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Contact Lenses: Know Your Options

Today’s contact lens wearers have several options, which is fantastic but also confusing. Knowing which contact lenses are right for you means understanding the different contact lens options available. Think about your lifestyle and your vision needs as you read about the variety of contact lenses available. Then schedule a contact lens exam with your eye doctor to ensure you get the best contact lenses for you.

Hard Contact Lenses

Many advances have been made to hard contact lenses since the 1970s to create a healthier lens for eyes. The improvements resulted in "rigid gas permeable" lenses which are slightly more flexible and allow oxygen to pass through the lenses to the cornea. They are still regarded as hard contact lenses because they maintain their shape on the eye. Rigid gas permeable contacts, also called GP or RGP lenses, have many advantages beyond healthy oxygen flow. RGPs lenses have helped slow down the development of nearsightedness in young and adult lens wearers. Generally, the advantages of GP hard contact lenses outnumber the disadvantages.

Advantages of GP “Hard” Contact Lens:

  • Extremely durable
  • Easy to care for
  • Easy to handle and wear
  • Do not dehydrate
  • Retain their shape
  • Offer clear, crisp vision
  • Correct most astigmatism
  • Available as bifocal and multifocal
  • Available in various colors and costume designs

Disadvantages of GP “Hard” Contact Lens:

  • Easily dislodged from center of eye
  • Can get scratched
  • Debris can accumulate get under the lenses
  • Requires consistent wear to feel comfortable

RGP lenses are preferred by people who want to reduce their risk of eye infections and for those who are dissatisfied with the alternative type of contact lens – soft contact lenses.

Soft Contact Lenses

First approved for U.S. supply in 1971, soft contact lenses sales reached $1 million in the first six months. What made them so popular among contact lens wearers? Soft contact lenses are generally more comfortable to wear. They are able to stay in place better and are easier to adjust to than hard contact lenses. The flexible plastic is combined with water to allow oxygen to pass through the contact lens to the cornea. This increases comfort and maintains eye health. Soft contact lenses can correct nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), blurred vision (astigmatism), and age-related loss of close-up vision (presbyopia).

Soft contact lenses have their disadvantages too, including a higher rate of infection and less durability than gas permeable contacts. They can also be more expensive than hard contact lenses since they may require more frequent replacements.

Disposable Soft Lenses

By 1987 contact lens wearers were given a healthier and more convenient contact lens option - disposable soft contact lenses. Designed to be worn for a short time, disposable contact lenses are great for people with allergies and those who are concerned about getting eye infections from the build-up of bacteria and dirt under the lens. Disposable contact lenses require minimal cleaning and disinfection before being discarded. Today’s soft contact lenses are available as non-disposables, monthly or weekly disposables, and daily disposables.

Daily Wear & Extended Wear

Soft contact lenses are also available for extended and daily wear. Daily wear contacts are intended to be worn during the day and removed for nightly cleaning and disinfecting. Daily wear lenses can be reused until their intended discard date.

Extended wear soft contact lenses can be worn while sleeping, but must be removed for cleaning and disinfecting once a week. Overnight use may pose a risk of eye infections so caution should be used even with lenses that are designed for extended wear.

So, which contact lens option will you choose? Perhaps it will be a unique approach – like having throwaway lenses for travel and extended wear lenses the rest of the time. Armed with more knowledge, you can now schedule that important contact lens exam with your eye doctor.

Source: VSP