Eye doctor John Henahan of Spectrum Eyecare in Peachtree City has fit thousands of people in contact lenses over the last twenty years. “Over the years, there has been an explosion in the number of options available for contact lens wearers”, reports Dr. Henahan. This makes choosing the best choice for yourself more difficult than ever. This short guide will help you understand the different option available as well as giving some suggestions on how to choose the best lenses for your prescription and wearing pattern.
How do Contact Lenses work?
When you place a contact lens in your eye it sits on the cornea. The cornea can be thought of as the main focusing lens of the eye. A contact lens alters the way light is focused in the eye allowing for sharper vision.
Types of Contact Lenses
Contact lenses can be divided into two main groups, soft lenses and rigid (hard) lenses. Hard lenses are typically reserved for prescriptions where soft lenses are not an option. Rigid lens wearers typically have high degrees of astigmatism, scar tissue in the cornea or other special considerations.
The overwhelming majority of contact lenses are soft contact lenses. In recent years there has been an explosion in the options available to soft lens wearing individuals. There are lenses for nearsightedness or farsightedness, lenses for astigmatism and even lenses to eliminate the need for reading glasses. There are daily replacement lenses, monthly replacement lenses and even lenses that can be slept in for one month continuously. Most contact lenses are made by either Vistakon (Acuvue), Ciba (Air Optix), Cooper (Biofinity) or B&L (Purevision).
How does one decide which type of lens to choose? According to Dr. Henahan, each has type has pros and cons and the choice should be based upon the wearing pattern and needs of each patient.
Daily replacement contact lenses: These lenses are the safest, healthiest and most convenient. Placing a fresh lens in the eye each day eliminates concerns about eye infection from contaminated lenses, and care regimens are effectively eliminated. There are no solutions to purchase, no cases to clean and no worrying about replacement schedules. As such, they are an ideal option for young children being fit in contact lenses for the first time, occasional wearers and anyone who wants the healthiest option. The disadvantage is they are moderately more expensive for the person who wears lenses every day.
Scheduled replacement contact lenses: Most contact lenses fall into this category. They can be replaced every one to four weeks. They also cover the widest range of prescriptions and come in multifocal versions that can reduce or eliminate the need for reading glasses in those over age 40. When cared for properly, they are a fairly safe modality, especially when combined with high quality disinfecting solutions.
Extended wear contact lenses: These lenses, which can be slept in from several days up to as long as one month are for the person who is willing to accept higher risks of complications and higher costs for the convenience of not having the daily insertion and removal of lenses.
Annual replacement contact lenses: The granddaddy of contact lenses, many adults over age 40 remember these as the first type of lens they wore as teenagers. They require more maintainance, are more expensive and less healthy for your eyes. In practice, they are rarely used anymore.
Which contact lenses make sense for you
“If you wear multifocal contact lenses, the only effective option right now are scheduled replacement or rigid lenses,” says Dr. Henahan.
If you do not need multifocal contact lenses, a good rule of thumb is to choose daily replacement lenses if you wear occasionally. Young, first time wearers are also best served by daily replacement lenses.
If you are wearing scheduled replacement lenses, care for them properly, and have no complaints, staying with that design is perfectly reasonable. It really is a matter of balancing cost with convenience and safety.
Extended wear lenses come with considerably higher risks and costs, so they are best avoided unless you habitually sleep in contacts and do not wish to change this pattern.
Rigid lenses typically are only considered if no effective soft lens option is available.
Remember, regardless of what type of lens you wear, if you develop a red, painful eye or sudden blurred vision, discontinue the contacts immediately and contact your eye doctor.
Dr. John Henahan is a fellowship-trained doctor of optometry practicing and living right here in Peachtree City with his wife and two sons. You may call his office at (770) 487-0667 or visit him on the web at www.speceye.com.