If you’ve finally decided it might be time for contact lenses, it can feel like there is a lot to learn before you make a decision.
The truth is, contact lenses have come a long way in the last twenty years, and while there are a few options to choose from you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding the ones that are right for you.
First off, depending on how old you are, you might think of contact lenses as those inflexible disks made of acrylic glass that need to be placed ever so delicately on your eyes. The sort that never seems to stay in place and continually cause your eyes to dry out and itch. If this is what comes to mind, it’s time to update your thinking.
The trouble with the old style of contact lenses was that they didn’t breathe. That meant that they stopped the eye off from absorbing oxygen and it usually didn’t take long before they started to agitate most wearers. Also due to the solidity of the lens, they were meant to be used for an extended period and were quite susceptible to being scratched or damaged.
Today there are, in effect, just two types of contact lenses from which to select. Soft Contacts and Rigid Gas-Permeable lenses (RGPs), sometimes referred oxygen permeable lenses. Each has some advantages and variations, and one will no doubt meet your particular needs.
Let’s dive a little deeper and explore the different lens variations.
We’ll begin with the Rigid Gas-Permeable lenses, which are the closest to the old style solid contact lenses from the 1970s. Except that these, as the name suggests, allow oxygen to pass through the glass to make it easier for your eyes to breathe. Still, many people ask why they continue to make these lenses when there is a soft disposable option that tends to be easier to adjust to and more straightforward to get into place. The answer is precision. When it comes to a contact lens, the RGPs are going to give you the sharpest vision possible without glasses or laser surgery – this is especially true if you have astigmatism. (https://opto.ca/health-library/astigmatism)
The other thing to keep in mind with RGP lenses is that they are more durable and last considerably longer. Often it can be a full year before you need to think about replacing them. Meaning that if you take good care of these lenses, and clean them properly, you won’t have to worry about refilling the prescription regularly.
Rigid Gas-Permeable lenses
- Sharper vision
- Great for people with astigmatism
- More durable
- Easier to handle
The not so good:
- Longer adjustment time, so you have to wear them more regularly
- Must be cared for daily
- Easier to inadvertently move them off the cornea
- Easier to scratch
Moving on to Soft Contact lenses, these tend to be your most popular option. Made of flexible plastic polymers, this means that they are quite malleable and allow for a more comfortable fitting with less worry about them moving out of place and interrupting your vision.
As a result of the way they sit on the eye and their flexibility, soft contacts usually take less time for your eyes to acclimatize. Especially if you’re brand new to contacts or have a change in your prescription. Soft lenses also tend to be a little better at keeping environmental irritants like dust or debris out from underneath, something longtime contact wears will tell you wasn’t the case with the old style lenses.
As technology progresses, there is quite a lot of innovation happening in the Soft Contact space. Due to their ease of use and disposable nature, new options are continually being introduced.
It’s worth noting that soft contacts are also more fragile and they are more likely to rip or tear than the hard or gas-permeable variety. Of course, this isn’t usually too much of a problem, given that no matter which variation you have they aren’t meant to last more than a month at the longest.
When it comes to Soft Contacts, there are a few options to choose from, depending on your specific needs and whether you’re planning to wear your contacts regularly or keep your glasses regularly in the mix.
Daily disposable lenses
These lenses are made strictly for single use. After they’ve been worn once drop them in the trash and open a new pair the next day. The advantage is that there is no cleaning or care involved. You never have to purchase contact solution, and you know you’re going to get perfect lenses every time you open the package. The disadvantage is for people who want to switch between contacts and glasses. If, for example, you want to wear your contacts to an event in the morning, put your glasses on for a few hours over lunch and then switch back to contacts for an evening event, you will need two pairs of daily disposables. You don’t want to risk infection by putting single-use lenses in a second time.
Regular Disposable lenses
With these lenses, you are not meant to hold on to them very long, but they are suitable for limited repeated use. We usually recommend keeping these lenses no longer than two weeks before opening a new pair. That means with proper care and cleaning you have the option of more easily switching between glasses and contacts throughout the day as you want.
Frequent replacement lenses
In this case, we recommend replacing the lenses about once a month. So again, these are perfect for people who like to wear their glasses intermittently through the day and don’t mind a little care and cleaning to keep them up. The month-long duration means you don’t need to worry about refilling your prescription as often, but you also don’t get fresh new lenses quite as frequently either.
No matter which option you select, it’s important to remember that contact lenses are not designed to be worn overnight. Your eyes need that period without anything on them to breath and recover from the day. Eyes also get a lot less oxygen in general while you’re sleeping, so you don’t want to leave anything in place to make it even harder on them.
Coloured Soft Contacts
While not technically it’s own category, advances in soft contacts have made it possible to get them in a variety of colours. These options range from Visibility Tinted contacts, that catch light in a way that makes them easier to find when they fall out, but show no difference when on your eye, to lenses that enhance or even change your natural eye colour.
Have you ever run into an old friend and wondered why their eyes seem to glow in a way you didn’t recall. Very likely they have picked up some Enhancement Tint lenses to give them that extra bit of pop. It’s a fun way to turn a necessary tool into a bit of a fashion accessory.
Although, the critical thing to keep in mind is that these are still prescription lenses. Anything that goes on your eye needs to be discussed with and obtained through your Optometrist. It’s never worth gambling with your vision.
Soft Contact Lenses
- More comfortable initially than RGP lenses
- Easier for newer wearers to get used to
- Great for intermittent wearing
- Less susceptible to dust and debris
- Less likely to fall out, making them a better choice to wear during sports
- Tinted or coloured options available
The not so good:
- Not quite as sharp or durable as RGP lenses
- More likely to dry out and cause some discomfort
- More likely to absorb elements from the air, which may irritate the eyes
The great thing today is that there are so many options available to help make corrective lenses more comfortable than ever on the patient. A situation that’s only going to get better as technology continues to advance. Of course, with so many options it can all get a little overwhelming. Furthermore, with the internet, there is a considerable amount of speculation and outdated opinion floating around that can make things very confusing when you’re trying to understand your options.
The vital thing to remember is that no matter what you read or what concerns you have, that you talk to a qualified Optometrist. Our job is to lay out the options and make sure you get the best solution for your eyes, and if that option includes a bit of pop, all the better!