How to choose contacts?

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What Contacts Are Right For Me?

By Gary Heiting, OD

The best contact lenses for you depend on many factors, including your visual needs and your reasons for wanting to wear contacts:

  • If you want the sharpest vision possible, gas permeable contact lenses (also called RGP or GP lenses) usually are the best choice. Because have a hard, polished surface, they typically have better optical qualities than soft contact lenses.
  • If you have , gas permeable lenses or special soft lenses called are usually the best choice. These lenses have special features to correct blurred vision caused by unequal corneal curvature (the most common type of astigmatism).
  • If comfort is your primary consideration, conventional soft contact lenses usually are your best choice. Most people find soft lenses are immediately comfortable, whereas gas permeable lenses usually require a period of adaptation (that can be several weeks) before the lenses are perfectly comfortable.
  • If you don’t want to bother with lens care and contact lens solutions, probably are your best choice. With these soft lenses, you wear them just once and then throw them away. It doesn’t get any easier than that!
  • If you are over age 40 and have , the best lenses for you may be or multifocal contact lenses. These lenses often can restore a full range of vision and reduce or eliminate your need for reading glasses.
  • If you are comfortable wearing eyeglasses and want to wear contacts only occasionally for sports or social events, soft lenses usually are the best choice. Most people can comfortably wear soft contacts on a sporadic basis, whereas gas permeable lenses usually have to be worn every day to maintain comfort.

Other factors also come into play when determining the type of contacts that are best for you. For example:

  • You may want extended wear contact lenses so you can wear the lenses continuously and not have to remove them before sleep. But your eyes may not be able to tolerate extended wear, so daily disposable lenses may be a better option.
  • You may need bifocal or multifocal contact lenses because you have presbyopia, but you find your vision with these lenses is not as good as you hoped it would be. In this case, maybe , where your eye doctor uses regular (monofocal) soft lenses to fit one of your eyes for distance vision and the other for near vision, is a better option. Or perhaps a modification of monovision, where one eye is fitted with a monofocal lens and the other eye is fitted with a multifocal lens, is the best solution.
  • If you want the sharpest vision possible but you find you can’t wear gas permeable lenses comfortably, perhaps hybrid contact lenses will satisfy your needs. Hybrid lenses have a GP center for clarity, surrounded by a “skirt” of soft lens material for greater comfort.

The first step in determining which contacts are best for you is to schedule an eye exam and discuss available options with your optometrist or ophthalmologist.

Keep in mind, though, that initial plans may change during your contact lens fitting. Depending on your comfort, your vision and how well your eyes tolerate the initial lens choice, changes may need to be made.

Page updated August 2017

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Gary Heiting, OD

Gary Heiting, OD, is a former senior editor of AllAboutVision.com. Dr. Heiting has more than 30 years of experience as an eye care provider, health educator and consultant to the eyewear … read more

Soft Contact Lenses

They’re made from a special type of plastic mixed with water. The water content lets oxygen pass through the lens to your cornea. That makes the lenses more comfortable, lessens dry eyes, and helps keep your cornea healthy. If it doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can swell, get cloudy, and cause blurry vision or other, more serious problems.

Pros. Many soft lenses are disposable, so you can throw them away after using them for a short time. Having a fresh pair of soft contacts means less chance of infection, less cleaning, and more comfort.

While soft contact lenses are commonly throwaways, there are some soft lenses that aren’t aren’t. Depending on what yo need for your eyes, you may wear the same pair for about a year and clean them each night. These are typically more custom-designed contact lenses.

Compared with rigid gas-permeable lenses, the other main type of contacts, soft lenses feel better when you first put them in.

As a bonus, many soft lenses provide UV protection.

Cons. Soft contact lens material can absorb particles, chemicals, bacteria, and mold more easily than both hard and rigid gas-permeable lenses. They soak up all kinds of things that can irritate your eyes — smoke and sprays in the air and lotion or soap on your hands.
Soft contacts are also more fragile. They can rip or tear more easily than hard or gas-permeable lenses.

Varieties. New types of soft lenses come to market as new technologies develop.

  • Daily disposables are soft contacts that you wear only for a day and then throw away. That means you don’t have to clean them regularly or risk dry eyes and irritation from contact solutions. If you have allergies, they may be the best choice for you.
  • Silicone-based materials create an extremely breathable lens that lets plenty of oxygen pass through to your cornea. They also keep deposits from building up. That means less irritation from dry eyes. Some silicone contacts are FDA-approved for extended wear, so you can use them for up to 30 days. But many eye doctors say to remove any type of contact lens at bedtime. Why? Your cornea gets less oxygen when you sleep in contacts, so the risk of serious complications is higher. Silicone lenses aren’t for everyone, so talk with your eye care professional if you’re interested in them.

How to Choose the Right Contact Lenses

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.

A Beginners Guide to Buying Contact Lenses

SPONSORED

Whether you’re a newcomer to the contact lens world or a daily lens wearer, it’s important to keep up to date with today’s current brands. Technology is only getting better, and with new up and coming products like Simple Contacts, it can be hard to keep up.

It’s worth investing in your eye health, as unlike eyeglasses, you only have one pair of oculi. Meanwhile, with the immense amount of selection in the contacts industry, the information and variety may seem overwhelming and have you crawling back to your glasses.

However, this guide simplifies the continuously growing number of options. We’ll explore an extensive breakdown of benefits of daily contacts, the importance of proper care, the most affordable brands without sacrificing quality, types of contacts for every refractive difference, hard vs. soft contact, and much much more.

This guide is made to help find the perfect lens for you.

Buying Contact Lenses In-Store or Online

There are a variety of ways to acquire contacts, such as ordering them to your front doorstep or purchasing in-store with a recognized brand. Once you have met with your optometrist, ask your eye doctor which contact lens may be the best lens for you.

Once you have your contact lens prescription, the cards are in your hands. Have a couple brands you’ve heard of but can’t seem to choose? Not to fear. Contact lens companies often offer a “one box free” contact lens trial, so feel free to reach out to a couple of brands before settling with your favorite. Remember, the relationship can only help you if you help yourself first.

Purchasing your lenses at the doctor’s office may offer a convenience if you need your lenses immediately. However, shopping online may allow you to have more freedom in the long term as the contacts will be delivered directly to your home whenever you need with a click of a button. Make sure to stick to sources that are accredited and medically recognized. Cheap contacts aren’t worth your eye’s health.

Unsure about where to buy contacts online? Check our guide to buying contacts online

Daily Vs. Weekly Contacts

Now that you’ve met with the ophthalmologist, it’s time to consider whether you’d like to replace your contacts daily or weekly.

Daily

Daily disposable contacts like Acuvue may be a convenient choice for your lifestyle and advantageous in that no cleaning is necessary. Instead of constantly squeezing solution to clean your tiny filament of a lens, a fresh pair can be worn every day. Daily disposable lenses are contacts that are used once and discarded at the end of the day. A fresh pair of lenses are applied each morning, which may be an attractive option for those unwilling to clean their lenses.

Daily disposable contact lenses are fairly popular among contact wearers and favorable to maintaining healthy eyes. Although you may deem throwing out lenses wasteful, there are other things to consider. Protein, lipids, calcium, and bacteria can easily build up on your lenses. Your tears are a natural vessel for these substances and make your eyes disposed to infection. Cleaning is vital; however, some deposits will inevitably remain and build up over time.

Weekly or Monthly

Daily wear is not to be confused with daily disposable. Daily disposable refers to contact lenses that are meant to be used once and discarded daily. Daily wear is worn daily but not suitable for overnight wear and must be cleaned and removed before sleep. Wearing lenses overnight increases the lens wearer’s risk for eye disease. Therefore lenses are often replaced on a weekly or monthly basis.

Proper cleaning and handling of weekly and monthly lenses is critical to keeping eyes healthy. Lens cleaning is not just an option, but a must in the world of weekly or monthly contacts due to the health risks bacterial deposits may present.

Click here for a more in depth comparison of Daily vs. Weekly Contacts.

UV Blocking Contact Lenses

Did you know ultraviolet rays can not only damage skin, but also the eye? UV radiation is prevalent all year round and able to reflect off all surfaces, causing an even higher risk to your eyes. Ultraviolet rays are even present underwater, albeit at 40% the intensity as above the surface.

In any weather condition, UV rays can have negative effects on the eye and therefore must be protected against at anytime. Exposure to UV rays without proper protection can cause eye disease and conditions severe enough to lead to legal blindness. Contacts with UV protection may definitely be an investment you’ll want to consider when choosing the best contact lenses for you.

for a Guide to Best UV-Block Contact Lenses and which brands offer UV protection.

Opaque and Color Contact Lenses

Natural eyes are beautiful, but if you’re looking to spice things up you may want to experiment with Opaque or Color Contact lenses. For prescription and non-prescription contact lens users, color contacts not only give you the ability to change your eye color, but also improve visual performance. Custom-tinted contacts create a natural appearance, disguise eye injuries or defects, and go beyond cosmetic roots. “Sport tint” contacts are often used by professional athletes to reduce glare, heighten depth perception, and enhance contrast sensitivity.

There is a wide availability of prescription contacts that can change your eye color, as well as correct for nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. These contacts also come in 1-day, 2-week, and 30-day replacement intervals.

Click here for a Guide to Best Color Contact Lenses.

Contact Lens Solution

Choosing a contact lens solution is important, as not all solutions are intended for all contact lens material. It is critical that contact lenses are effectively disinfected to maintain not only the quality of the lens, but also your health.

Multipurpose solutions can be used to clean, disinfect, rinse, and store contact lenses. After contact lens use, lenses are rinsed and rubbed before storage. Using the index and thumb, the contact lens is gently rubbed under a stream of solution for 10 seconds on both sides. This prevents any build up of protein or bacteria on the lens and ensures that the lens will be soaked overnight in a clean state.

Hydrogen Peroxide is often a strong choice for lens wearers with allergies or sensitivity to solution. Like multipurpose solution, hydrogen peroxide can be used to rinse and store contact lenses. However, there is a crucial step: neutralization.

Saline solution is typically used with other agents, as its main purpose is to rinse and clean. The simple pH-balanced salt water can be used in your daily cleaning regimen, but never a replacement for a disinfectant.

Click here for a Guide to Best Solution for Contact Lens and which solution may be right for you.

Affordable prices, full transparency, and amazing customer reviews, Simple Contacts has been rated 5 stars by more than 7,000 people on the App store. If you’re looking to get contacts quick, check out Simple Contacts for the simplest way to buy contacts online.

How to decide if contacts are right for you

If getting new glasses is similar to getting a new pair of shoes, then changing from glasses to contacts is more like learning how to ride a bike. Contacts aren’t an accessory change. They’re a lifestyle change.

Glasses are easy. You put them on; you take them off. Contacts require more care and a higher level of responsibility.

So if you’re considering making the switch, you can never be too prepared or ask too many questions. Luckily your eye doctor is there to help you through the process, but here is a starter list of what to consider before jettisoning your glasses for contacts:

What to think about:

  • Is vision correction affecting your activities or self-esteem?
  • Do you consistently wear your glasses when needed? Are they frequently broken, lost or dirty?
  • How interested are you in contact lenses? Are you motivated enough to take care of them?
  • Have you noticed any eye problems such as blurry vision, flashes of light, poor night vision or double vision? Do you have trouble tracking moving objects, judging distances or determining colors?
  • How’s your general health? Be ready to tell the eye doctor about injuries, chronic conditions, allergies, medications or operations.
  • Does your family have a history of eye problems such as glaucoma, cataracts or other ailments?

What to tell your doctor:

  • Describe any vision problems you’re having.
  • Be sure to specify that you want a contact lens fitting appointment.

What to bring to your appointment:

  • Your current eyeglasses and a copy of your last prescription, if available
  • Your vision benefits card (if needed)

What to ask your doctor:

  • How is my vision?
  • What are my vision correction options?
  • Am I a good candidate for contacts?
  • What’s going to provide the best vision and the most flexibility given my activities and needs?

But before you start down this contact path, you might want to make sure you can touch your own eyeball without getting too creeped out. Because if you can’t, that’s kind of a deal breaker.

Article information courtesy of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Inc., makers of ACUVUE® Brand Contact Lenses. Visit www.acuvue.com for more information.
ACUVUE® is a trademark of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc. ©Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc. 2013.
Sources Consulted:
Johnson & Johnson, “Contact Lenses: What to Ask the Eye Doctor,” 2010.
WARNING: UV-absorbing contact lenses are not substitutes for protective UV-absorbing eyewear such as UV-absorbing goggles or sunglasses because they do not completely cover the eye and surrounding area. You should continue to use UV-absorbing eyewear as directed. NOTE: Long-term exposure to UV radiation is one of the risk factors associated with cataracts. Exposure is based on a number of factors such as environmental conditions (altitude, geography, cloud cover) and personal factors (extent and nature of outdoor activities). UV-blocking contact lenses help provide protection against harmful UV radiation. However, clinical studies have not been done to demonstrate that wearing UV-blocking contact lenses reduces the risk of developing cataracts or other eye disorders. Consult your eye care practitioner for more information.

Contact lens basics: Types of contact lenses and more

Contacts

By Liz Segre

Contact lenses are an excellent choice for nearly anyone who needs vision correction and doesn’t want to wear eyeglasses full time or undergo LASIK surgery.

Unsure about contact lenses? This article will detail contact lens materials, contact lens designs and features and even new contact lens formats.

For instance, the first light-adaptive contact lenses, Acuvue Oasys with Transitions , debuted in the United States in 2019 and contact lenses embedded with antibiotics are in the works. (See our contact lens news page for the latest in contact lenses.)

Here are the basics you should know about contact lenses before seeing your eye doctor if you are interested in wearing contacts.

Contact Lens Materials

The first choice when considering contact lenses is which lens material will best satisfy your needs. There are five types of contact lenses, based on type of lens material they are made of:

Contact Lens Material

  • Soft lenses are made from gel-like, water-containing plastics called hydrogels. These lenses are very thin and pliable and conform to the front surface of the eye. Introduced in the early 1970s, hydrogel lenses made contact lens wear much more popular because they typically are immediately comfortable. The only alternative at the time was hard contact lenses made of PMMA plastic (see below). PMMA lenses typically took weeks to adapt to and many people couldn’t wear them successfully.
  • Silicone hydrogel lenses are an advanced type of soft contact lenses that are more porous than regular hydrogel lenses and allow even more oxygen to reach the cornea. Introduced in 2002, silicone hydrogel contact lenses are now the most popular lenses prescribed in the United States.
  • Gas permeable lenses — also called GP or RGP lenses — are rigid contact lenses that look and feel like PMMA lenses (see below) but are porous and allow oxygen to pass through them. Because they are permeable to oxygen, GP lenses can be fit closer to the eye than PMMA lenses, making them more comfortable than conventional hard lenses. Since their introduction in 1978, gas permeable contact lenses have essentially replaced nonporous PMMA contact lenses. GP contacts often provide sharper vision than soft and silicone hydrogel contacts — especially if you have astigmatism. It usually takes some time for your eyes to adjust to gas permeable lenses when you first start wearing them, but after this initial adaptation period, most people find GP lenses are as comfortable as hydrogel lenses.
  • Hybrid contact lenses are designed to provide wearing comfort that rivals soft or silicone hydrogel lenses, combined with the crystal-clear optics of gas permeable lenses. Hybrid lenses have a rigid gas permeable central zone, surrounded by a “skirt” of hydrogel or silicone hydrogel material. Despite these features, only a small percentage of people in the U.S. wear hybrid contact lenses, perhaps because these lenses are more difficult to fit and are more expensive to replace than soft and silicone hydrogel lenses.
  • PMMA lenses are made from a transparent rigid plastic material called polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), which also is used as a substitute for glass in shatterproof windows and is sold under the trademarks Lucite, Perspex and Plexiglas. PMMA lenses have excellent optics, but they do not transmit oxygen to the eye and can be difficult to adapt to. These (now old-fashioned) “hard contacts” have virtually been replaced by GP lenses and are rarely prescribed today.

In 2017, 64 percent of contact lenses prescribed in the U.S. were silicone hydrogel lenses, followed by soft (hydrogel) lenses (22 percent), gas permeable lenses (11 percent), hybrid lenses (2 percent) and PMMA lenses (1 percent).

LEARN MORE about the proper care of your contact lenses .

Contact Lens Wearing Time

Until 1979, everyone who wore contact lenses removed and cleaned them nightly. The introduction of “extended wear” enabled wearers to sleep in their contacts. Now, two types of lenses are classified by wearing time:

  • Daily wear — must be removed nightly
  • Extended wear — can be worn overnight, usually for seven days consecutively without removal

“Continuous wear” is a term that’s sometimes used to describe 30 consecutive nights of lens wear — the maximum wearing time approved by the

for certain brands of extended wear lenses.

When To Replace Your Contact Lenses

Even with proper care, contact lenses (especially soft contacts) should be replaced frequently to prevent the build-up of lens deposits and contamination that increase the risk of eye infections.

Soft lenses have these general classifications, based on how frequently they should be discarded:

Lens Replacement Frequency

  • Daily disposable lenses — Discard after a single day of wear
  • Disposable lenses — Discard every two weeks, or sooner
  • Frequent replacement lenses — Discard monthly or quarterly
  • Traditional (reusable) lenses — Discard every six months or longer

Gas permeable contact lenses are more resistant to lens deposits and don’t need to be discarded as frequently as soft lenses. Often, GP lenses can last a year or longer before they need to be replaced.

The most frequently prescribed contact lens replacement schedule in the U.S. in 2017 was monthly (40 percent), followed by daily (35 percent), every one to two weeks (24 percent) and annually (1 percent).

LEARN MORE about the proper care of your contact lenses .

Contact Lens Designs

Soft contact lenses (both standard hydrogel and silicone hydrogel lenses) are available in a variety of designs, depending on their intended purpose:

Soft contact lens designs

  • Spherical contact lenses have the same lens power throughout the entire optical part of the lens to correct myopia (nearsightedness) or hyperopia (farsightedness).
  • Toric soft contact lenses have different powers in different meridians of the lens to correct astigmatism as well as nearsightedness or farsightedness.
  • Multifocal contact lenses (including bifocal contacts) contain different power zones for near and far vision to correct presbyopia as well as nearsightedness or farsightedness. Some multifocal lenses also can correct astigmatism.
  • Cosmetic contact lenses include color contacts designed to change or intensify your eye color. Halloween, theatrical and other special-effect contacts also are considered cosmetic lenses. A contact lens prescription is required for cosmetic contacts even if you have no refractive errors that need correction.

All of these lenses can be custom made for hard-to-fit eyes. Other lens designs also are available — including lenses fabricated for use in special situations, such as correcting for keratoconus.

More Contact Lens Features

Bifocal contacts for astigmatism. These are advanced soft contacts that correct both presbyopia and astigmatism, so you can remain glasses-free after age 40 even if you have astigmatism.

Contacts for dry eyes. Are your contacts uncomfortably dry? Certain soft contact lenses are specially made to reduce the risk of contact lens-related dry eye symptoms.

Colored lenses. Many of the types of lenses described above also come in colors that can enhance the natural color of your eyes — that is, make your green eyes even greener, for example. Other colored lenses can totally change the color of your eyes, as in from brown to blue.

Special-effect lenses. Also called theatrical, novelty, or costume lenses, special-effect contacts take coloration one step further to make you look like a cat, a vampire, or another alter-ego of your choice.

Prosthetic lenses. Colored contact lenses also can be used for more medically oriented purposes. Opaque soft lenses called prosthetic contacts can be custom-designed for an eye that has been disfigured by injury or disease to mask the disfigurement and match the appearance of the other, unaffected eye.

Custom lenses. If conventional contact lenses don’t seem to work for you, you might be a candidate for custom contact lenses that are made-to-order for your individual eye shape and visual needs.

UV-inhibiting lenses. Some soft contact lenses help protect your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet rays that can cause cataracts and other eye problems. But because contacts don’t cover your entire eye, you still should wear UV-blocking sunglasses outdoors for the best protection from the sun.

Scleral lenses. Large-diameter gas permeable lenses called scleral contacts are specially designed to treat keratoconus and other corneal irregularities, as well as presbyopia.

Myopia control contacts. Special contact lenses are being developed to slow or stop the progression of nearsightedness in children.

Which Contact Lens Is Right for You?

First, your contacts must address the problem that is prompting you to wear lenses in the first place. Your contact lenses must provide good vision by correcting your myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism, or some combination of those vision problems.

Second, the lens must fit your eye. To do that, lenses come in tens of thousands of combinations of diameter and curvature. Of course, not every lens brand comes in every “size.”

Your ECP is skilled in evaluating your eye’s physiology, and your eyesight, to determine which lens best satisfies the two criteria above.

Third, you may have another medical need that drives the choice of lens. For example, your ECP might pick a particular lens if your eyes tend to be dry.

Finally, consider your “wish list” of contact lens features — colors, for example, or overnight wear.

When you and your ECP decide on the right lens for you, you’ll be given a contact lens prescription. You’ll be able to buy a supply of lenses from your ECP or from the many other outlets that sell contact lenses.

Contact Lens Wear and Care

Caring for your contact lenses — cleaning, disinfecting and storing them — is much easier than it used to be.

A few years ago, you would have needed several bottles of cleaning products, and perhaps enzyme tablets, for proper care. Today, most people can use “multipurpose” solutions — meaning that one product both cleans and disinfects, and is used for storage.

People who are sensitive to the preservatives in multipurpose solutions might need preservative-free systems, such as those containing hydrogen peroxide. These do an excellent job of cleaning contacts, but it’s very important to follow the directions for using them. The solution should not come into contact with your eyes until soaking is complete and the solution is neutralized.

Of course, you can avoid lens care altogether by wearing daily disposable contact lenses.

Contact Lens Problems

Trial and error often is involved in finding the perfect lens for you. People react differently to various lens materials and cleaning solutions.

Also, the correct “parameters” of your lens — that is, power, diameter, and curvature — can be finalized only after you’ve successfully worn the lens. This is especially true for more complex fits involving extra parameters, such as with bifocals or toric contact lenses for astigmatism.

If you experience discomfort or poor vision when wearing contact lenses, chances are that an adjustment or change of lens can help.

Today, more contact lens choices than ever are available to provide comfort, good vision, and healthy eyes. If your eyes or lenses are uncomfortable or you are not seeing well, remove your lenses and visit your eye care professional to explore available remedies for contact lens discomfort.

Buying Contact Lenses

You can buy replacement contact lenses at many places, and some offer a better value than others. Find out more about where to buy contacts and buying contact lenses online.

More Information About Contacts

For more information about contacts, visit our contact lens FAQ, eye doctor Q&A and contact lens news pages.

FIND A DOCTOR:

Page updated June 2018

Find an eye doctor near you. Notes and References

Contact Lenses 2017. Contact Lens Spectrum. January 2018.

What are the Best Type of Contact Lenses to Wear?

“‘What are the best contact lenses?’ is a question I get asked all the time from my patients who are new to contacts,” says Dr. Wende of Contacts Direct. “I tell them that it is different for every person and there are a lot of brands out there that offer unique features.”

Shop contacts

In the United States, the most commonly prescribed type of contact lenses are soft lenses, which are more comfortable to wear, stay in place better, and are easier to adjust. Soft lenses allow oxygen to pass through the contact lens to the cornea to increase comfort and maintain eye health. We’ve rounded up the best contact lens brands for soft lenses in these important categories. Don’t forget to talk to your doctor about which will be best for you.

Best Contacts Lenses for Extended Wear

ACUVUE OASYS contact lenses have been known as the best contact lenses for many contact wearers! The FDA has approved these contacts for extended wear of six consecutive nights. An extended wear lens provides patients with contacts to fit their specific type of wear schedule. They deliver exceptional comfort that lasts throughout your day, and it feels almost like you are not wearing any lenses.

Best Contact Lenses for Dry Eyes

CooperVision Proclear is a popular contact lens for dry eyes because they are made of a high-water hydrogel material and contain molecules found naturally in human cell membranes. This keeps the Proclear lenses moist and comfortable after 12 hours of wear. Proclear contact lenses currently are the only brand approved by the U.S. FDA to carry this label: “May provide improved comfort for contact lens wearers who experience mild discomfort or symptoms relating to dryness during lens wear.”

Best Contact Lenses for Daily Multifocal Wear

Daily lenses have become increasingly more popular because of their easy and convenient use. The 1-Day ACUVUE MOIST Brand MULTIFOCAL is a part of the ACUVUE MOIST family of products. Wearers of this specific brand report good comfort and superior vision compared to other lenses they have used before.

The technology in these contact lenses consist of a wetting agent permanently embedded into the matrix of the lens that improves end-of-the-day comfort and does not decrease with blinking.

Best Contact Lenses for Monthly Multifocal Wear

AIR OPTIX AQUA Multifocal Contact Lenses are approved for six nights of extended wear and 30 days of daily wear. These contact lenses have a wide range of parameters available including three different ADD powers. In addition, with their unique Precision Profile Design, these contact lenses provide predictably good distance, intermediate and near vision

With soft lenses, oxygen is able to pass through the lens and into the cornea to increase comfort. No one contact will be perfect for everyone, which is why you should talk to your eye doctor about your specific needs. With options for everyone, your vision will be clear, and you won’t have to wear your glasses anymore. Call Contacts Direct to get started finding the perfect lens for you today!

SHOP CONTACTS

October 31, 2019

Types of Contact Lenses

Disposable soft lenses

In 1960, experiments to make contacts out of water-absorbing (hydrophilic) plastic began, and the first soft lens made of such material became available commercially in the U.S. in 1971. The water content of today’s soft lenses ranges from just under 40 percent up to about 80 percent. They normally cover all of the cornea and part of the sclera (white of the eye).

Most disposable soft contacts are designed to be worn from one day to one month, depending on the lens material. They often have high water content and are usually made with thinner, more flexible materials. One-day contacts are disposed of after each use but longer term disposable contacts must be cleaned and disinfected after each removal. Disposable contacts can be prescribed for daily use or extended wear, depending on the brand and purpose in question.

Disposable daily wear lenses first became available in 1987 and exploded in popularity soon after in the 1990s. Daily wear two-day lenses were introduced in 1991, followed by tinted disposable lenses in 1992, one-day disposable lenses in 1995 and multifocal disposable lenses in 1998.

Disposable contacts do not last forever. Each brand of contact lens has a specifically recommended replacement schedule based on the ability of the lens to transmit oxygen and to shed proteins from the surface. Most contact lenses sold in the US today are either daily disposable, 2 week disposable or monthly disposable lenses.

Daily wear contacts

Daily wear contacts are intended to be worn for an entire day, generally around eighteen hours, and are designed to be comfortable for hours on end. Daily wear contacts can be reusable or disposable, meaning they are discarded after several uses.

Extended wear contacts

Daily wear contacts must be removed before sleeping but extended wear contacts can be comfortably worn both night and day.

Part of the struggle in initial extended wear contacts involved the lack of oxygen flow and the discomfort that can come from long term wear, including dry, itchy eyes. Modern technologies have made the adjustment easier with more breathable plastics and technology permitting lenses to move on the eye to prevent dirt and debris from becoming trapped under the lens.

Extended wear contacts might be convenient but there may be some health risks involved. A research study published by the American Academy of Ophthalmology in September of 1997 concluded that individuals who wear extended wear contacts are ten to fifteen times more likely to contract ulcerative keratitis than those who don’t (Preferred Practice Patterns, “Refractive Errors”).

Spherical contacts

Spherical contacts are simple spherical lenses used to treat myopia, hyperopia and presbyopia.

Toric contacts

Toric lenses are cylindrical lenses that rely on gravity and lid interaction to rotate to the right angle in order to correct the warp in the cornea that causes astigmatism.

Multifocal / bifocal

Bifocal and multifocal contacts are intended for individuals with presbyopia. These lenses can provide two or more corrections that gradually shift throughout the contact to provide corrective refraction for aging eyes, both alone and in conjunction with additional disorders.

Monovision contacts

Monovision contacts are prescribed so that one eye is set to see far away, and the other is set to see close up and is used in patients with presbyopia. In time, the eyes and brain adjust to provide one clear field of vision. Because brains are smart.

Conventional contacts

Conventional contacts are generally worn from six months to a year, and are not frequently prescribed due to the improvements in disposable lenses. They are produced in daily wear and extended wear models and can be soft lenses, hard lenses or rigid gas permeable lenses.

Rigid gas permeable (RGP) lenses

The first RGP lenses were introduced commercially in 1979. Also called oxygen permeable lenses, RGP contacts are made of a variety of silicone-acrylate combinations. They normally cover about two-thirds of the cornea. Some contacts use a combination of soft and RGP materials to accommodate unique fitting cases. For example, there’s a lens made with an RGP center surrounded by a soft periphery.

Hard lenses

The first lenses to hit the market in 1945 were what are now known as hard lenses. Until 1945, these lenses were made from hard glass before Plexiglass was discovered. This material is now better known as Plexiglass. Hard lenses are still manufactured in this manner due to history and quality but their use has tapered off significantly, largely due to the discomfort and lack of oxygen flow to the eye.

Easter egg

An Easter Egg is something people hide somewhere they don’t think many people will see it, like this for example. Sometimes humorous in nature, it never has anything to do with the content surrounding it.

Color variation in contact lenses

Due to their rarity and recessive genetic nature, pale eyes have long been desirable. Until the introduction of colored contacts, there was no way for those born with dark eyes to mimic the appearance of blue or green eyes. Highly popular in actors and actresses, many people now make use of colored contacts, whether necessary for correcting refractory errors or not.

Like any other kind of contact lens, colored lenses must be fit and prescribed by a doctor.

Opaque contacts

Opaque contacts are painted with a solid layer of color around the iris and a clear center. They are designed to change the color of even dark eyes. The natural appearance of the eye does not show through, allowing opaque lenses to completely mask the underlying color.

Enhancers

Enhancers, also known as medium tints, are intended to enhance or alter but not obscure one’s natural eye color. Enhancers are designed to be worn by individuals with pale eyes and will have no effects on dark eyes.

Visibility tinted lenses

Visibility tinted lenses have a very slight colored tint, generally blue, added to the lens. Unlike opaque lenses and enhancers, they will not change or mask the color of the eye in any way. Instead, the tints are used to help make a lens more visible in a lens case or should one fall out or drop. Visibility lenses are also called VISITINT or LiteTint.

5 Tips for First Time Contact Lens Wearers

Congratulations on getting your first pair of contact lenses! If you’re like most people, you’ll probably spend the first few days marveling at small visual details that you never noticed before—like dew on the grass and small specks of color on bright green leaves.

It’s a very exciting time but, as with anything new, it might be a little scary too. After all, contact lenses are high-tech medical devices and your vision is one of your most valued senses. As such, it’s important to make good choices so you stay comfortable, happy and safe. Here are five tips designed to put you on the path to a lifetime of success with your new contact lenses.

1. Relax. Lots of people worry that they’ll scratch their eyes while putting their lenses in or—worse—that the contact lens will get stuck behind their eye. Relax. Inserting and removing lenses might make you nervous at first, but as awkward as it may seem, there is no need to be afraid to touch your eye as long as your hands are clean. Plus, the inside of your eyelids are connected to the back of your eye, so your lenses can’t possibly slip into an abyss.

2. Keep lenses clean. Don’t take shortcuts with lens cleaning. Your doctor will give you instructions that are specific to the lens care regime that is chosen for you. For example, if you are told to use a multipurpose solution, every time you remove your lenses, you should rub and rinse and then place them into fresh solution. Don’t just top off the solution that’s already in the case. When you put your lenses on in the morning, empty out the case completely, rinse with fresh solution and leave it uncapped and upside down, on a paper towel to air dry. Your lens case should be replaced every 3 months. If this cleaning routine sounds like too much of a bother, ask your doctor for a daily disposable, such as MyDay® or clariti® 1 day. These lenses can be thrown out every night and exchanged for a fresh new pair each morning, eliminating cleaning and storage concerns.

3. Hydrate. Whether or not you wear contact lenses, it’s important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. In addition, depending on your lifestyle and environment, you may wish to supplement your fluid intake with rewetting drops for your eyes. For example, people who spend a lot of time on the computer or are exposed to dry air, heating or air conditioning often benefit from eye drops—even if they don’t wear contacts. The important rule of thumb if you wear contacts is that you need to make sure that the drop you use is compatible with your lenses. Talk to your doctor about which drops are best for you.

4. Follow your doctor’s recommendations. Use only the products that are suggested by your eye doctor. Don’t substitute lens care products, even for a store brand, without checking with your doctor first. The solution you have was chosen specifically for your type of lens, so don’t make assumptions based on broadly-defined packaging labels. It’s also important to keep your appointments. Whatever follow-up schedule your doctor set, stick to it.

5. Adhere to the prescribed wearing and replacement schedule. Don’t try to write your own rules. Wear your lenses only for the amount of time that your doctor says is safe and replace the lenses according to schedule. Don’t try to stretch out the life of your lenses an extra week. Also, unless you were specifically prescribed continuous wear lenses, you should never sleep in your contacts.

Learning how to do anything new takes time. In fact, it may take about a week until you adapt to your new life with contact lenses and feel truly confident. But, before you know it, contact lenses will become a valued part of the fabric of your life.

Nothing in this blog post is to be construed as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the recommendations of a medical professional. For specific questions, please see your eye care practitioner.

Contact lens wearers are younger on average than non-contact lens wearers. Teens and college age persons (those 15 to 25 years of age) have been associated with lower contact lens compliance and with higher risk for corneal inflammatory events, a category of eye problems that includes serious eye infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Get this high resolution graphic on Flickr.

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These days, eyeglasses can look pretty cool. Still, the day may come when your son or daughter asks you for contact lenses.

There are pros to consider—and cons.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates contact lenses and certain contact lens care products as medical devices. Contact lenses have benefits, says Bernard P. Lepri, O.D., M.S., M.Ed., an FDA optometrist in the agency’s Contact Lens and Retinal Devices Branch.

”They can be better for sports activities, because they don’t break as frames and the lenses of glasses can. And they provide better peripheral vision for sports, or driving, if your teen is of driving age,” Lepri explains. Moreover, in some cases, contact lenses improve the quality of vision in comparison to eyeglasses, especially when a child is very nearsighted, says Lepri.

“On the other hand, you have to remember that contact lenses are medical devices, not cosmetics,” Lepri says. “Like any medical device, contact lenses should be used only if they can be used safely and responsibly. And only under the supervision of your eye care professional.” Serious injury to the eye can result, particularly if the contact lenses are not removed at the first hint of a problem.

Contact Lens Risks And Safety Tips

Kids and contact lenses are not always the best fit.

“Eye care professionals typically don’t recommend contacts for kids until they are 12 or 13, because the risks are often greater than the benefits for younger children,” Lepri says. ”But age isn’t the only issue. It’s also a question of maturity.”

Lepri suggests that parents who are considering contacts for their kids take a look at how well they handle other responsibilities, especially personal hygiene. “It takes vigilance on the part of the parents,” he says. “You need to constantly be looking over your child’s shoulder to make sure they are properly caring for their lenses.“

As many an eye care professional can attest, kids find all sorts of ways to be less than hygienic. Common, dangerous behaviors include wearing another child’s lens; using saliva to moisten a lens; and wearing decorative lenses purchased from flea markets, beauty supply stores, the Internet and other sources. These behaviors can result in injury.

In fact, according to a 2010 study published in Pediatrics, about 13,500 (or one-fourth) of the roughly more than 70,000 children who go to the emergency room each year for injuries and complications from medical devices are related to contact lenses. The problems from contact lenses include infections and eye abrasions—meaning that your eye can be bruised from contact lenses.

The reasons? Hygiene and responsibility. Or rather, Lepri says, the lack thereof. He adds that it’s essential for all people who wear contact lenses to follow their eye care professional’s advice “to the letter.” That means observing all hygienic precautions.

Even lenses without corrective power, such as decorative or so-called “colored” or “costume” contact lenses, are still medical devices and have all the risks other contact lenses do, says Lepri.

“Never buy decorative/costume contact lenses without a prescription from your eye doctor,” Lepri adds. And never buy contact lenses from any supplier that does not require a valid prescription. (Again, even zero-powered contact lenses require a prescription for correct and safe fitting.)

If considering contact lenses, your child should be able to follow the following safety tips.

  • Always wash your hands before cleaning or inserting lenses, and carefully dry your hands with a clean, lint-free cloth.
  • Rub, rinse, clean and disinfect your contact lenses as directed and only with the products and solutions recommended by your eye care professional.
  • Never expose your contact lenses to any kind of water or saliva.
  • Do not wear your lenses for longer than the prescribed wearing schedule. This means that you should not sleep in lenses that were not prescribed to be worn this way.
  • Never wear someone else’s lenses.
  • Always have a prescription for any lenses you wear.
  • When playing sports, wear safety goggles or glasses over your lenses.
  • In general, always have a pair of back-up glasses handy.
  • Never put a contact lens into an eye that is red.
  • Don’t ignore eye itching, burning, irritation or redness that could signal potentially dangerous infection. Remove the lenses and contact your eye care professional. Apply cosmetics after inserting lenses, and remove your lenses before removing makeup.

Not taking the necessary safety precautions can result in ulcers (sores) of the cornea—which is the front of the eye that shields it from germs, dust, and other harmful material—and even blindness.

“Even an experienced lens wearer can scratch a cornea while putting in or taking out a lens,” Lepri notes.

What Else Should You Know?

Eye care professionals generally do not recommend extended wear lenses for kids and teens because they can increase the incidence of corneal ulcers, which can lead to permanent loss of vision.

Although they are a bit more expensive, daily disposable lenses can reduce some of the risks since the wearer is using a new pair of lenses every day.

In addition, children with seasonal allergies are usually not good candidates for wearing contact lenses. The lenses may only increase the itching and burning caused by their allergies.

You can talk with your child about the risks and responsibilities of wearing contact lenses and whether she or he is able to handle these responsibilities. Then talk with your eye care provider to determine if your child is a good candidate for wearing contact lenses.

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How do I choose the best contact lenses?

Contacts

By Gary Heiting, OD

Choosing the right contact lenses is a decision you should make with your eye doctor. The right choice depends on many factors, including your refractive error, how much contact lens wear your eyes can tolerate, your expectations and how willing you are to properly care for your lenses.

Here are some things to consider prior to your eye exam for contacts:

How Often Will You Wear Contacts?

Are you planning to wear contact lenses every day, or just on weekends or for special occasions?

Most people wear soft contact lenses, which usually can be worn comfortably either full-time or part-time. Rigid gas permeable contacts, on the other hand, must be worn on a consistent daily basis for them to be comfortable.

How Picky Are You About The Sharpness Of Your Vision?

Rigid gas permeable contact lenses (also called RGP or GP lenses) may take some getting used to at first, but they often provide sharper vision than soft contact lenses, especially if you have astigmatism.

If you try soft contacts and are disappointed with the clarity of your eyesight, consider switching to GP lenses.

Are You Willing To Care For Your Contacts Properly?

To avoid serious contact lens-related problems, including fungal eye infections and corneal ulcers, it is essential that you use the contact lens solutions your eye doctor recommends.

Though disposable contacts have reduced the risk of some eye infections, daily lens care is still essential to keep your eyes healthy when wearing contact lenses.

If you prefer to avoid the task of cleaning and disinfecting your lenses each day, consider daily disposable lenses. With these “one-day” soft lenses, you simply discard the lenses after a single use and put on a new pair the next day.

Is Overnight Wear Important To You?

Do you like the idea of wearing contact lenses continually, including overnight? Some contact lenses allow high amounts of oxygen to pass through them and have been FDA approved for overnight wear.

But continuous contact lens wear is not safe for everyone. If you are interested in extended wear contacts, your eye doctor will evaluate how well your eyes tolerate overnight wear to determine if it is safe for you.

Do You Want To Change Your Eye Color?

Color contact lenses are available to give you a new look. These specialty soft contact lenses can enhance your eye color or change it altogether, even if you have dark eyes.

Special-effect contact lenses (also called theatrical contact lenses or costume contacts) can dramatically change the appearance of your eyes. Special-effect contacts called gothic contact lenses can even make you look like a vampire in the popular film series, The Twilight Saga.

Theatrical contact lenses are especially popular at Halloween and also are available without corrective power if you don’t need vision correction.

But all contact lenses, even non-corrective (or “plano”) special-effect contacts, are considered medical devices and cannot be purchased without a professional fitting and a contact lens prescription written by a licensed eye doctor.

Do You Wear Bifocals?

If you are over age 40 and need bifocals, multifocal contact lenses can reduce or eliminate your need for reading glasses.

Another option is monovision, where one contact lens is prescribed to give you good distance vision and the contact lens for the other eye is prescribed for good near vision. It may seem odd, but most people with presbyopia find monovision contacts provide clear, comfortable and natural-feeling vision.

What About Contact Lens Costs?

Contact lenses don’t eliminate your need for eyeglasses, so you need to consider the cost of contact lenses and how this affects your budget. When considering contact lens costs, don’t forget to add the cost of contact lens solutions.

Do You Have Allergies Or Dry Eyes?

Eye allergies or dry eyes may affect the comfort of your contacts or limit your ability to wear contact lenses. If you have either of these conditions, discuss them with your eye doctor prior to your contact lens fitting.

Daily disposable contacts can help reduce contact lens-related allergy symptoms and there are specific brands of contact lenses for dry eyes that may help you wear contacts more comfortably.

Seek Professional Advice

After considering all the above, it’s time to visit your optometrist or ophthalmologist for a comprehensive eye exam and contact lens consultation.

Your eye doctor is the best person to help you decide if you are a good candidate for contact lens wear and help you choose contact lenses that are best for your individual needs.

Page updated August 2017

How to Choose Contact Lenses: Which Type Is Right for You?

Are you new to wearing contact lenses? Whether you just found out you need them or are making the switch from glasses, it can feel daunting to start wearing contacts. But there’s no need to worry! Contacts are highly effective. Plus, they’re easy and safe to use! There are many kinds to choose from, so you’ll be able to get exactly what you need.

How do you know which contacts to choose though? Is one type better than another? You’ll need to follow your eye doctor’s instructions, but here are some tips on how to choose contact lenses.

Length of Wear

Before choosing contact lenses, consider how you’re going to wear them. You can wear contact lenses for various lengths of time, so make sure you get the right ones for your lifestyle.

Several-Day Wear

You can rewear some contacts for many days before replacing them. This can mean six days or up to one month, depending on the lens. In most cases, these will be soft lenses. Your doctor will schedule when you should replace them, since these lenses will eventually have buildup and wear out.

Single-Day Wear

Daily disposable lenses are available for people who don’t want to worry about cleaning and maintaining their lenses. You can toss these soft lenses at the end of the day, then pull out a new pair the next morning.

Overnight Wear

Some contacts can be worn overnight because they allow enough oxygen to reach your eyes. Many doctors don’t recommend this though, so check with your doctor to find out what’s safe for you.

Soft or Rigid

Contact lenses are either soft or rigid. Your doctor will help you determine which type is right for you. However, soft contacts are more commonly used. They’re very comfortable, especially for newbies. Also, the flexible hydrogel or silicone hydrogel materials allow better airflow to your eyes.

Rigid contacts are gas permeable and they resist deposit buildup. These lenses provide sharper acuity than soft lenses do. A great plus is they’re cheaper in the long-run because of their durability. But they’re not very comfortable unless worn consistently.

Specific Needs

You need to take into consideration whether you have specific eye-related needs. Find out what they are before choosing your pair of lenses. For example, dry eyes or allergies may make it difficult for you to wear lenses. Daily disposable contacts are best in this case, but always consult a doctor before choosing.

If you enjoy reading but need a different prescription for seeing into the distance, consider asking about bifocal or multifocal contacts. That way, you won’t have to switch back and forth between contacts and glasses.

Contact Lens Types

There are various types of contact lenses, just like there are for glasses. You may need multifocal, bifocal, nearsighted or farsighted lenses. Bifocal contacts are designed to help people who need correction for seeing both far and near. Multifocal lenses include bifocal lenses, but also include trifocal and other lens types. These are available in soft or rigid setups and help provide a natural transition from near to far vision.

If you have astigmatism, both gas permeable and toric lenses will help correct the problem. Both can help with correcting near or farsightedness while also correcting astigmatism. To determine what type of lens you need, visit your eye doctor. He or she will direct you to the lenses that can help you see the best.

Colors and Effects

Not all contact lenses are clear. Some come with colors, either to help you locate your lenses more easily or to provide an effect. Colored lenses can help enhance or transform the color of your eyes. Some can even change the look of naturally dark eyes. Colored lenses can also provide special effects, such as cat eyes. While these are great for Halloween or theatrical performances, you’ll still need a fitting and prescription.

Cost Comparisons

While choosing contact lenses, you will find that prices vary based on many factors. Lens type, brand, length of wear and effects will all come with different costs.

It’s good to get an idea of contact lens costs before you get started. Prepare yourself by researching lenses and calculating what they would cost you to wear. Take into consideration how many days you can wear a pair of lenses. Some prices will be higher because of brand names. If you need budget-friendly options, talk to your doctor to find less expensive brands.

Always Consult Your Doctor

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again! Always see your doctor before buying contacts. Although you can wear them just for fun, contact lenses are medical devices and need prescriptions. Yes, even if you have 20/20 vision, you’ll have to visit an eye doctor for a fitting. Improperly fitting contacts can cause injuries and infections.

There’s a lot to keep in mind when choosing contact lenses. But you should always think about what your doctor’s suggested. You may like the idea of wearing contacts day and night for a month, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe for your specific eyes.

Lenses Aren’t for Sharing

When deciding on a lens type, it may tempt you to try a pair from someone else. If anyone offers to let you try their used lenses, don’t do it. Contact lenses aren’t like glasses.

Since they come into direct contact with your eyes, they contain particles and bacteria. You never want to transfer this stuff from someone else’s eyes to your own. That’d be an invitation for infections.

It’s up to You and Your Doctor

Choosing contact lenses can feel intimidating, whether you’re new to the game or you’ve been around for a while. You’ll find the same type of lenses from several different brands, so it’s important to understand the differences between them.

Keep your doctor’s advice and these tips in mind when comparing your options. And don’t worry about making a perfect choice the first time around. If you don’t like what you chose, you can always try something different next time.

It’s important to keep your eyes healthy. To learn more, read our blog post on contact lenses and general eye health.

How to Get a Contact Lens Prescription

When considering purchasing contact lenses online, the first step is a visit to an optometrist or an ophthalmologist. Here’s what to expect.

Before the exam

Generally, a visit to the eye doctor includes an eye exam, a fitting, and a prescription. When you intend to use your prescription to shop elsewhere, there are a few questions and concerns you should address in advance. Before your exam, ask the doctor if they will prescribe a national brand. Some doctors will only prescribe private label lenses that are not available anywhere but from them.

Contact lens prescriptions are brand specific and cannot be substituted. National brands are available to be purchased anywhere, so requesting this in advance will make it easier to fill your prescription later. Doctors are legally required to provide a written copy of your prescription upon request. Be sure to ask for a copy each time you have an eye exam.

Eye exam & fitting

Once you have established that your doctor will prescribe a well-known brand, you will need an eye exam and a contact lens fitting. Contacts come in a variety of sizes, and the doctor will need to measure your eyes to get the right fit. The size will also depend on the type of lenses you want. The most common are soft lenses and RGP,or Rigid Gas Permeable lenses (read our RGP article here). Your doctor should go over your lens options with you and help you determine which will best meet your needs. If you already wear contacts, but would like to try a different brand, it is best to have a new eye exam so you can be fitted for that brand.

Cosmetic contacts

Contact lenses are prescription medical devices. Even if you just want to purchase cosmetic contact lenses that change your eye color, you will still need an eye exam and a prescription from an eye doctor. The same applies to costume or theatrical contact lenses. However, you may not need a vision test to get a prescription for this type of lens – ask your eye care provider about their policy.

Can I use my glasses prescription for contacts?

Contact lens and glasses prescriptions are not the same. A contact lens must match the size and shape of your eye. Therefore, a prescription for contact lenses contains information like base curve and diameter, as well as brand. Also, glasses rest about 12 millimeters from your eyes, while contacts sit directly on the eye. Contact lenses made to conform to a glasses prescription would be stronger than necessary, which could cause vision problems. Finally, your glasses are shaped to correct for astigmatism (irregular curve in the cornea or lens). However, contacts must be designed to fit the astigmatism, if there is one. If you have a prescription for glasses and would like to try contacts, visit your eye doctor for a new exam and contact lens fitting. Don’t forget to mention you will need a copy of your prescription.

How to read a contact lens prescription

A typical contact lens prescription looks like this: (scroll to the right to see entire table)

  • Eye – Refers to which eye the prescription line item is for. The OD (oculus dexter) means Right Eye, while OS (oculus sinister) refers to Left Eye.
  • Brand – The specific brand or type of contact lens that your eye doctor has fitted you for.
  • BC – This stands for Base Curve, and is the diopter measurement, in millimeters, of the inside curve of your contact lenses. It is usually a number between 8 and 10 and is sized to match or correct the curvature of your eye.
  • DIA – Short for Diameter, this measurement refers to the size, in millimeters, from edge to edge of the contact lens. Soft contact lenses are larger than RGP lenses, but either way, the diameter usually falls between 13 and 15.
  • SPH – Also referred to as Power or PWR, this field references the corrective factor of the contact lenses. A negative number, such as -2.25, in this field indicates myopia, (nearsightedness), while a positive number like +2.25 indicates hyperopia (farsightedness). If your prescription shows the letters PL, which stands for Plano, it means the no correction is needed.
  • CYL – This measurement, which stands for Cylinder, shows how much astigmatism, if any, you have. It is measured in diopters.
  • AX – Short for Axis. Measured in degrees, the axis references the placement of the power in the lens, to compensate for the cornea’s shape when there is astigmatism.
  • ADD – Used for bifocal contact lenses, the number here, measured in diopters, adds a degree of magnification to certain portions of the lens.
  • Color – The customer’s requested tint, if any.

Your prescription will also have an expiration date, usually one to two years from the date of the day it was given to you. Note that once your prescription has expired, you can no longer use it to buy contacts.

Contact lens prescription rights

You are legally entitled to a copy of your contact lens prescription, even if you forget to ask for one at the time of your visit. You may request a copy at any time after the prescription has been finalized. Make sure that the prescription is good for at least one year after the date it was requested – that’s the minimum, not the maximum, required by law. You do not have to sign a waiver or pay a fee to get your contact lens prescription. If your eye care provider tries to insist that you to do either of these, refuse; these practices are illegal. You are also not obligated to purchase your lenses from the outlet where your prescription was issued. You have the right to get your prescription filled whenever and wherever you choose.

Contact lens prescription checklist

Now that you’ve had your exam and fitting and have been given your prescription, double check to make sure everything is in order.

  • Make sure that you have been given a prescription for contact lenses and not for eyeglasses. A prescription for disposable contact lenses will always include a contact lens brand name.
  • Also, verify that the prescription is filled out completely and accurately, with all the relevant information. A soft lens prescription usually includes a lens material name, design, power, base curve, and diameter. RGP prescriptions may also include peripheral curve radii, center thickness, a special peripheral design and an optical zone diameter.
  • Once you’ve verified that all the information is correct, you are ready to make a contact lens purchase from the outlet of your choice.

Just need to renew your prescription? Skip a trip to the doctors office and check out our online eye exam service.

Contacts VS Glasses

Pros and Cons of Contacts: Contact VS Glasses

Choosing between glasses vs contacts depends on what features you value most. Here is an outline of the pros and cons of contacts.

Pros

Contact lenses sit directly on your eyeball. They mold to the curve of your eye. You get a full field of vision without any edges or obstructions.

Also, contact lenses are less likely to fall out or slip out of place compared to glasses.

Contact lenses are virtually invisible. No one will know that you don’t have perfect vision when you wear contact lenses.

One of the best things about contact lenses is that they won’t fog up in cold weather or get wet in the rain. Both of these are some of the biggest challenges to wearing contacts.

With contact lenses, you don’t have to worry about whether or not certain frames suit your face. And contact lenses will never clash with your outfit.

Plus, you can try out tinted contact lenses to change your eye color or opt for special-effect designs for Halloween.

Cons

Contact lenses may be tough to put in and take out when you first get them. Some people are squeamish about touching their eyes.

Wearing contact lenses limits how much oxygen gets to your eyes. This can lead you to have dry, itchy red eyes.

People who work at a computer all day long may find wearing contact lenses difficult. Computer vision syndrome can be caused by the glare on the screen.

Depending on your prescription, you may not be eligible to wear contact lenses.

If you choose weekly or monthly contact lenses you will need to clean and properly store your contacts each day. Otherwise, you are at risk for serious eye infection.

There is also the risk that you could lose your contacts which would make the cost of wearing contacts go up.

Daily disposables don’t require cleaning or storing, but they can be more expensive than other types of contact lenses.

You can’t fall asleep with most contact lenses. If you do, your eyes will be red and irritated when you wake up. And you’ll have to fish out a crumpled contact lens out from behind or to the side of your eye.

Yet, there are extended wear contact lenses which can be worn for 30 days straight.

Now let’s look at the pros and cons of eyeglasses.

Advantages of Glasses Vs Contacts

There are many reasons why people prefer to wear glasses instead of contacts.

For one thing, glasses are easy. You put them on your face and take them off whenever you want.

You don’t need to wash your hands or find a mirror before you can put them on or off. And you never need to touch your eyes. That reduces your risk of eye infection.

Glasses may be less expensive than contacts. Especially if you keep your glasses for a year or more.

There are so many styles of frames to choose from. All you need to do is learn how to choose the right glasses for your skin tone and face shape.

Glasses provide an extra layer of protection against dust and other wind-blown debris. And your eyes are less likely to become dry because glasses don’t limit the amount of oxygen to your eyes.

If you use a lot of screens, eyeglasses may be more comfortable. If you suffer from allergies or have sensitive eyes, glasses may be your safer choice.

Cons of Eyeglasses

There are also some reasons why glasses may not be the best choice for you.

For one thing, they can distort vision at the edges of the lenses. Also, you have a limited view due to the frame’s edge.

If you have a strong prescription, your eyes may appear fish-like and large in glasses. Also, some people don’t like the pressure of glasses on their ears or bridge of their nose.

Earlier we mentioned rain and fog. It can be difficult to see well in rain and fog when you are outside.

Also, when you get new glasses, it can take a little while for your eyes to adjust to the prescription. At first, the floor may seem wobbly or you may get headaches.

Some people don’t like the way they look in glasses.

Glasses are susceptible to being damaged, broken or lost. This will add a big expense to your eyesight budget.

If you are the type of person that is always losing your keys, glasses may be hard for you to keep track of.

Also, glasses are not safe to wear for all activities.

Do you Have an Active Lifestyle?

One of the biggest deciding factors to consider is your lifestyle.

If you are an athlete, an outdoor enthusiast or live an active life, contacts may be your best bet.

You don’t have to worry about not seeing well as you play sports. And you won’t have to worry about them falling off your face as you move.

Contact lenses can be worn with sports gear such as goggles and helmets.

Final Thoughts on Contacts Vs Glasses

At the end of the day, there is no perfect option for everyone. Whether you choose contacts vs glasses is a personal decision that best fits your lifestyle and your preferences.

Check out the Abba Eyecare locations near you to get the finest in vision care.

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