Contact lenses are one of the many ways to correct your vision. We love them for the convenience over glasses, and for many people it’s also more cost effective. If you play sports, or just like how you look better without glasses, there’s probably a contact lens type for you. Here’s a 101 on what you need to get started.
Optometry science has come a long way over the century that contact lenses have existed. A few decades ago, you may not have been able to wear contacts because of your prescription – an astigmatism, for example, was impossible to correct. That is no longer the case, and you can find many brands that allow you to see in comfort and convenience.
So what do you need to start? Well, first you need a prescription, just like your glasses. This is important for your safety and comfort, to get the best results possible. Ask your local eye care professional about a proper fitting to determine the best type of lens for you.
In terms of lens material types, there are several:
- Hard lenses, the oldest type and uncommonly used now, as they don’t allow oxygen to permeate into the eye. They’re also a bit uncomfortable for many people.
- Soft lenses, made from flexible plastics called hydrogels that allow your eye to breathe.
- Gas permeable lenses, which are more rigid but still allow oxygen through. These are typically for patients with high astigmatism or presbyopia.
From there, we have these common lens designs:
- Spherical lenses, for myopia (nearsightedness), and hyperopia (farsightedness);
- Toric, for astigmatism and myopia/hyperopia;
- Bifocals, for presbyopia and astigmatism;
- Orthokeratology (Ortho-K) which are designed to be worn overnight to reshape the cornea, giving you a day of lens free wear.
Custom fit lenses are also possible for difficult and special cases, like Keratoconus. Have a problem with dry eyes? There’s a special type for that too, as well as the following:
- UV-inhibiting lenses, to protect your eyes from the sun. Some medical conditions can be caused, or exacerbated by the sun’s UV rays. These in conjunction with a good pair of sunglasses will give full eye protection from the sun.
- Prosthetic lenses, for eyes disfigured or otherwise injured.
- Hybrid lenses – A combination of Gas permeable and soft lenses, providing the benefits of GP lenses with the comfort of soft ones.
- Myopia control lenses, used to stop or slow the progression of nearsightedness in children.
Furthermore, there are many types of specific situation lenses. For example, colored lenses to change your eye color. Or, special effects like cat eyes and scleral lenses can provide a very exciting look!
So, these days there is something for nearly everyone’s lifestyle. Contact lens care is also much easier than it used to be, with multipurpose solutions that both clean, store and disinfect. There’s even solutions for sensitive eyes.
Want to avoid it altogether? Daily disposable lenses have you covered. But for others, you can have long term wear lenses like the following:
- Two week disposables;
- Frequent – Monthly or even quarterly
- Traditional reusable ones, that last about six months.
Rigid lenses like GP are more resistant to damage and deposits. Soft lenses are more comfortable but require careful handling.
So which one is right for you? A discussion with your eye care practitioner will involve a full medical evaluation of your eye structure and lifestyle to ensure the best choice for you. Once you both decide on these options, you will be provided with a contact lens prescription, which is where we come in.
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