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Types of Contact Lenses

Contact lenses represent a fantastic advancement of vision related technology. Offering convenience, affordability, flexibility, and excellent vision correction, more and more people are opting for contact lenses over eyeglasses every year.Although many of us think of contact lenses as being a relatively recently developed technology, the roots of contacts go much further back. In 1887, the first contact lens was designed entirely made of glass, and beginning in 1930, contact lenses began to be constructed with plastic. During this time, contact lenses were designed to cover the entire eye. It wasn’t until 1948 that the first contact lens, made out of plastic, was designed to cover only the cornea. The first soft contact lenses were introduced in 1971. Since this time, research and development continues to refine and create better and better lenses. Gas permeable lenses hit the market in 1978, and in 1987, the first disposable contact lenses became available on the market.

Today, there are contacts to address almost every type of vision correction imaginable. Those with astigmatism can now find a number of brands of toric lenses to address their needs. People requiring bifocals or multifocals also have many choices of contacts. For those who want vision correction while changing or altering eye color, a myriad of colored contacts are available from which to choose. There are even colored contacts available that provide no vision correction, but simply let you change eye color. Those seeking theatrical effects have a number of brand options from which to make their eyes look like demons, animals, or even the American flag!!

The first step in choosing contact lenses begins with your eye care practitioner. One of the most important aspects of moving from eyeglasses to contact lenses is having the right prescription to suit your vision needs. Your lens prescription should always be kept up to date to ensure you are adequately addressing your vision requirements. In addition, your eyes may be better suited to a particular kind of lens, such as regular soft contacts or gas permeable lenses. Only your eye care practitioner can determine what lens and what prescription strength is right for you.  Once you pick which are right for you, finding the cheapest contact lenses will help you save money.

Types of Contact Lenses

Although contacts are made of several varieties of plastic, most will fall into one of two groups.

1) Soft Contact Lenses

This lenses are thin and gel-like, and are able to conform to the shape of the eye. They are considered more comfortable than gas permeable lenses, largely due to their better flexibility.

Popular Soft Contacts:

Bioflex 1 Day | Sofmed Breathables | Biofinity Toric

2) Gas Permeable Lenses

These lenses are also called oxygen permeables, or RGP contacts. They are made of a less flexible plastic and contain no water, and typically require some adjustment time. They last longer than regular soft contacts, and are frequently used to manufacture lenses for those with astigmatism and other specific vision needs. They permit greater oxygen flow to the eyes than do regular soft lenses.

Wear Schedules

An important consideration when choosing contact lenses is the wear schedule. It is helpful to understand some terminology before selecting the lenses that suit your lifestyle best.

a) Daily Wear

Daily wear contact lenses are those contacts that are inserted each morning and removed each night. Daily wear contact lenses are the choice of up to 80% of lens wearers. These contacts are not designed to be worn while sleeping, and when properly cleaned and stored at night, can last up to a year.

b) Extended Wear

Extended wear contact lenses can be worn during the day and at night while sleeping. These lenses are designed to allow good oxygen flow to the eyes, which enables overnight wear. These contacts typically can be worn for up to 7 days continuously. Certain extended wear lenses are constructed of superpermeable silicone hydrogel, and can be worn continuously for up to 30 days.

c) Disposable Contact Lenses

Disposable lenses are designed for short term use. Some types of disposable contacts are thrown out at the end of each day (daily disposables), whereas others can last up to 3 months. The most common type of disposable lenses last for 2 weeks.

d) Gas Permeable Contacts

These lenses are designed to last longer than regular soft contacts. On average, gas permeable lenses can last for 2 or 3 years.

e) Hybrid Lenses

These contact lenses have a gas permeable center and a soft outer ring. This new type of lens entered the market in 2006, and can provide the advantages offered by both soft and RGP contacts. They are often an option worth considering for those individuals with astigmatism, keratoconus or presbyopia.

Contact lenses provide flexibility and choice in vision correction, however, it is vitally important to remember that they are medical devices and must be treated with care. Proper cleaning and maintenance of lenses is important to avoid the development of eye irritations and even infections. Contacts should never be shared with other people, and should be kept clean and safe in a proper contact lens case. Improper storage and cleaning of lenses demands that you buy new lenses more often than you need to, and may present serious risks to overall eye health.

Following a few simple rules when handling, storing, and wearing contact lenses can greatly minimize the potential risks of their use. Always clean and rinse your hands before handling your lenses. Use the manufacturer’s recommended cleaning solutions to clean and store your lenses. Always replace the lenses as recommended, and never share your contacts with another person.

The advent of contact lenses transformed the arena of successful vision care. Regardless of lifestyle, eye condition, and age, there are contact lenses available to suit almost every individual in need of vision correction.

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