A complex system of lenses — including your lens and cornea — make up the basic components of your eyes. The cornea serves as the window to your visual world, in that it forms the clear outer layer of your eyes. The lens is adaptive and changes angles, shape and focus of the images that come through the cornea as needed.
Unfortunately, the human eye is prone to defects that happen either through natural occurrences, trauma or heredity. Eyes with imperfect optic parts are referred to as having a refractive error and need aids, such as eyeglasses or contact lenses, to work properly. Contact lenses are virtually invisible to your outward appearance, making them more and more popular.
The Big Choice
In the past, it depended entirely on the strength of your prescription whether you were a candidate for contact lenses or were stuck with eyeglasses. Advances in technology for both contacts and glasses have made both not only more accessible to more people, but more attractive and easier to use than ever before.
Today’s eyeglasses are lighter, with streamlined lenses for people even with the strongest prescriptions. You don’t have to wear “coke bottle lenses” — they’re virtually extinct now. Contact lenses, on the other hand, offer “accessory-free” vision correction. You may decide that contacts are a better fit for your eyes and your lifestyle.
Pros and Cons of Contact Lenses
Contacts are designed to lie directly on your corneas, that clear window you rely on so much for your sight. The contacts stay in place by adhering to the film of tears made by your eyes, which allows your eyelids to glide smoothly as they open and close. Some of the benefits of choosing contact lenses include:
- You don’t have to pay attention to them while playing sports
- They don’t interfere with your peripheral vision
- No one can tell you’re wearing them (unless you want them to)
- They won’t slide down your nose when you sweat
- They don’t fog up in the winter or when you change temperature environments
- Very often, contacts are more comfortable and provide better overall vision
Of course, there are also risks associated with wearing contact lenses. And because of those risks, it’s vital that you follow your eye doctor’s recommendations and the lens manufacturer’s directions. A few pitfalls associated with wearing contacts include:
- You can get corneal ulcers
- It’s easier to develop eye infections
- There’s the potential of causing corneal scratches, which can heal in time
- Contacts aren’t recommended if you work around chemical fumes
- You’re at greater risk of getting pink eye
- It’s harder to tell if you have an eye problem
- They may be uncomfortable if you live or work in an exceptionally dry environment or have allergies that affect your eyes and tear production
- Untreated, misuse and poor contact lens management can lead to blindness
Variations and Options
Once you’ve had a thorough eye exam that includes special measurements to ensure the right fit, your optometrist or ophthalmologist will have a better idea about which kind of contact lens work best to fit with your:
Once you understand the responsibilities that come with taking proper care of your contact lenses to prevent infections and eye damage, then you can consider the various options. Soft contacts are the most popular. And they are appropriate for a wide range of vision abnormalities from nearsightedness and farsightedness to irregular corneas and astigmatisms. Options include:
- Daily wear soft contacts usually are the least expensive. They have to be removed every evening and cleaned. You throw them away according to the manufacturer’s schedule, which could be anywhere from a week to a month or more.
- Disposable lenses are similar to daily wears in that you take them out each night. But disposables don’t need to be cleaned and offer options that include one-day use. These are more expensive and may be more appropriate if you wear contacts only occasionally.
- You can sleep in extended wear contact lenses, taking them out to clean about once a week. These may be a little less popular because they do increase the risk of developing other eye problems.
Hard contact lenses, also referred to as gas permeable or rigid lenses, work well if you can’t wear soft lenses because you have dry eyes. Gas permeable lenses provide a clearer, crisper vision than soft lenses and they breathe better, decreasing the odds you’ll get an infection. Most hard lenses require daily cleaning, but some allow you to go as long as a month before taking them out for cleaning. Rigid lenses don’t need to be replaced as often as soft lenses. If your prescription remains the same, very often you can go up to three years before you need to get new ones.
Contact your eye doctor if you experience eye pain while wearing your contacts. Remove your contacts and make an appointment if you notice:
- Discharge in your eyes
- Light sensitivity
Lubricating eye drops can help if your contacts become uncomfortable. But the most important information you need to prevent complications while wearing contacts includes:
- Wash and rinse your hands thoroughly before handling your contacts
- Replace contacts according to the manufacturer’s schedule
- Take out contacts when you sleep; it’s best even to remove extended-wear lenses every night
- Don’t moisten your contacts with saliva
- Take them out when you go swimming or come in contact with chlorine
- Follow directions for cleaning your lenses
- Use only the recommended cleaning solution that’s sterile and commercially prepared