Contact lenses are thin, clear, disks of plastic that float on the tear film that coats the cornea, the clear front window of the eye.
At our optical shop in York, PA contact lenses are used to correct the same conditions that eyeglasses correct:
- Myopia (nearsightedness)
- Hyperopia (farsightedness)
Soft Contact Lenses
Soft contact lenses are the choice of most contact lens wearers for their comfort and convenience.
Disposable/frequent replacement lenses. These lenses are the least expensive, are removed and cleaned nightly, and are replaced on an individualized schedule. They should not be used as an extended-wear lens.
Extended-wear lenses. These lenses are worn overnight and are removed at least weekly for thorough cleaning and disinfection. They are being recommended less frequently since there is a greater risk of corneal ulcers and other complications. The decision to accept the risks and benefits of extended-wear lenses requires a process of evaluation and discussion between you and your eye doctor. Once you have been carefully fitted for your contact lenses, it is important to have follow-up examinations with your eye doctor to ensure continuing eye health. As with any contact lenses, extended-wear lenses should be removed at the first sign of redness or discomfort.
Daily disposable lenses. These lenses are more expensive but more convenient and maybe the most healthy option. They are removed nightly and then thrown away. Daily disposable lenses are sometimes recommended for people with allergies, for those who tend to form protein deposits on their lenses, or for dry eyes.
Colored contact lenses. These lenses can change the appearance of your eye color to varying degrees. Just like other contact lenses, colored (or tinted) contact lenses are medical devices that require a prescription. The same precautions and care regimens apply to colored contact lenses as to other lenses.
Toric contact lenses. These lenses can correct astigmatism, although sometimes not as well as RGP lenses. They usually cost more than other contact lenses and the fitting process can be more involved than with other types of contacts. Still, they are usually the first choice in contact lenses for patients with astigmatism.
Hard Contact Lenses
Hard contacts today are rigid gas-permeable (RPG) lenses. They hold their shape yet allow the free flow of oxygen through the lens to the cornea. These lenses may be the best choice in cases where the cornea has so much astigmatism (that is, shaped like an egg instead of an orange) or such irregular astigmatism that a soft lens will not provide sharp vision.
Contacts for Presbyopia
As one ages, correction for near vision is often necessary because the lens of the eye cannot change shape as easily as it once did. This common condition, called presbyopia, can be corrected in one of three ways:
Wear your distance correction in the contacts and wear reading glasses when needed. This usually works well early on, when you only need help occasionally, such as for very fine print or reading in poor illumination.
Wear one contact for distance vision and one for near vision. This option is called monovision; it works well for many people but not for everyone. You may need a trial period to decide if monovision is for you.
Wear bifocal contacts, which are designed to allow both distance and near vision. These lenses are more expensive to fit and may not provide satisfactory vision for all people. Usually, they present both a near and a distance image to the eye, and the brain learns to toggle between the two, depending on the visual need at the moment.
Caring for Contact Lenses
Lenses that are old or no longer fit properly may abrade the eye, cause corneal ulcers and inflammation or induce blood vessels to grow into the cornea, so their fit should be re-evaluated on a regular basis, usually annually. At our optical shop in York, PA contact lenses are expertly fitted to fit your eyes.
Any lens that is removed from the eye needs to be cleaned and disinfected before it is reinserted. Lenses that are not properly cleaned and disinfected increase the risk of eye infection. Your doctor will discuss the best type of cleansing system for you, depending on the type of lens you use, any allergies you might have, and whether or not your eye tends to form protein or lipid deposits. Care of contact lenses includes cleaning their case, since it is a big potential source of infection. The case should be rinsed with your prescribed disinfection system and allowed to dry, when the contacts are not in it. You should always dump out your solution, when the lenses are not in the case.
Eye drops can interact with all types of contact lenses, so it is best to avoid their use while wearing lenses, except for wetting or lubricating drops recommended by your eye doctor.
Daily-wear lenses should not be worn while sleeping, except for brief naps.
Homemade saline (salt-water) solutions have been linked to serious corneal infections and should not be used.
Cosmetics and Contact Lenses
Contact lens wearers who use cosmetics are at special risk for eye problems, including irritation, allergy, dryness, injury, and infections of the eye. Cosmetics may contaminate your lenses with the oils, residues, and possible bacteria found in them. Some simple precautions can minimize the chance of contamination:
Keep your makeup dry and avoid touching it with your fingers.
Always wash your hands before touching your contact lenses, using gentle soaps that are free of cream, deodorant, antiseptics, and heavy fragrances.
Insert your contacts before applying makeup, and take them out prior to removing makeup.
Lean towards cosmetics labeled “hypoallergenic,” “for contact lens wearers,” or “for sensitive eyes,” which are designed to be free of irritants.
Makeup applied close to the eye should be lightly applied. You should apply mascara only to the outer half of the lashes, and avoid applying eyeliner inside the lower eyelid.
Buy fresh mascara, eyeliner, and eye shadow products every three months.
Hairspray, deodorant spray, spray cologne, mousse, nail polish, and nail polish remover should be used only before inserting your lenses to prevent damage to your lenses. The concern is fumes and aerosolized particles. If you must use hairspray while wearing contacts, close your eyes tightly while spraying, and then leave the area quickly.
Never wear contacts when using hair dyes, permanent wave lotions, or medicated shampoos.