The following blog was written by Dr. Laura Gudenkauf. She is the doctor at Affinity Eye Care that focuses on contact lens fit and helping patients get the right contacts for their needs.
Everything You Need to Know About Contact Lenses
There has never been more variety when it comes to contact lenses than there is now! Even just in recent years, the designs and parameters of contact lenses have expanded dramatically. Getting the right lens for each person has become more challenging and often requires an expert that is trained in the latest contact lenses available. The new lens options will help many patients see better and look better! Here is how:
Contact lens materials:
- Within soft contact lenses, there are two main materials: silicone hydrogel and hydrogel. Silicone hydrogel lenses are a newer material than hydrogel, and allow more oxygen through the lens. This makes them a great option for someone who might be in their contact lenses for long hours. Silicone hydrogel contacts are available in daily replacement, 2 week replacement, and monthly replacement brands. Rarely, however, a patient’s eyes may have a sensitivity or allergy to silicone, making hydrogel contacts a good choice.
- There is another category of contact lenses, called “hard” or gas permeable (GP) lenses. GP lenses may offer crisper vision than soft lenses for some patients, particularly if the prescription or astigmatism is very strong, or if there is an irregularity of the front of the eye due to trauma or disease. Classically, GP lenses are small in diameter, though there are also scleral GP lenses that are much larger and are often used for patients with significant dry eye or significant corneal irregularity such as keratoconus.
Contact lens designs:
- There are several different optical designs available for contacts, including toric (astigmatism-correcting) and multifocal (correct both distance and near vision). Both toric and multifocal contacts are available in soft or GP materials, and there are daily replacement, 2 week replacement, and monthly replacement soft contacts available for both. The parameters for astigmatism correction within soft contacts lenses have exploded! There are even custom-order soft contact lenses that can be made with very strong, precise prescriptions when needed.
- Colored contact lenses are now available in two different styles! Air Optix Colors are breathable, monthly replacement, colored contacts designed to change iris color. They have a line of subtle colors and a line of vivid colors, which can make even dark brown eyes have noticeably blue coloration! In contrast, there is another type of colored lens called 1 Day Acuvue Define, which isn’t designed to change iris color, but rather “define” the iris. These lenses add definition to the outer iris, making it stand out more, and can add some subtle color to the inner iris. These lenses are daily disposables.
- There are even two different contact lens designs that have been clinically shown to slow down the progression of myopia (near-sightedness) in children. Orthokeratology contacts are GP lenses worn overnight, which gently reshape the corneas to correct the vision. This means no glasses or contact lenses need to be worn during the day! Specific soft multifocal designs are showing similar effectiveness, and are worn during the day like traditional contacts.
Contact lens replacement schedules:
- Do you wear contact lenses but have problems with dryness, allergies, infections, or deposits? Being refit into contacts that are meant to be replaced more frequently is your best option! Daily replacement contacts, or daily disposables, are available in many different prescriptions, including toric and multifocal, and are available in premium dry-eye friendly materials. Daily disposable contacts are the healthiest lens option, in part because they’re so convenient and user-friendly! They’re thrown away before bedtime, and no lens cleaning is necessary. This is hugely important, because recent studies show the vast majority of contact lens wearers do not clean their lenses as thoroughly as instructed, nor replace their lenses as frequently as instructed.
- Daily disposable contact lenses are also a great choice for part-time wearers. Many patients are happy wearing glasses, but might enjoy occasional contact lens wear for social outings or physical activities (sports, biking, hiking, yoga, etc). Note that contact lenses are not recommended for swimming; however, prescription goggles and dive masks are available!
- Remember, no matter what kind of contacts you wear, if your eye develops any pain, redness, discharge, or vision loss, remove your contacts, wear your glasses, and come in for an exam right away.
Appointments with Dr. Gudenkauf can be made by calling 520-797-8000 and specifying you want to see Dr. Gudenkauf. Thanks to Dr. Gudenkauf for this summary on advances in contact lens products.