disposable
May be removed at night or worn overnight up to six nights and then discarded at two weeks.
May be worn daily or overnight up to six nights and replaced every one to three months depending on the patient and lens.
*Success of overnight wearing of contact lenses is dependent on the person’s eye not the contact lens. Just because a lens is approved for extended wear does not mean you will be successful with that schedule. Follow-up care by your optometrist is even more important when you sleep in contact lenses because of the increase in risk of infection.