What is a contact lens?
A contact lens is a thin, curved lens placed on the film of tears that covers the surface of your eye. The lens itself is naturally clear, but is often given the slightest tinge of color to make them easier for wearers to handle.
Types of contact lenses
Soft Contact Lenses
In the UK there are approximately 3.7 million contact lens wearers according to the British Contact Lens Association (BCLA); of these the majority are wearing soft contact lenses.
Soft contact lenses are the most popular choice for a number of reasons. They are made from the latest optical technology, making them comfortable, flexible and extremely breathable for long hours of wear. Their adaptable design also means they are compatible for almost anyone who wants to wear lenses.
A soft contact lens wearer also has much more freedom than a gas permeable wearer who is often bound by strict wearing patterns. Soft lenses can be worn sporadically and therefore are a great choice for anyone wants to switch between lenses and glasses frequently.
As everyone leads different lifestyles soft contact lenses are supplied in a variation of different wearing patterns, these are:
- Daily Disposable-Daily disposable contact lenses also known as dailies are designed to be worn for one day and then thrown away. They require no additional products such as contact lens solution, although wearers sometimes find it handy to have some eye drops available if their eyes start to dry out.Dailies are great for the following people:
- Busy professionals or people that don’t want to be tied into additional cleaning and maintenance routines.
- People that only want to wear lenses occasionally. Especially useful for sport enthusiasts.
- Allergy sufferers: Due to the short frequency of wear there is less time for dirt and allergens to build up on the surface and cause irritation.
- Two-weekly Disposable (sometimes referred to as weekly)-Two-weekly contact lenses require daily cleaning and storage overnight. For this you will need a compatible contact lens solution. Your optician will recommend one that works best, but now day’s most multi-purpose solutions are safe to use with soft contact lenses. If you’re wearing silicone hydrogel lenses it’s worth double checking these are compatible if buying your own lens solution. Two weekly lenses are great for the following people:
- First time wearers: They are often recommended for teenagers who want to wear their lenses frequently as they don’t require as much care as monthly lenses.
- For dry eye sufferers who are struggling with monthly lenses and want a lower cost alternatively to daily disposables.
- Monthly Disposable-Monthly disposables are often called monthlies, and similar to two-weekly lenses they are worn daily, cleaned and stored overnight. As you’ve probably guessed already, you wear these lenses for a month and then change them for a new pair.Monthlies are great for the following people:
People who want to wear their lenses 5 or more days a week.
For the cost conscious buying monthly lenses is much more cost effective than dailies.
- Extended Wear-Extended wear contact lenses are made from silicone hydrogel, one of the latest advancements in lens technology. The silicone hydrogel material allows up to five times more oxygen to reach the eyes surface than that of a traditional soft lens, making these contact lenses exceptionally breathable.If you’re interested in silicone hydrogel lenses please keep in mind that not all lenses made from this material are designed for extended wear. There are daily, two-weekly and monthly silicone hydrogel lenses available such as Day Acuvue Trueye, Clariti and Avaira.
Extended wear contact lenses are also a popular choice because they can be worn continuously for a period of time, usually no longer than 30 days. This means you don’t need to take them out when you sleep or shower, making them extremely low maintenance.
Extended wear lenses are perfect for the following people:
People that are constantly on-the-go.
Anyone seeking a contact lens that requires little time and care.
- Rigid gas permeable (RGP)- These contact lenses are very durable, some lasting for several years. They are less flexible than soft lenses, so can require time to get used to before they feel comfortable. They also require a thorough care routine to prevent infection. RGP lenses are better for correcting the effects of astigmatism, as they create a new refractive surface over the cornea.
- Coloured contact lenses- These are soft lenses made to wear as daily or monthly disposables that can change a person’s eye colour. They are often available in a range of colours and shades.Coloured or cosmetic lenses can be purchased to match an existing prescription for long or short-sightedness; some of the most popular include the Freshlook range made by Alcon. If you have a more severe eye condition such as astigmatism or presbyopia you will find it difficult to find any mainstream coloured lenses that are compatible. If you really want to wear coloured lenses we would advise speaking to your optician to see what options are available.They can also be worn by people who don’t require contact lenses normally; this is called ‘no prescription’ or ‘plano’. If you want to by coloured prescriptions for cosmetic use only you will need to select ‘0.00’ under the power/sphere in the prescription details. It’s very important that you see an optician for a contact lens fitting even if you want to buy lenses with no prescription.
Things to remember if you use contact lenses
Clean Hands: Clean, germ-free palms is the first step while handling contact lens. Wash your hands thoroughly with clear, lotion-free soaps and dry your hands before wearing the lens.
Keep The Case Clean: Ensure a very clean contact lens case all the time. According to a study published by the Optometry and Vision Science in 2015, people who didn’t clean and dry contact lens cases had a higher count of microorganisms in the case and often suffered from several eye infections.
The best way to clean your case is with contact lens solution. Pour contact lens solution in the case, clean it and rub dry with a tissue. Replace with a fresh case for every 3 months.
Fresh Solution: Always use fresh solution while placing contact lens in the case. Adding new solution to old solution in the case or cleansing lenses with the water may cause Acanthamobea Keratitis, a painful condition difficult to treat.
Don’t sleep in Contact Lens: Sleeping in contact lens increases the risk of eye infection and is strongly discouraged by the ophthalmologists. While few contact lens can be used at night, talk to your doctor if it is permitted to sleep wearing contact lens.
No Shower or Swimming: Do not ever take a shower while contact lens. Remove them before shower or swimming as tiny organisms present in water can lead to an eye infection. Once on contact lens these organisms tend to grow in number and strength ultimately leading to an eye infection.
Replace Regularly: Learn about your contact lens and talk to doctor about the right time to discard them. Few lenses need to be thrown away every day, every week or every month. Only gas permeable lenses can be worn for a year. Read the detailed description about the lens before you start using it.
Consult Your Doctor: Make it a point to see your ophthalmologist for every six months. Issues related to contact lens are occasionally detected during regular exams and a preventive care can stop several issues. Stop using contact lens if you eyes are itchy, turn red and watery.