Eyeglasses can be a fun accessory, and now come in such attractive designer styles that they’re a long way from the embarrassing specs of yesteryear. We love them—but we don’t love it when our glasses get fogged up after coming in from the cold, rain obscures our vision, we have to clean the grease off them or they fly off our faces on the bus.
So, whether you’re someone who wears glasses constantly or only once in a while, and you want the experience of coping without glasses, you might consider contact lenses.
But what type to try—soft, hard, daily, weekly, extended wear, disposable…? We’ve put together a simple guide so next time your eye-test is due, you know what to discuss with your optometrist.
See Also: Protect Your Eyes
Old-fashioned acrylic hard lenses are now obsolete, and have been replaced by Rigid Gas-Permeable lenses.
If you want the sharpest vision possible, RGP lenses are the best choice. Because they have a hard, polished surface, they typically have better optical qualities than soft contact lenses.
Hard lenses might be a good choice if you’ve tried soft contact lenses and have been unsatisfied with the results or if you have dry eyes.
Rigid gas-permeable contact lenses are more durable than soft contact lenses. They’re also more breathable, allowing more oxygen to the cornea. These contact lenses must be removed for cleaning and disinfection at night, but some can be worn for a week or even up to 30 days.
It might take a few days or up to a few weeks to adjust to wearing rigid gas-permeable contact lenses. However, if your prescription doesn’t change and you take care of your lenses, you can use the same pair for up to two to three years.
Hard lenses can also help improve vision overtime, as they shape the eye. However, for this to happen, they require consistent wear to maintain the adaptation of the eye.
Soft contact lenses
Soft contact lenses are the most commonly prescribed type, as they are generally more comfortable to wear than hard lenses. Soft lenses can be used to correct various vision problems, including:
- Nearsightedness (myopia)
- Farsightedness (hyperopia)
- Blurred vision (astigmatism)
- Age-related loss of close-up vision (presbyopia)
Soft contact lenses come in various types, including:
- Daily wear lenses: One-day lenses are rmoved and disposed of at the end of each day. Other options include two-week, monthly and, for some prescriptions, quarterly disposable lenses. Typically, you remove these lenses each night for cleaning and disinfecting.
- Overnight (extended) wear: Some soft contact lenses can be worn for up to 30 days continuously, including while you sleep. However, without care this type of lens wear can cause complications, such as the build-up of debris under the lens, corneal problems or serious eye infections.
See Also: Common Eye Problems
Specialised contact lenses
Depending on your vision needs, you may require something other than the typical hard or soft lens. There are several kinds of specialised lenses. Talk to your doctor about if any of these are right for you:
- Hybrid contact lenses: Hybrid contact lenses have a rigid gas permeable centre surrounded by a soft outer ring. They can correct near-sightedness, far-sightedness, astigmatism and age-related loss of close-up vision, as well as an irregular corneal curvature (keratoconus). They also might be more comfortable to wear than traditional gas permeable lenses.
- Multifocal contact lenses: These lenses are available in various materials and can correct near-sightedness, far-sightedness and presbyopia at the same time.
- Tinted contact lenses: Contact lenses can be tinted for cosmetic or therapeutic purposes. Tinting can enhance colour perception and compensate for colour-blindness.
- Scleral contact lenses: These rigid gas-permeable lenses are larger than most, extending to the white outer layer of the eyeball (sclera). They can help correct vision if you have an irregular or distorted cornea.
- Orthokeratology: These special rigid gas-permeable lenses are worn while you sleep to temporarily change the curve of your cornea. This creates clear vision while you’re awake.
- Contact lens coatings: This treatment makes the surface of the lens slippery and more resistant to bacteria sticking to it. The coating can be applied to soft and rigid gas-permeable contact lenses.
This feature was orignally published in the winter edition of Live to 100 with Dr Hilary Jones, which you can read here