Posted: 20 July 2018
If you need correctible lenses but hate the thought of glasses or surgery, consider contact lenses.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 30 million people in the United States wear contact lenses. Over 80 percent of them wear soft contact lenses.
Here are the basics facts you should know before seeing an eye doctor about the different types of contact lenses.
Types of Contact Lenses
Your first choice is to decide which lens material is best for you. There are five types of contacts, which are categorized by the material they are made of. The type you choose depends on your needs.
Polymethyl Methacrylate (PMMA) is a rigid plastic that is also used in shatterproof windows. It’s also known as Lucite and Plexiglas.
PMMA contact lenses, or hard contacts, are made from this material. PMMA lenses work exceptionally well. But, they do not transmit oxygen to the eye.
People have a difficult time adapting to them. Hard contacts are still around, but soft contacts are prescribed more, understandably.
Soft Contact Lenses
Soft contact lenses are made from hydrogels. Those are a gel-like, plastic that contains water. Soft contact lenses are pliable, thin, and mold to the surface of your eye.
They were developed in the 1970s and quickly became popular because they are comfortable than plastic lenses.
Silicone hydrogel lenses are a type of soft contact lenses that are more porous than soft contacts. They permit more oxygen to pass through and reach your cornea. Available since 2002, silicone hydrogel contacts are the most popular.
Gas-permeable lenses are also called GP or RGP lenses. They are rigid lenses, similar to PMMA lenses. Though, they are porous, allowing oxygen to pass through.
Because of this permeability, GP lenses fit closer to the eye than PMMA lenses. Thus, they are more comfortable than hard contacts.
Gas-permeable lenses came into being around 1978. Since then, they have pretty much replaced PMMA lenses. GP contacts provide sharp vision, more so than soft contacts, especially for those with astigmatism.
It takes a while for your eyes to adjust to these lenses. After that, though, people find gas-permeable lenses about as comfortable as soft contacts.
Hybrid Contact Lenses
Hybrid contact lenses combine the comfort of soft or silicone contact lenses with the clear optics of hard contacts. They have a rigid gas-permeable central zone that is surrounded by hydrogel or silicone hydrogel material.
Though, not many people wear hybrid contact lenses because they are difficult to fit and more expensive than soft contacts.
Daily Wear and Extended Wear Contacts
If you have daily wear lenses, you must remove and clean them nightly. Extended wear lenses can last for up to seven days before you should take them out. Another term is continuous wear. With these, you can leave them in for 30 nights.
When To Replace Your Contact Lenses
After a while, you should replace all contact lenses. Discard daily disposable lenses after one day of wear.
If you have disposable lenses, dispose of them every two weeks. Dispose of frequent replacement lenses monthly or quarterly as directed.
Traditional, reusable lenses last for six months or longer. You don’t need to change gas-permeable lenses as frequently as soft lenses. They can last up to a year or longer.
Contact Lens Designs
Soft contact lenses come in different designs, depending on their purpose. Spherical contact lenses have the same lens power throughout the lens. They can correct nearsightedness or farsightedness.
Toric soft contact lenses have different powers along different meridians of the lens. They correct astigmatism, farsightedness, and nearsightedness.
Multifocal and bifocal contact lenses have different power zones for near and far vision. They correct presbyopia, nearsightedness, and farsightedness. Some multifocal lenses also correct astigmatism.
Cosmetic contact lenses, or color contacts, change or your eye color. Depending on the tint, they can also be special effects lenses (think alien or dragon eyes). Actors or cosplay participants use these.
You still need a prescription for color contacts even if you don’t need them to see better. Do they make colored contacts for astigmatism? Yes, people with astigmatism can wear contacts.
Cleaning and Storing Your Contact Lenses
Your eye care professional (ECP) will also go over the care and cleaning guidelines for your chosen lenses. Luckily, disinfecting and storing contact lenses is a lot easier than it used to be.
Multipurpose solutions have replaced the separate disinfectants. Even so, about 45% of contact lens wearers keep their lenses in for longer than they should. Don’t be one of them. They are putting themselves at risk for infection.
If you are sensitive to the preservatives found in multipurpose solutions, you might need preservative-free systems. Preservative-free systems contain hydrogen peroxide, and they clean contacts well.
Though, you must follow the directions carefully. You cannot get the solution in your eyes until you have soaked for the recommended time. This ensures that the solution has neutralized.
If you go with daily disposable lenses, you can avoid lens care altogether.
Contact Lens Problems
People react differently to contact lenses. Finding the right pair may require some patience on your part. A little trial and error is to be expected.
Often, you won’t have an exact fit the first time around, especially if you have a more complex prescription. You have to wear lenses like bifocals or toric lenses to know for sure how they will fit.
Discomfort does not mean the lenses have failed. It simply means you need to go back to your ECP for an adjustment or change,
Buying Your First Set of Contact Lenses
First, you’ll need to visit an eye professional for an examination and prescription. The type of lenses you need depends on your vision needs.
As you now know, contacts can address myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), astigmatism, or any combination of those issues.
Contact lenses must also fit your eyes. Eye doctors select the types of contact lenses their patients need, including the correct size, diameter, and curvature.
From there, you can choose your options, whether that be daily or extended wear, with or without a color tint. Special UV-tinted lenses are also available. If you think you’d like to try contact lenses, get started by visiting a local optician for consultations.
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