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​1. Facts about contact lenses

It is important to know that contact lenses are devices that need to be properly fitted by an eye care practitioner. He will assess if you have dry eyes, allergies or any eye infection, before determining if you are suited to wear contact lenses.

Proper cleaning and disinfecting procedures are required with contact lens wear. Poor hygiene, over-wearing, and contaminated lenses may lead to eye infections. In cases of severe bacterial infection, the patient may lose his vision.

2. Tips on proper care of contact lenses

  • Do not wear your contact lenses beyond the period recommended by your eye care practitioner.
  • Care for contact lenses includes cleaning, sterilisation, storage and protein removal.
  • Consult your eye care practitioner first before changing your contact lens solution.
  • Clean both sides of your lenses. Do not use tap water to clean or wet your contact lenses.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before handling your contact lenses.
  • Wear your contact lenses before applying make-up. Remove your contact lenses before removing make-up.
  • When wearing contact lenses, always ensure that you are able to see clearly and that you do not feel uncomfortable.
  • Avoid wearing lenses overnight (even lenses designed for extended wear) as it can increase your risk of developing corneal infections.

3. Types of contact lenses

Contact lenses are made of many different types of plastic, but in general, they fall into two main groups: soft contact lenses and hard, rigid, gas permeable contact lenses.

4. Soft contact lenses

These thin, gel-like lenses conform to the shape of your eye. They are more flexible than the hard, rigid gas permeable contact lenses, so they are more comfortable and easier to get used to. Types of soft contact lenses include:

  • Daily-wear contact lenses. Four out of five people who wear contact lenses choose these. These are lenses you typically insert every morning and remove every night. They should not be worn during sleep. When properly cleaned and stored, one pair of daily-wear lenses should last up to one year.
  • Disposable contact lenses. These lenses are designed for short-term use during waking hours. Depending on their composition, disposable lenses may need replacement every day you discard them after wearing them once or they can be worn for longer periods, up to three months. Most brands are good to wear for two weeks.
  • Extended-wear contact lenses. Because they are designed to provide adequate oxygen to your cornea even while you sleep, you can wear these lenses continuously for up to seven days with standard extended-wear contact lenses, and up to 30 days with lenses made of super-permeable silicone hydrogel. The 30-day lenses are stiffer and less comfortable than the seven-day lenses. Also, 30-day lenses may get scratched more easily and have less clarity than lenses removed every seven days.

5. Gas permeable contact lenses

Rigid gas permeable contact lenses are generally made of harder plastic materials that do not contain water. Although they are not as flexible as soft contact lenses, rigid gas permeable lenses allow more oxygen to pass through to the cornea than do soft lenses, reducing the risk of corneal irritations.

Rigid gas permeable lenses can correct a wide range of vision problems, including astigmatism, which is a type of blurred vision caused by an irregularly shaped cornea. After a short period of adaptation, most people can wear rigid gas permeable lenses comfortably. Rigid gas permeable lenses are easy to care for and more durable than soft lenses.
Rigid gas permeable lenses need to be replaced less frequently than soft contact lenses and may be worn on average, for two to three years.

6. Pros and cons of soft versus rigid gas permeable contact lenses

How do you choose between soft contact lenses and rigid gas permeable contact lenses? Here's a look at the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Type of Contact Lenses Advantages Disadvantages
Soft
  • Flexible and more comfortable
  • Extended wear and disposable options available
  • Shorter adjustment period
  • Able to stay in place better, even with vigorous physical activity
  • Less durable
  • Require more frequent replacement
  • Less effective in correcting some vision problems, such as high degree of astigmatism
  • Higher rate of infection
Rigid Gas Permeable
  • Optimal vision correction for many conditions
  • More durable
  • Less frequent replacement needed
  • Allows more oxygen through to the eye
  • Users need time to adjust to the lenses
  • Re-adjustment necessary any time you stop wearing them for an extended period
  • May slip off the centre of your eye more easily;
  • Can lead to discomfort and blurred vision

7. Hybrid contact lenses

Hybrid contact lenses, which feature a gas permeable centre surrounded by a soft outer ring, were introduced in 2006. These lenses offer the combined benefits of better visual acuity associated with gas permeable contact lenses, and greater comfort associated with soft contact lenses. Hybrid contact lenses may be an option for people needing vision correction for problems such as astigmatism, keratoconus or presbyopia.

8. Getting the right fit

If you decide that you want to wear contact lenses, have a thorough eye examination and fitting by an experienced professional. Follow-up examinations are important to monitor any changes to your vision and to update your prescription. If you are a regular contact lens wearer, consult your doctor annually for an eye examination and a contact lens evaluation.