Planning On Contact Lenses? Here's What You Should Know
- Contact lenses should be washed with commercial lens solutions only
- Contact lenses correct vision and may also add color to your eyes
- Contact lenses may cause conjunctivitis and other problems
- Contact lenses should not be worn during swimming
Having a good vision helps your overall well-being and allows you to be independent.
However many people cannot see correctly but their vision can be corrected using glasses, contact lenses, or surgical interventions.
Wearing contact lenses has its own set of benefits. Find these out below!
What are contact lenses?
A contact lens is a thin, plastic, or glass lens that is fitted over the cornea of your eye to correct vision problems like myopia, hyperopia, or astigmatism.
With various advances in technology, contact lenses have become more versatile than ever.
All types of contact lenses, even those used for aesthetic purposes, are medical devices that need to be prescribed by an eye doctor.
Different types of contact lenses
There are two general categories of contact lenses: soft and rigid gas permeable (RGP). All contact lenses require a valid prescription.
Soft contact lenses: These are made of soft, flexible plastics that allow oxygen to pass through to the cornea.
Soft contact lenses may be easier to adjust to and are more comfortable than rigid gas-permeable lenses.
Newer soft lens materials include silicone-hydrogels to provide more oxygen to your eye while you wear your lenses.
Rigid gas permeable (rgp) contact lenses: These are more durable and resistant to deposit build-up, and generally give a clearer, crisper vision.
They tend to be less expensive over the life of the lens since they last longer than soft contact lenses. They are easier to handle and less likely to tear.
However, they are not as comfortable initially as soft contacts and it may take a few weeks to get used to wearing RGPs, compared to several days for soft contacts.
Extended-wear contact lenses: These contact lenses are available for overnight or continuous wear ranging from one to six nights or up to 30 days.
Extended-wear contact lenses are usually soft contact lenses. They are made of flexible plastics that allow oxygen to pass through to the cornea. There are also very few rigid gas-permeable lenses that are designed and approved for overnight wear.
Length of continuous wear depends on lens type and your eye care professional's evaluation of your tolerance for overnight wear. The eyes need to have a rest without lenses for at least one night following each scheduled removal.
Disposable (replacement schedule) contact lenses: The majority of soft contact lens wearers have been prescribed some type of frequent replacement schedule.
"Disposable," as defined by the FDA, means used once and discarded. With a true daily wear disposable schedule, a brand new pair of lenses is used each day.
Some soft contact lenses are referred to as "disposable" by contact lens sellers, but actually, they are for frequent/planned replacement.
With extended wear lenses, the lenses may be worn continuously for the prescribed wearing period (for example, 7 days to 30 days) and then thrown away. When you remove your lenses, make sure to clean and disinfect them properly before reinserting them.
Colored contacts: Colored tints can be added to certain contact lenses that make them easier to see when handling, enhance or change eye color, and improve contrast for outdoor sports, like golf and softball.
Contact lenses with novelty effects are available, but should still be handled and cared for like prescription lenses.
Benefits of using contact lenses
Wearing contact lenses has many potential benefits as follows:
1. See Well
- Contact lenses correct most vision problems, including near-sightedness (myopia): blurred vision far away, far-sightedness (hyperopia): blurred vision close up, astigmatism: a blurred vision both far away and close up, presbyopia: blurred vision close-up in aging adults
- Contact lenses move with the eye for vision correction that can feel and look natural.
- Some studies have shown that specially fitted contact lenses may help slow the progression of near-sightedness in children and teens, although they are not currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for this purpose
2. Feel Well
- The variety of contact lens materials and replacement schedules available allows eye doctors to select the best option for an individual's eyes, lifestyle, and budget.
- Contact lenses allow individuals to maintain a natural appearance without glasses or, if they choose, to change the appearance of their eyes with colored contact lenses.
3. Play Well
- Well-fitting contact lenses stay in place on the eyes and improve peripheral (side) vision during sports and activities.
- Contact lenses do not fog up like glasses when outdoors, in low-temperature work environments, or playing sports.
How should you use contact lenses
Before getting contact lenses, you must see your eye doctor for a thorough eye exam and fitting. You might need a follow-up exam after one week, one month, and six months, and then once every year or two years.
Compared with glasses, contact lenses require a longer initial examination and more follow-up visits to maintain eye health.
To avoid any complications in using these lenses, follow the steps given below to ensure a hassle-free experience;
- Practice good hygiene. Before handling contacts, wash your hands with soap and water, rinse and dry them with a lint-free towel.
- Minimize contact with water and saliva. Remove your contact lenses before you swim or use a hot tub. Don't put your lenses in your mouth to wet them.
- Take care with contact lens solutions. Use only commercially prepared, sterile products designed for the type of contact lenses you wear. Discard the solution in the contact lens case each time you disinfect and store your lenses. Gently rub and rinse your lenses as directed by your doctor. Don't use a contact solution that's past the expiration date.
- Replace contact lenses and cases as recommended. Follow manufacturer guidelines for replacing your contact lenses. Clean and rinse your case with sterile contact lens solution each time you finish using it. Don't use tap water. Consider flipping over the case while it's air-drying to drain any solution. Replace your case every three months.
- Avoid over-the-counter contact lenses. These lenses can cause eye injuries and infections. If you're interested in decorative contact lenses, talk to your eye doctor.
Even with proper use and care, dry eyes can be an issue for contact lens wearers. If your eyes are itchy or red, remove your contact lenses and use lubricating eyedrops.
Do contact lenses carry any drawbacks?
Using contact lenses can be beneficial and dangerous at the same time. If you use them with utmost care and after consulting with your eye doctor, you may not experience any problems.
Conjunctivitis due to contact lenses is one of the common issues. However, improper use of these can have serious consequences on your health.
The most common concerns and conditions related to wearing contact lenses include:
- Eye irritation or pain
- Swelling around the eye
- Blurry vision or sensitivity to light
- Conjunctivitis ("pink eye")
- Corneal ulcers (injury to the smooth, clear front portion of the eye)
- Infectious keratitis (inflammation of the cornea due to an infection).
Infections caused by contact lenses
Many lens-related disorders may be the result of complex interactions.
1. Bacterial keratisis
An example is bacterial keratitis majorly caused by Pseudomonas.
Contact lens-wearing eyes are more susceptible to bacterial infection resulting both from epithelial trauma and/or physiological stress, particularly in extended wear, the exposure of the eye to pathogenic bacteria contaminating the lens case, and adhering to the lens, sticky eyes after wearing contact lenses are a major concern.
Contact lens papillary conjunctivitis (CLPC) is a reversible, inflammatory reaction of the upper palpebral conjunctiva (UPC) and is characterized by enlarged papillae and mucus secretion.
This condition is an inflammatory condition commonly seen in soft contact lens wearers. Topical antibiotics recommended by an ophthalmologist are a suitable treatment for bacterial conjunctivitis caused by contact lenses.
2. Corneal ulcers caused by contact lenses
While contacts rarely harm the cornea, sleeping in contacts not intended for extended wear can make a corneal infection or even an ulcer more likely to happen.
Treatment for this can include prolonged antibiotic courses or even a corneal transplant in serious cases.
Dos and don'ts of using contact lenses
Your daily contact lens routine may seem to be working well. But experts say some common practices can be threatening to eye health.
Follow these to have a safe contact lens experience:
- Get an eye exam annually
- Visit your ophthalmologist in case of any eye discomfort
- Wash your lenses and case thoroughly with a commercial contact lens solution
- Sleep in your contact lenses
- Use your lenses beyond their recommended date
- Wear lenses while bathing or swimming
- Ignore the signs of an infection
Contact lenses have many benefits like correcting your vision and aesthetic properties like changing your look for a Halloween party. They make you skip your glasses and feel comfortable.
However, if not used properly, they can cause irritation and infections like conjunctivitis. These should not be ignored and should be examined by an eye doctor who may recommend some topical antibiotics.
Following a good hygienic routine and regular eye exams can give you a safe and pleasurable contact lens experience.
Did you like our Article?
- Healthy contact lens wear and care available from CDC
- Contact lenses available from Cleveland Clinic
- Types of contact lenses available from FDA
- Types of contact lenses available from AOA
- Can wearing contacts harm your vision? available from Harvard Health Publishing
- Raju K, et al. Journal of Ophthalmology. 2019;4:000172.
- Azari AA, et al. Jama. 2013 Oct 23;310(16):1721-30.
- Dart JK, et al. The British journal of ophthalmology. 1993 Jan;77(1):49.