Contact lenses have come a long way lately, and offer some exciting options for the consumer.

For people with vision problems, contact lenses remain an effective, almost invisible tool. The thin plastic lenses are fitted over the cornea of the eye to correct vision problems such as short-sightedness, long-sightedness or astigmatism. You can wear contact lenses even if you have presbyopia and need bifocals.

You have many options, so how do you choose? Look at your choices of contact lenses here, then speak with your eye care specialist about the contact lens that may work best for you.

Daily wear soft contact lenses

Soft contact lenses are made of a soft polymer-plastic material combined with a percentage of water. Water allows oxygen to pass through the contact lens material and increases comfort. Many soft contact lenses also provide UV protection. Soft contact lenses are more comfortable than rigid gas permeable contact lenses when first inserted into the eye.

Many soft contact lenses are disposable and can be thrown away after a short period of use (for example a month). Being able to have a fresh pair of soft contact lenses means less chance of infection, less cleaning and more comfort, especially for people whose eyes naturally produce more protein, which leaves deposits on the contact lenses. Other soft contact lenses are worn on a yearly basis and cleaned daily, and are not disposable.

Soft contact lenses are more fragile than hard contact lenses and can rip or tear easily.

Rigid gas permeable hard contact lenses

Rigid gas permeable lenses are, as the name suggests, more rigid than soft contact lenses and are therefore more durable. Unlike older versions of hard contact lenses, rigid gas permeable lenses are made with silicone polymers that allow oxygen to circulate to the cornea of the eye. Compared to soft contact lenses, rigid gas permeable contacts maintain their shape and offer clearer vision for some types of corrections. They are also easy to take care of and are extremely durable. The amount of time needed to adjust to rigid gas permeable contact lenses is longer than with soft contact lenses. To achieve maximum comfort, a rigid gas permeable contact lens should be worn every day.

Both rigid gas permeable and soft contacts are available as extended wear options. These contacts may be worn overnight. Sleeping in extended wear contacts may decrease the flow of oxygen to the cornea, so it is important to wear them as directed and get routine check-ups with your eye care specialist.

Bifocal contact lenses

Bifocal contact lenses are designed to give good vision to people who have presbyopia. Presbyopia is the age-related change that affects the natural lens in the eye. Contact lens options for presbyopia include bifocal and monovision designs. Monovision and bifocal designs come as both soft and rigid gas permeable lenses.

A bifocal contact lens design has both the distance prescription and near prescription in one lens. Wearing monovision contact lenses means in one eye you wear the distance prescription (if needed) while in the other eye you wear the near prescription.

Contact lens wearers also have the option of wearing reading glasses over distance contact lenses. This combination allows for excellent distance and near vision. Glasses can also be prescribed over any of the above combinations to enhance vision as needed.

There are many bifocal contact lens options. A professional fitting and evaluation is necessary to determine which bifocal design will suit your needs.

Toric contact lenses

Toric contact lenses are special lenses for people with astigmatism. These lenses are made from the same material as other contact lenses and come in soft or rigid gas permeable forms. Like bifocal lenses, toric lenses have two powers, one for the astigmatism and another for short-sightedness or long-sightedness. There is also a mechanism to keep the contact lens relatively stable on the eye when you blink or look around.

Contact lens care and hygiene

  • Before handling contact lenses, wash and rinse your hands. Soaps containing perfumes, oils or lotions leave a film on the hands which may be transferred to the lenses and cause eye irritation. Dry hands with a lint-free towel. Fingernails should be short and smooth to avoid damaging the lenses or scratching the eye.
  • Apply cosmetics after inserting and handling contact lenses. Hairspray may leave deposits on the contact lens. Use hairspray before inserting contact lenses.
  • Do not use tap water to clean or soak contact lenses. Tap water contains bacteria that can cause serious eye infections that may lead to blindness.
  • Use lens care products recommended by your eye care specialist. Contact lens solutions are designed for single use only in the storing case. Do not use solutions more than once. Protein-removing enzyme cleaners are useful for rigid gas permeable contact lenses and for daily-wear non-disposable soft contact lenses.
  • Replace the contact lens storage case every three months. Rinse the storage case every day with sterile rinsing solution. Let the storage case air dry.
  • It is important to follow your eye care specialist’s recommendations regarding lens care and hygiene to prevent eye complications due to contact lens wear.

How do I know which type of contact lens is right for me?

The type of vision correction needed, your lifestyle, and cost will all play a role in your eye care specialist’s recommendations for the type of contact lenses you should wear.

Who should not wear contact lenses?

Contact lenses are generally not recommended for people who:

  • Do not produce enough tears.
  • Are constantly exposed to fumes.
  • Have a history of viral infection of the cornea.
  • Are unable to take proper care of their contact lenses with regard to hygiene.