There are two main types of contact lenses:
- soft lenses which mould to the shape of your eye
- rigid gas permeable lenses (RGP lenses) which are fitted closely to the shape of your eye and are less flexible.
Which type of contact lens is best?
The type of lens that is best for you will depend upon several factors. These include how often you want to wear your lenses – for example do you want to wear them just for certain activities such as sport, or do you want to wear them most of the time, instead of glasses?
As soft lenses are initially more comfortable than RGP lenses, they are ideal for people who only want to wear lenses occasionally. RGP lenses are a little more uncomfortable than soft lenses at first, so they take a bit more getting used to. But, they last longer and may be better for people who have irregularly shaped eyes or have astigmatism.
Can I wear contact lenses if I have astigmatism?
Astigmatism is where the cornea (the window at the front of the eye) or the lens inside the eye is shaped more like a rugby ball than a football. This means that if you wear a soft contact lens, you will need a toric lens to see clearly. Toric lenses take the rugby ball shape into account, but if they rotate on your eye you will not see clearly. Soft contact lenses that correct astigmatism are specially designed not to rotate. There are many different types of soft toric contact lenses and, unless you have a lot of astigmatism, it is likely that your optometrist will be able to find a lens that suits you.
Is it better to have disposable lenses?
This is often a matter of personal choice. You do not need to clean and disinfect single use daily disposable lenses after each use, as you simply throw them away. This can be a good option for people who do not wear their lenses very often or who want maximum convenience. This may also be more hygienic than cleaning, disinfecting and re-wearing old lenses. Not all contact lens types or prescriptions are available as single use daily disposable lenses. If you wear lenses a lot, single use daily disposable lenses may cost more than non-daily disposable lenses (those that you clean and disinfect and then wear again), although you should remember to include the cost of contact lens solutions if you are comparing the price of single use daily disposable lenses with the price of non-daily disposable lenses.
Are contact lenses safe?
Modern contact lenses are very safe, as long as you follow your optometrist’s advice about how to wear and look after them, and have regular check-ups. It is possible that anything that touches your eye could introduce an infection. To reduce the chance of infection you should always wash and dry your hands before touching your eyes or your contact lenses. Use liquid soap rather than a bar of soap. If you are at home you should try to use your own towel. If you are not at home you should dry your hands with an air dryer or paper towel wherever possible. Never rinse your lenses with tap water, or store your lenses in tap water because this may cause an infection in your eye. You should also avoid showering while wearing your contact lenses.
Can I swim in contact lenses?
We do not recommend swimming in contact lenses. This is because there is an organism that lives in water (Acanthamoeba) than can cause a very serious infection if it gets in your eye. If you need glasses and want to see clearly while you are swimming we recommend prescription swimming goggles as a safer alternative. These need not be expensive.
I need to wear different glasses for distance and reading – can I have bifocal or varifocal contact lenses?
There are three main options to correct presbyopia with contact lenses.
- You may choose to have contact lenses to correct your distance vision, and wear reading glasses over the top when you need them.
- You may have bifocal or varifocal contact lenses.
- You may wear lenses to have one eye corrected to see in the distance and one eye corrected for near vision. This is called monovision.
Each of the different options has advantages and disadvantages and your optometrist will help you decide which is best for you.
Can I wear make up with contact lenses?
You can wear make up with contact lenses, but it is best to put your contact lenses in before you put your make up on. It is best to wear water-soluble make up, rather than waterproof, as if this gets into your eye it will dissolve in your tears and not get trapped under your contact lens. You should not wear eyeliner on the ‘wet’ part of the edge of your lids, as it may block the glands that produce part of your tears. Instead, you should put it on the skin, outside your lashes.
Do I need to have regular check-ups if I wear contact lenses?
It is important to have regular check-ups to make sure that your contact lenses are still suitable for you, and are not damaging your eyes. This should be at least every 12 months, but may be more often if recommended by your practitioner.
The following tips apply to all contact lens types:
- wash, rinse and dry your hands thoroughly before handling your lenses
- have an up-to-date pair of glasses for when you need to remove your lenses
- replace the lenses at the interval specified by your practitioner
- have regular check-ups with your practitioner as recommended
- seek professional advice if you are having problems with your contact lenses.
- go to bed with a painful red eye – seek advice immediately
- bring any contact lens into contact with tap water
- wet your lenses with saliva
- wear your lenses for swimming.