The contact lens has joined other products as a personal care item which has become more comfortable and convenient than before. They offer the freedom from glasses for most people, most age groups and for almost any situatio. When cared for properly, contact lenses can provide a healthy and comfortable vision.
There are a variety of contact lenses that are available today. So, how do you choose with so many options?
Types of Lenses:
Soft Contact Lenses
Soft contact lenses are made of soft polymer-plastic material combined with a percentage of water. Water allows oxygen to pass through the contact lens material and increases comfort.
Newer soft lens materials provide more oxygen to your eye while you wear your lenses.
Soft lenses are available in various types – daily disposable, weekly disposable, monthly disposable, extended wear, toric (to correct astigmatism or cylindrical powers), bifocals (presbyopic lenses for those above age 40 years) and cosmetic to change the colour of one’s eyes for fashion. Many soft contact lenses also provide UV protection.
Disposable Soft Contact Lenses
“Disposable,” means used once and discarded. However, the majority of soft contact lens wearers are prescribed some sort of ‘frequent replacement schedule’.
The categories are:
Disposable lenses: Replaced daily, every week (7 days) or every two weeks (15 days)
Frequent replacement lenses: Replaced monthly or quarterly
Traditional (reusable) lenses: Replaced every six months or longer
With a ‘daily’ wear disposable schedule, a brand new pair of lenses is used each day. If you are an allergy sufferer, daily disposables are the contact lenses for you.
However, some lenses may be used ‘frequently’ for the prescribed wearing period. These require to be removed every night, cleaned and placed in their lens case with its prescribed lens solution and thrown away after its given period for example monthly (30 days) or quarterly (3 months). Care of quarterly lenses is usually the same as a traditional yearly soft contact lens as some patients have difficulty to continue their wear after three months use due to deposits and lack of oxygen.
Advantage of disposables: Being able to have a fresh pair of soft contact lenses means not having to clean your contact lenses on a regular basis and hence less chance of infection, reduction of dry eye and irritation related to contact solutions. This lens helps people whose eyes naturally produce more protein which leaves deposits on the contact lenses
Traditional re usable soft lenses are usually soft contact lenses changed on an annual or a yearly basis. Some use them on a quarterly basis. The higher cost of frequent replacement lenses is usually the motivating factor to opt for this type. Most toric lenses for astigmatism, bifocals or multifocal lenses to help both near and far vision fit in this category.
Extended Wear Soft Contact Lenses (leave in lenses for overnight or continuous wear)
These are usually soft lenses which range from one to six nights or up to 30 days continuous wear. They are made of flexible plastics that allow oxygen to pass through to the cornea. It is important for the eyes to have a rest without lenses for at least one night following each scheduled removal.
Rigid Gas Permeable (RGP) Contact Lenses
These are not as comfortable initially as soft contacts and it may take a few weeks to get used to wearing RGPs, compared to several days for soft contacts. In today’s practice, these are reserved for some specific corneal conditions.
Cosmetic Coloured Lenses
Colour contact lenses can be used to either enhance your natural eye colour or even change the eye colour altogether. In addition, special designs can be placed on the lens for special occasions and fun! Specialized lenses are also used to help patients with disfigured or scarred eyes. These are usually soft lenses.
Dr Shroff’s guide for buying your first contact lens:
Your contact lens power may not match your spectacle power; hence one should not buy contact lenses based just on their spectacle powers, as these may not be the correct lenses for you. Which power? What size? This is based on your eye examination.
- When you try contact lenses for the first time you will need to ensure that you have an eye test and a full consultation first with an ophthalmologist or a contact lens specialist. This eye examination should include an Computerized mapping (topography) to check size and curvature of the cornea and microscopic corneal assessment to rule out signs of allergies, infection, dry eye, inflammation or scarring related to past contact lens wear, checking not only vision (visual acuity) but also how well your tears work in lubricating your eyes.
- There should be an in-depth discussion for your contact lens requirements, and then recommendations of the most suitable contact lenses for you. Some trial contact lenses may be fitted for a short while for you to become accustomed to them. These lenses are assessed to determine how well they fit and how well you can see.
- Getting used to your lenses:
The next step is intended to give you the confidence to insert and remove the contact lenses from the eyes yourself, and you should be given time to practice this with the contact lens specialist. You should also learn about cleaning the contact lenses (if applicable), and all of the ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ of wearing contact lenses. Only when the specialist is satisfied that you are comfortable with the trial lenses and all its instructions, only then your lens order should be placed.
An important test- Topography Mapping Test for Corneal Curvature
Many contact lens patients show corneal damage, allergies and disease and hence these conditions should be ruled out. At Shroff Eye, Mumbai, this test is done using a unique computerised mapping with the Wavelight Topolyser which measures over 25,000 points on the cornea to diagnoses corneal disease and determine optimal contact lens parameters. This test must be performed annually since these values can change due to aging, contact lens over-wear, injury, and trauma. (See image pic)
SHROFF EYE OPENERS®
Do’s and Don’ts with Contact Lenses
- Clean contact lenses properly as per the prescribed regimen, every day.
Dust or debris left on them may cause temporary irritation
- Thoroughly rinse the lenses before re-inserting them
- Even if you are not using the contact lenses, they should be cleaned and put back in the contact lens case every day
- Routine checks at the intervals recommended by your Contact Lens Specialist are essential to long term success with contact lenses and healthy eyes
- Regular replacement of lenses and thorough attention to cleaning is essential
- Always keep your nails short so that you do not injure your eyes while inserting and removing lenses
- Put in your contact lens first and then wear eye makeup, so that you do not get any eye makeup on the lens while inserting them
- Take your lenses off before removing make-up and avoid using greasy cleansers
- It is possible for contact lenses to slip out of place. If this happens, simply close your eye and gently massage it back into position
- If you are a new user of contact lenses, gradually increase the length of time you wear the new contact lenses, starting with a few hours a day
- Avoid using lenses if you have dry eyes, as they will aggravate the dryness further
- Avoid using lenses if you suffer from eye allergies or repeated eye infections
- Avoid or limit the use of lenses when working on the computer (eg. IT industry) as this may decrease the life span of comfortable lens wear
- Avoid contact lenses while swimming unless wearing well-fitting swimming goggles
- Avoid any homemade or non-branded contact lens solutions
- Do not use expired contact lenses or contact lens solutions
- Do not wear your contact lenses while sleeping
- Do not use water to clean your lenses
- Do not wet your lenses with saliva even in emergencies. Saliva is packed with bacteria.
- Avoid powdery eye shadows, or mascara with fibres, in case particles get onto your lenses
- Avoid using coloured contact lenses on a daily basis as it may induce contact lens intolerance faster
Q. At what age can you start wearing contact lenses? My daughter is only 12 and wants to wear contacts; is there a specific age for contact wearers?
There are no fixed lower age limits for contact lens use. The decisive factor with children is how responsible the patient and the parent are. An enthused 12-year-old could well become a successful contact lens wearer. However, do keep in mind, that there will probably be more frequent changes in the powers in patients younger than 18 years of age. Therefore, regular follow-up visits to the specialist who fits the contact lenses are important.
Q. What do I do first? Put make up or my contact lenses?
While applying makeup- lenses go in first, makeup second; while removing makeup- remove the makeup first, lenses second.
Q. My powers are high. Can I use contact lenses while swimming?
Do not wear your lenses while swimming unless wearing well-fitting swimming goggles.
The risk of wearing hard lenses in a pool is that they may float out if your eyes get wet. With soft lenses, impurities in the water might be absorbed, which could cause infection, so if you need to see underwater, get goggles.
Did You Know?
Some report that contact lenses caused floaters or flashes to become more frequent and prominent. This is not true. You may however become more aware of them because of visual improvement. If you have an increase or change in your floaters and flashes, especially suddenly, this may be a sign of a more serious problem within the eye – having nothing to do with the contacts. You should have a dilated eye exam with your ophthalmologist to rule out other issues like retinal problems.