Types of Contact Lenses
Millions of people wear contact lenses to help them see clearly. We’ve seen many advancements in lens materials and designs over the years. If you have tried contacts in the past, but stopped due to discomfort or poor quality, it may be time to try again. Our doctors will help select the best option for your eyes! We have a variety of options for your specific type of prescription correction, tear production, lifestyle, and more. Contact us at Eye Institute of Marin to learn more.
Soft Contact Lenses
Soft contacts are the most common type of contact lenses and account for over 85% of contact lenses dispensed. Traditional soft contact lenses consist of soft plastic polymers and water. They allow oxygen to permeate through the lens material to the cornea. Most people find soft contact lenses comfortable. One advantage of soft contacts is that people assimilate to them almost right away. Soft lenses come in different prescriptions and designs depending on your budget and need. For some prescriptions, they do not offer the same visual acuity as gas permeable lenses or glasses. Our doctors will help you determine which design is best for you.
Disposable Contact Lenses
Disposable contact lenses are soft lenses that are discarded on a daily, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis. With regular replacement, protein deposits do not build up. Deposits can affect vision, comfort, and the health of the eyes. These lenses are convenient and low-maintenance compared to traditional soft lenses. It is important to replace disposable contacts as suggested to avoid eye infection. Disposable lenses are available in most prescriptions.
Extended Wear Contact Lenses
Extended wear contact lenses are gas-permeable or soft lenses designed for up to 30 days of continuous safe wear. They offer the convenience of not having to take them out at night, but there are risks. Sleeping in them poses a higher risk of infection, corneal ulcers, and abnormal blood vessel growth in the cornea. These lenses need more frequent follow-ups. Some doctors will not recommend extended wear lenses for these reasons.
Tinted or Cosmetic Contact Lenses
Tinted contact lenses are soft lenses that enable some patients to change the color of their iris (the colored part of the eye). These lenses are available in interesting colors and patterns. They can provide a subtle or dramatic change in the appearance of your eyes. They are not available for all prescriptions and are not suggested for everyday wear.
Hard Contact Lenses
Before the introduction of soft contact lenses, hard polymethyl methacrylate contact lenses were common. They did not allow for oxygen transfer to the cornea and often caused the cornea to swell. For this reason, hard contact lenses are obsolete.
Rigid Gas Permeable Lenses
Rigid Gas Permeable (RGP), or just Gas Permeable (GP) lenses are sometimes mistaken for old-fashioned lenses. The old hard contact lenses that people know are rarely used today. RGP lenses are more pliable, more comfortable, and they allow oxygen to the cornea. Gas permeable lenses also allow more oxygen to the cornea than traditional soft contact lenses. They do not change their shape when you blink or move your eyes because they are rigid. This means they offer sharper vision than soft contacts. They are much more durable than soft lenses. Because they do not contain water, proteins and lipids do not adhere to them like they can do with soft lenses. RGP lenses also come in many bifocal and multifocal designs.
The biggest disadvantage of RGP lenses is that patients need to get used to them. They are not immediately comfortable like soft lenses. RGP lenses take three to four days for patients to adapt to them. They need to be worn regularly (although not every day) to achieve optimal comfort. They are smaller in size so they can dislodge from the eye more easily than soft lenses.
Toric Contact Lenses
Toric contact lenses help correct astigmatism. They are available in both soft and gas-permeable designs. These lenses have one power that is vertical and another that is horizontal. There is a weight at the bottom, allowing the lenses to center correctly on the eye. Toric lenses are more difficult to fit. They generally require more time from the patient to determine their comfort. They may need additional fitting help from the doctor.
Bifocal Contact Lenses
Bifocal contact lenses, like bifocal glasses, have more than one power. This allows an individual to have clear vision in fields that are near and far. These lenses are available in both soft and gas-permeable designs. Another alternative to bifocal contacts is monovision correction. With these lenses, one eye is used for distance and the other eye for near or reading vision. Both of these lens types require more time from the doctor for fitting. Patients need to adapt to using one eye, depending on which distance they are viewing.
There are now more choices for contact lenses than ever before. While some individuals wear contact lenses without trouble, others have to try different types to find their perfect pair. Call our office today to schedule an appointment!