According to the CDC, about 45 million Americans wear contact lenses. Contact lenses are a medical device regulated by the FDA. If worn and cared for properly, contact lenses provide a comfortable and safe alternative to glasses wear.
Soft Contact Lenses
The most common type of contact lenses are soft, disposable lenses. Soft contact lenses are worn during the day, removed at night, and replaced on a prescribed schedule- typically daily, bi-weekly, or monthly. The most convenient and safest option is a daily disposable, which are available for a wide variety of prescriptions. These lenses are “one time use” lenses: wear during the day, then throw them away. Daily disposables are perfect for people who want the convenience of not having to clean their lenses or remember when they need to be replaced. People who experience dry eye or seasonal allergies do well in daily contact lenses. They are also ideal for children and those who wear their contacts part-time.
Soft contact lenses are also available in 2-week and monthly replacement schedules. It is important to remove your lenses before sleeping, and replace them on time in order to keep your eyes healthy. Other replacement schedules such as quarterly and yearly are typically not recommended due to the superior quality and performance of lenses designed for more frequent replacement.
Gas Permeable Contact Lenses
Gas Permeable (GP) contact lenses are made of a rigid material and are not meant to be disposable. One pair of GP lenses will typically last for a year, and should be removed and cleaned nightly for optimal eye health. It is recommended to replace GP lenses yearly.
GP lens care and handling
Specialty Contact Lenses
Certain conditions including keratoconus, pellucid’s marginal degeneration, or corneal surgery such as RK or corneal transplants may result in an irregular shaped cornea. This may cause soft or GP lenses to fit improperly, resulting in poor vision and discomfort. Scleral lenses are made of a rigid material, but are larger than traditional GP lenses. Scleral lenses are designed to rest gently over the white part of the eye, while vaulting over (instead of resting on) the cornea. In this way, the fit of the lens is more stable and the vision may be vastly improved over glasses or soft/GP lenses.
Ortho-Keratology (Ortho-K) is a special type of GP lens that is worn overnight and removed during the day. The Ortho-K lens gently re-shapes the cornea, which results in a temporary reduction in nearsighted prescription. People who wear Ortho-K lenses can typically enjoy clear vision all day long, without the use of glasses or contact lenses. Ortho-K is not permanent and can be discontinued at any time with no adverse effects, thus is a good alternative to LASIK. In many recent studies, Ortho-K has been proven to slow the progression of nearsightedness, or myopia.
Caring for your contact lenses
Whether you wear soft, GP, or specialty contact lenses, it is crucial to follow your doctors’ instructions on caring for your lenses. Contact lens wearers have a higher risk of eye infection, simply because of having a device on the surface of the eye. Caring for your lenses properly helps reduce the risk of infection and complications.
- Always wash your hands before handling your contact lenses
- Remove your lenses before sleeping and replace them on the schedule prescribed by your doctor
- Always use the solution your doctor prescribes for you
Your doctor prescribes a solution for you specifically based on your eyes and material of lens that you wear
The “generic” version of your solution is not the same, and will not perform as well as the name brand
Soak your contacts in fresh solution, never just “top it off”
- Replace your contact lens case every 3 months
- Contact lenses of all types should be removed before swimming or using a hot tub
- If you experience redness, pain, discomfort, or blurred vision, remove your contact lenses immediately and schedule an appointment with your optometrist
- Have a pair of glasses, in good condition, with your current prescription
- Have yearly eye exams to ensure that the eyes remain healthy