Soft, rigid, disposable… so many contacts, but which are right for me?
If you’re used to wearing glasses, but feel ready for a change, then of course you might consider contacts. Practical and discreet, they can correct myopia, hyperopia, as well as astigmatism and presbyopia, regardless of the strength of your glasses. But with so many types of contacts to choose from, including soft and rigid varieties, as well as lenses designed to be replaced after different amounts of time (annually/quarterly/monthly/fortnightly/daily disposables) and for daily, overnight, permanent wear, etc., how do you work out which ones are for you*?
Before making the switch to contacts, the first thing you need to do is go and see your optometrist, who will assess whether or not you can wear them and what kind of lenses they would recommend*. Don’t worry if wearing contact lenses takes some getting used to at first, that’s only to be expected.
Made from rigid materials, these lenses are not as fragile as soft lenses. On an optical level, they can correct even significant visual impairment. The benefit of rigid contacts lies in their visual results and the fact that they allow for better oxygenation of the cornea, as the materials used to make them are gas permeable. Enabling a tear film to pass between your lens and your eye, they are particularly suitable for those who suffer from dry eyes. However, don’t be surprised if you experience some discomfort at first, as it can take some weeks to adjust.
So, what about soft contact lenses?
Contacts with greater flexibility
Soft contact lenses will be much more readily accepted by your eyes than the rigid option. They can correct the vast majority of visual disorders and are suitable for most activities, as long as they aren’t water based. Soft contact lenses are more popular and take a multitude of forms. The frequency with which they need to be changed can vary, daily disposables being ideal if you don’t want to have to clean them every day, or for occasional wear. Monthly and fortnightly contacts need to be cleaned every day and the quarterly or yearly ones less often. The benefit of soft contacts is that being replaced on a regular basis can help minimize the risk of infection if you think you might forget to clean them. However, those who do not produce enough tear fluid may develop dry eyes.
In reality and regardless of any preference you may have, your optometrist will have the final say. They will take into account your vision problem, how much correction is required, your lifestyle and most importantly, whether or not your eyes can produce enough tear fluid to wear contacts. He will also be able to direct you towards lenses to wear at night, to see without the day. Unless you opt for daily contact lenses, don’t overlook the daily cleaning required to keep your eyes comfortable and minimize the risk of infection. You might also want to consider changing your contact lens case every three months and be mindful of the expiry date on your contact lens solution after opening it. Save the leaflet that comes with it should you ever need to remind yourself of the series of steps to follow. Finally, make sure you have some glasses to hand, just in case. You’ll need to remove your contacts to help clear up any infection or irritation, etc. and obviously don’t want to worry about blurred vision on top of that, especially when driving!
* Contacts are medical devices exclusively available on prescription for first time contact lens wearers. Only an eye doctor, such as an optometrist, can give you this prescription. This article is only intended to help you understand the differences between the various contact lenses, so that you can discuss them with your optometrist, who is the only one who can ultimately determine the best option for you.