Contact lens wearers, consider your options. There are extended-wear contacts, disposables, and even lenses that can change your eye color. But as with any purchase of a medical device, buying contact lenses should be done with care and caution. These tips will help you choose the right type of contact lens for your needs.
Contact Lens Options
Your first step is to choose from two basic types of lenses: soft and hard. “Most people who wear contact lenses wear soft lenses — 9 of 10 people,” says Thomas L. Steinemann, MD, associate professor of ophthalmology at Case Western University and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “The rigid gas-permeable lenses are worn by only about 10 percent of people.” Hard lenses are usually the better choice for people who have astigmatism or a medical condition in which protein deposits form on the contact lens.
After you’ve chosen hard or soft lenses, there are many categories of contact lens available, both in terms of how they accomplish vision correction and how often they need to be replaced:
Daily wear contact lenses.
This type of contact lens is usually the least expensive option. Daily wear contact lenses have to be taken out and disinfected every night and are replaced on a set schedule. The replacement time can vary widely by type and brand, from every two weeks to every three months.
Extended wear contact lenses.
This type of contact lens is designed to be worn overnight, though they need to be removed at least once a week for cleaning and disinfection. However, many eye professionals do not encourage their use. “I recommend that people not wear contacts overnight, even if they are extended-wear lenses,” says Dr. Steinemann. When you sleep with your contact lenses in, you reduce the amount of oxygen to the eyes, making your eyes more vulnerable to infection — especially corneal infection.
Disposable contact lenses
Daily disposable lenses get tossed every day after use, so no maintenance is involved. They cost more because you need a new pair every day, but they are much more convenient. Disposables that are replaced weekly or monthly require the same regular care as daily wear lenses. Disposables are a good option for people with allergies or other conditions that exacerbate the formation of protein deposits from tear film.
Toric contact lenses
This type of lens is used to correct astigmatism, a condition in which vision is blurred because of an irregularly shaped cornea or lens inside the eye. They are usually more expensive than other contact lenses.
Colored contact lenses
Colored contacts can dramatically change the color of your eyes — making even the brownest eyes look blue or green, for instance — or enhance your natural color. They can be worn for purely cosmetic purposes or to also correct vision.
Multifocal contact lenses
People with presbyopia — a condition that occurs as people get older and their eyes have a harder time bringing close objects into focus — can sometimes have their vision corrected with bifocal or multifocal lenses. One technique, called monovision, uses a contact lens for distance in the dominant eye and a contact lens for near vision in the non-dominant eye. Modified monovision uses a bifocal or multifocal lens in the non-dominant eye. “It can be tricky for some people who can’t deal with blurriness or who have trouble filtering out visual distractions,” says Steinemann.
Buying Contacts? Follow These Safety Tips
When purchasing contact lenses, keep these tips in mind:
- Don’t buy lenses out of broken box sets. Make sure the package is sealed properly.
- Use caution when buying contacts on the Internet. Stay with reputable Web sites that will confirm your prescription with your eye doctor and that offer brand name products. When you receive your order, make sure the information on each contact lens box matches your prescription.
- Be sure to use a current prescription from your eye care professional; prescriptions are only good for one year from the date they are written.
Even if you do not need vision correction, don’t buy cosmetic lenses without consulting an eye care professional. Theatrical contact lenses that are used for Halloween or other occasions are sold on the Internet, beauty salons, and even convenience stores. But even cosmetic lenses, like lenses used for vision correction, must be fitted by trained professionals and should be monitored with follow-up visits to prevent eye infections and other problems.
Contact lenses are an excellent way to correct vision. And by taking a few necessary precautions, you can determine the contact lens type that’s best suited for your needs.