Good eyesight is an essential part of performing daily tasks and also an important part of our overall health and well-being. Unfortunately, we aren’t all blessed with perfect vision, but thankfully there are options that can help.
Approximately 45 million people in the United States wear contact lenses to improve their vision, and for many, it’s a preferable alternative to wearing glasses.
What are Contact Lenses?
Contact lenses are thin lenses made of a type of plastic designed to be placed directly on the front surface of the eye. Contact lenses are most frequently used to correct blurry vision, similar to the function of glasses.
After visiting an eye doctor, you are prescribed custom contact lenses especially tailored to your vision and the shape of the front of your eye.
The Benefits of Contact Lenses
Wearing contact lenses offers many benefits, but most importantly they work to correct many vision-related issues.
- Astigmatism. This is when the front surface of your eye, the cornea, has a non-spherical shape or when the natural lens in your eye is shaped irregularly. Astigmatism can cause blurred vision with both objects in the distance or close by.
- Myopia. Also known as nearsightedness, this is when you have trouble seeing things far away.
- Hyperopia. Also known as farsightedness, with hyperopia, objects up close are blurry.
- Presbyopia. This is when your eyes gradually lose the ability to focus up close as a normal part of the aging process. It typically begins around or after age 40.
What Are the Different Types of Contact Lenses?
Daily Disposable Contact Lenses
Daily disposable contacts are single-use, usually applied in the morning and removed and discarded at night. Many people prefer daily use contact lenses as they require little maintenance. They do not need to be cleaned or stored. Daily disposable soft contact lenses have a strong safety profile due to starting with a new, sterile contact lens each day.
Planned Replacement Contact Lenses
Planned replacement contact lenses are contact lenses that are worn for a specified number of days, usually either one week, two weeks or one month. They are most frequently removed at the end of the day and stored in a multipurpose disinfecting solution overnight until morning. Occasionally, some planned replacement contact lenses (that are approved for extended wear) are worn overnight, often up to one week.
Extended wear contacts do come with risks, such as corneal ulcers and bacterial eye infections. Therefore, they are not highly recommended by many eye care providers. People who do wear extended wear contact lenses should be especially prudent to not wear the lenses longer than prescribed.
Specialty Contact Lenses
- Multifocal Lenses. These lenses are designed to help people see both far away and up close.
- Toric Lenses. Toric contact lenses correct astigmatism.
- Colored Lenses. Through a special dye applied to the lens, these contact lenses are most often used aesthetically to change the color of your eyes. They also can assist with light sensitivity and can alter color perception.
- Rigid Gas Permeable Lenses. Rigid gas permeable lenses are hard contact lenses, and similar to soft contact lenses, can be used to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, and presbyopia.
- Scleral lenses. These lenses extend over the white part of the eye and help vision if the wearer suffers from irregular issues with the cornea, such as severe dry eye and keratoconus, which is a condition where the outer front surface of the eye, the cornea, thins and develops a cone-like shape.
Are Contact Lenses Safe?
All people who wear contact lenses should be properly instructed by their eye care professional on the correct way to insert and remove their lenses, as well as the wearing time and proper disinfection of their lenses prior to being discarded. If you don't properly clean and replace contact lenses regularly and do not practice good eye hygiene, you increase the risk of eye infections and/or corneal ulcers.
When used properly as instructed by your eye doctor, however, contact lenses are safe and provide comfortable central and excellent peripheral vision like eyeglasses. Annual eye exams are strongly recommended for all contact lens wearers.
Beth Rosenblatt, OD, a Summit Health optometric physician, assures that all of the eyecare providers at Summit Health are skilled at fitting most types of contact lenses. She says, “If you have never worn contact lenses but are interested, or if you are a current wearer who is interested in achieving better vision or comfort, please reach out.” The Summit Health team will work with you to help you achieve contact lens success!