Here’s what you need to know
Want to identify the best contact lenses for your vision and lifestyle? Check out the pros and cons of specific contact lenses. Interested in contact lenses for full-time or part-time wear? Contact lenses are available for all types of vision corrections. Specialized contact lenses can even treat certain eye conditions better than glasses. Whatever your reason for choosing contact lenses, proper selection and maintenance can keep your eyes healthy and you seeing clearly. Start by reviewing the pros and cons of common types of contact lenses — and then understanding the rules for preventing eye infections.
Soft Contact Lenses
Soft contact lenses are thin, gel-like lenses which conform to the shape of the eye and tend to stay in place well. They are very comfortable and are a good choice if you participate in sports or lead an active lifestyle. Soft contact lenses can correct vision problems including myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism and presbyopia.
Soft contact lenses come in single use, daily wear and extended wear varieties.
Single use (Daily disposables)
Single use soft contact lenses are individually packaged for one-day use. You put in a new pair in the morning, then remove and discard them before you go to sleep at night.
- Pros. Single use soft contact lenses are convenient. They don’t need to be cleaned and can be used intermittently. They are the best lens for people with significant allergies.
- Cons. Single use soft contact lenses are more expensive.
Daily wear (Planned replacement)
Daily wear soft contact lenses are designed to be worn daily and may be reused for a certain number of weeks, depending on the manufacturer. These lenses are inserted every morning and removed every night.
- Pros. Daily wear soft contact lenses are more economical than single use contact lenses. They come in the widest selection of materials and powers.
- Cons. Daily wear soft contact lenses must be cleaned every day and replaced regularly to avoid protein buildup in the eye and other complications.
Extended wear soft contact lenses are designed to be worn continuously — both day and night — for a certain number of weeks, depending on the manufacturer.
- Pros. Extended wear contact lenses allow a certain amount of oxygen to reach your cornea even while you’re sleeping, so the lenses can be worn overnight — although your eye specialist may recommend only occasional overnight use. These lenses are well suited individuals who may need to get up and function quickly in the middle of the night (firefighters and new mothers!)
- Cons. Continuous use promotes the buildup of micro-organisms on the lenses and increases the risk of infection and other complications. Sleeping in lenses in Colorado can be difficult dues to our dry environment.
Hard Contact Lenses
Rigid gas-permeable (RGP) lenses, or hard contact lenses, are smaller and more rigid than are soft contact lenses. This makes them less comfortable than soft contact lenses, at least at first. Gas-permeable lenses also can correct certain vision problems, such as refractive errors that require high spherical or cylindrical powers, more accurately than can soft contact lenses. Overall vision with RGP lenses tends to be crisper than with soft contact lenses.
- Pros. Hard contact lenses are durable and easy to care for. Vision is generally very crisp. If your prescription doesn’t change and you take care of your hard contact lenses, you can use the same pair for two to three years.
- Cons. Hard contact lenses are initially less comfortable than are soft contact lenses. You may need up to two weeks to readjust to the lenses. Hard contact lenses are more likely to slip off the center of your eye than are soft contact lenses, which could lead to discomfort and blurred vision.
Specialized Contact Lenses
Certain eye conditions may require specialized contact lenses to provide the best comfort and vision.
- Hybrid contact lenses. Hybrid contact lenses feature a gas-permeable center surrounded by a soft outer ring. Hybrid contact lenses may be an option if you have an irregular corneal curvature (keratoconus) or you have trouble wearing gas-permeable lenses. These lenses center on the eye well and provide better comfort than standard RGP lenses when the cornea is very irregular.
- Multifocal contact lenses. Multifocal contact lenses help correct both distance and near vision with a single lens. Multifocal lenses may be used to correct age-related loss of close-up vision (presbyopia). It is important to understand bifocal contact lenses allow both distance and near vision but not to the same clarity and crispness as may be obtained with glasses. Multifocal lenses are available in daily wear soft and gas-permeable materials.
Monovision contact lenses: Monovision is simply using two contact lenses but one lens has your reading prescription and the other has a distance prescription. You might also try modified monovision contact lenses, in which you wear a multifocal lens in one eye and a single-vision lens in the other eye.
Colored contact lenses: Soft colored contact lenses are available to change the color of a person’s eyes. These lenses are available in a wide variety of colors and powers, but are more expensive. Colored contact lenses are made from materials which are less breathable and are therefore not as healthy for the eyes. Costume or decorative contact lenses are even less breathable and should be avoided except for very short wear times. These lenses can cause pain, inflammation and potentially serious eye infections.
Getting the Right Fit
If you decide you want to try contact lenses, please visit us for a comprehensive eye exam and fitting. We will help identify the best contact lenses for your lifestyle and provide you with the best comfort and vision possible.
Avoiding Eye Infections
Wearing contact lenses of any type increases the risk of corneal infection, simply because contact lenses reduce the amount of oxygen that reaches the corneas. Eye infections aren’t inevitable, however. To prevent infections:
- Practice good hygiene. Wash, rinse and dry your hands thoroughly before handling your contacts. Rinse contacts with sterile lens solution if they fall on the floor. Find a lint free towel to use at home. Keep you lens case clean.
- Minimize contact with water. Remove your contact lenses before swimming or using a hot tub.
- Remove your contacts before you go to sleep. This applies to extended wear contacts, too. Although extended wear contacts are designed to be worn overnight, continuous wear significantly increases the risk of eye infections.
- Take care with contact lens solutions. Use only commercially prepared, sterile products designed specifically for the type of contact lenses you wear. Carefully follow the directions given by the manufacturer. Contact lens solution intolerance is not uncommon. If your contacts are not comfortable for the entire day, ask us to check if you are having solution intolerance problems. Don’t use homemade saline solution, and avoid any type of contact solution that’s discolored or out of date.
- Follow these rules from Colorado Ophthalmology. Don’t put your lenses in your mouth to wet them, for example, and gently rub your lenses while you’re cleaning them — even if you use “no rub” solution.
- Replace your contact lenses as recommended. Wearing lenses longer than recommended can cause serious complications. Proteins build up on lenses with wear and can lead to allergic reactions if contacts are not disposed of as directed. If one or both lenses bother you before they’re due for replacement, ask your eye care specialist to check them or try a new set.
- Replace your contact lens case every three to six months. Discard the solution in the contact lens case each time you disinfect the lenses. Don’t “top off” old solution that’s already in the case.
If your eyes are itchy or somewhat red, remove your contact lenses and use lubricating eyedrops. If your vision becomes blurry or you experience eye pain, sensitivity to light or other problems, remove your contact lenses and call our office 303-320-1777 for prompt treatment.