Contact lenses are trendy these days, and hardly noticeable to anyone, including the wearer. Corrective lenses are a must for people experiencing the vision problems you might uncover with the help of your optometrist. So it’s best to find out what factors impact the decision to wear contacts, and what to look for when buying them!
Your eye is like a camera, and focus is essential for both. Light passes through the cornea and ocular lens, bending into a focal point at the back of the eye. The focus should be even, but any deviations in the shape of the lens or the cornea, or even the eyeball’s shape, can result in a shifted focal point. Eye doctors call the result of this shift, a refractive error.
Corrective lenses, including eyeglasses and contact lenses, are a worn solution that can compensate for the shift in the focal point. Some eye conditions come with simple corrections, but others, not so much.
Dry eye (specifically evaporative dry eye) is a condition where there’s not enough oil mixed with water on your eye surface. Oil released by your eyelids keeps your tears from evaporating, which keeps your eyes from drying out. There are different types of dry eye, as well, some caused by immune system deficiencies.
Dry eyes patients can suffer damage to their cornea as it dries out, and the same thing can happen to your contact lenses. It’s best to get treatment for dry eyes, whether you’re considering contact lenses or not.
Most soft contact lenses are made of hydrogel. Protein can build up between the lens and your eye with normal use, making your eyes feel drier. If you’re using weekly disposable soft contact lenses, you might try daily disposable ones to minimize protein buildup.
You could also switch to a silicone-based hydrogel material, as it may prevent some of the evaporation.
For severe cases of dry eye, scleral contact lenses help by keeping a fluid reservoir at the back of the scleral lens, subtly bathing the cornea. Scleral lenses fall into the rigid gas-permeable category.
Astigmatism is a refractive error due to an irregular cornea shape. When it comes to astigmatism, you can have several different types — and instead of one out-of-place focal point, you can have several. The effect is distorted vision up close, from afar, or both.
But special (soft) toric lenses compensate for the corneal or lens problem that results in the focal issue — featuring different corrective powers in different parts of the lens. They can rotate on the eye, so they’re correcting at the right angle.
These lenses are a little more expensive than regular contacts. Not to mention, they’re only approved for 30 days use before needing replacement, just like most contact lenses. They also typically need several fittings at the optometrist’s. Toric lenses are usually soft, but hard lenses can be made with a toric feature.
One widespread refractive error is myopia, where the focal point falls short of the retina. This refractive error is relatively easy to correct, so there are a lot of options for soft contact lenses, including daily disposable, weekly, or monthly lenses, and other types.
Hard Contact Lenses
As you can probably tell, the choice between hard and soft contact lenses depends a lot on what your eye doctor recommends! But some considerations are up to you, like your lifestyle and how contacts might suit your habits. That might mean you choose hard contacts over soft contacts.
Most contact lenses on the market falls in the soft contact lens category, which replaced hard contact lenses as the materials became easier to work with and cheaper. They also don’t get scratched as easily. Hard contact lenses used to be made of glass, but new materials grant advantages for managing myopia and other eye conditions.
These fascinating new hard contact lenses fall into a category called rigid gas-permeable (RGP) lenses because they can let air in through the contact lens to the cornea, which lets your eyes “breathe.”
For severe cases of dry eye eye, scleral contact lenses help by keeping a fluid reservoir at the back of the scleral lens, subtly bathing the cornea. Scleral lenses fall into the rigid gas-permeable category.
While researching hard lenses early on, doctors observed that a patient’s cornea could be reshaped in the short term, sometimes correcting a vision problem.
Orthokeratology, a myopia control option, is an innovation coming from those observations. Hard contact lenses are the tools used to gently reshape the cornea overnight, temporarily, to manage some cases of myopia. In fact, several refractive errors such as hyperopia, myopia, presbyopia, and astigmatism can all be managed using ortho-k lenses.
Some eye conditions like keratoconus are as complex in severity and patient outlook as astigmatism. Keratoconus can be corrected with soft toric contact lenses, in mild cases. In more severe cases, there might be a need for rigid-gas permeable hard lenses. Recently, ophthalmologists have recommended scleral lenses as a way of morphing corneal irregularity into a normal shape..
Lifestyle Considerations for Contact Lenses
If you’re especially active, don’t want to risk breaking or losing a pair of frames, or if you just don’t like the style of eyeglasses, then contacts might be for you. But contact lenses have their own challenges.
Hygiene & Cleaning Needs
Your optometrist will have clear cut instructions on how to maintain your contacts. But different types of lenses need varying levels of care. For example, daily lenses don’t need to be cleaned. You wear them and toss them before bed.
But monthly lenses need to be cleaned each time you wear them, using an approved contact solution and solid technique. Orthokeratology lenses or other rigid gas permeable lenses need especially good cleaning habits; otherwise, infection risk is much higher.
Contact Lenses for Children
Your child might lose their possessions more often than an adult, understandably. Contacts might suit your child better, if that’s the case, or if their eyeglasses often get broken while playing. Children can be trained on how to insert, remove, and clean their contact lenses in as little time as an adult, so you might try them out on contacts! Hygiene is especially vital to communicate.
Like the rough and tumble play of children, anyone with a really active lifestyle can benefit from contact lenses. Some contact sports like rugby, or even non-contact sports like basketball, volleyball, or squash carry a breakage risk for eyeglass wearers.
If you have soft contact lenses, whether daily, weekly, monthly, etc., you can avoid damage to your glasses.
Outdoor sports change that recommendation a little. If you’re active outdoors, whether hiking, biking, or playing field sports, you have to consider ultraviolet light exposure — especially given southern Alberta’s exceptionally sunny weather. UV light is the invisible danger in sunlight, and it’s been linked to the development of cataracts later in life.
Transitions Contact Lenses
If you’re playing field sports, or sunglasses won’t work for what you’re doing, there’s yet another contact lens option. Transitions contact lenses are an exciting new development that can mostly protect you from UV light, as long as you’re careful.
Ask Your Optometrist About Contact Lenses
We’ve talked to a lot of patients who have tried contact lenses but found them uncomfortable. We’ve also spoken with patients who ruled them out long ago because their diagnosis couldn’t be corrected with contact lenses at the time. But there are contacts for almost anyone these days, so when in doubt, ask us!