Gone are the days of basic choices for contact lens wearers. It’s a brave – and potentially confusing – new world of options. Adding to the confusion: your eyes might not like some of them.
We talked with different doctors to get the scoop on products and patient protocol when it comes to contact lenses.
New Takes on Old Standbys
At the basic decision point, two types are in play – rigid gas permeables (RGPs) and soft lenses. They’ve both been around a long time and have their loyal followers. Each has pros and cons. And, new uses and product enhancements have sprung up in recent years. They both correct typical vision problems, including astigmatism, and even age-related presbyopia.
But here’s where they’re different. RGPs, as their long name suggests, are rigid. After a couple weeks, most people find them comfortable – but it takes time. The big plus is they’re durable, sometimes lasting for years. They’re easy to clean and handle. At the top of the list of pluses – they deliver very crisp vision. Also, doctors have had some success slowing down the development of nearsightedness in kids and adults alike through using RGPs lenses.
Soft lenses are more quickly comfortable for most wearers, but they’re less durable and can be more frustrating to handle. They also come in a variety called torics that can correct astigmatism. And, like with RGPs, you can find them in colors.
Here is where the choices can be downright overwhelming – without the help of an eye doctor to steer you in the right direction. Advances in soft lens materials in recent years are staggering.
In the world of soft lenses, two basic decisions are how often you’ll take the lenses out and how often you will completely replace them.
Daily wear lenses are for daytime use only and you remove them and clean them each night. Extended wear lenses allow you to sleep with them in and keep them in for varying intervals – depending on the brand and instructions. According to two contact lens experts, O.D.s D. Wes Wheadon and John Schachet, the most exciting advance in extended wear lenses came in 2002, when the FDA approved a high-oxygen lens. The brands vary, but they all promise greater comfort and fewer irritations, because the modern material allows more precious oxygen through to the eye.
There are more choices nowadays – disposable and frequent replacement lenses. These have throw-away schedules ranging from daily to quarterly.
So, what to choose? The first thing is to see an eye doctor. Then, as another doctor suggests, let your lifestyle be your guide. You may end up with the unique approach for you – like having throwaway lenses for travel and extended wear lenses the rest of the time.