With around 40 million people wearing them in the United States alone, contacts have to accommodate for a wide variety of individual needs. There are many types of contact lenses available, categorized by lens materials, wearing time, design and vision correction abilities. When choosing contacts, consider the following factors and ask yourself which ones will best fit your needs.
When choosing contacts, ask yourself why you want to wear contact lenses in the first place. From there consider which kinds best suit your lifestyle, budget and vision correction needs. If you try one style and it does seem like the best fit, try another next time. Your eye doctor should be able to help narrow down the options before a prescription has been written.
Types of Wearing Time
• Daily Wear
Daily wear contact lenses cannot be slept in and need to be removed on a nightly basis.
• Extended Wear
Extended wear contacts can be slept in nightly, with wear times ranging from 7 to 30 days.
Types of Replacement Time
• Daily Disposable
A brand new pair of contacts are worn every single day and then disposed of.
Disposable lenses are generally worn for 2 weeks before replacement.
• Frequent Replacement
These can be re-used for 1 to 4 months before replacement.
Reusable lenses that can be worn for 6 months or longer.
Types of Lens Materials
• Silicone Hydrogel Contacts (Soft)
Designed for comfort, silicone hydrogel is the most popular material in the United States and are prescribed to 68% of contact wearers. They are an improved soft contact lens that allow more oxygen to permeate the lens and reach the eye.
• Gas Permeable (GP) Contacts (Hard)
The advantage of choosing GP contacts is they provide the sharpest vision available. Made from a polished and hard material, these have a rigid feel and allow gas to pas through to the eye surface. GP can take several weeks of adaptation for the lens to become comfortable.
• Hybrid Contacts
The best choice for people seeking a balance of comfort and clarity. There is a porous skirt of silicone hydrogel around the edges of GP lenses that allows oxygen to permeate and reach the eye. Hybrid lenses tend to be more expensive and difficult to use than other designs.
Types of Vision Correction
Spherical lenses are the standard in contact lens design, and can correct nearsightedness, or myopia, and farsightedness, or hyperopia.
Similar to bifocal glasses, these contacts can correct for nearsightedness and farsightedness at the same time by utilizing different prescription zones on the lenses.
Only worn while sleeping, orthokeratology lenses reshape the curvature of the eyes overnight, resulting in lens-free vision throughout the following day.
Astigmatisms require toric lenses that adjust the the eye or eyes specific needs.
Which are Right for You?
• For the sharpest vision available, gas permeable (GP) lens materials are the best option. These are polished with a hard surface and provide the best quality of vision.
• For astigmatism, choose from the “toric” subcategory of vision correction, available in both soft and hard lens materials. This design accommodates for unequal curvature of the eye.
• For maximum comfort, soft contact lenses are the best option. Silicone hydrogel is usually comfortable as soon as they are worn, with a variety of wearing and replacement times available.
• For convenience, choose daily disposable wear times. They do not require overnight storage or cleaning, and are simply discarded every night and replaced with new lenses in the morning.
• For people with presbyopia, there are bifocal contacts available that can accommodate for this condition. Bifocal designs restore vision with nearsighted and farsighted zones on the lenses.
• For only occasional contact use, soft lenses are the easiest and most comfortable contacts available. They require minimal adjusting time and are good for social events, sports and other special occasions.
• For people who do not want to bother with apply, removing, cleaning and storing contacts on a daily basis, extended wear lenses are the best option. These can be worn continuously for 7 to 30 days.
• For a cross between comfort and sharpest vision available, hybrid lenses are the way to go. These combine hard and soft contact materials to achieve a balance between the two designs.
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