What are They?
Also called contacts, they are small, round, rigid or floppy lenses that sit on the eye. The thought of this makes a lot of people squirm but they actually float on the layer of clear liquid that bathes the eye.
They can improve sight, just like spectacles, or colored or special effects lenses can be worn for cosmetic reasons.
Specialized therapeutic lenses can be used to deliver medication or to heal an eye wound. Some lenses may be implanted inside the eye during an operation to improve sight.
Most lenses now have a pale tint of color which doesn’t show when they are being worn but it does help the wearer to find them in the soaking pot or if they are dropped.
Why do People Wear Them?
They may just hate wearing spectacles! Contacts are also more practical – they don’t steam up, don’t go streaky when it rains, they give the wearer a wider field of vision and are better for those who love sporting activities. Worldwide, about 135 million people with vision problems wear them.
Can Anyone Wear Them?
Contacts are not recommended for people who:
Are very near sighted
Have a history of corneal infections
Work in an industry where they are exposed to chemical fumes, dust, or dirt
Have allergies to lens-care products
Are diabetic because they are prone to infections and their bodies may not tolerate even a mild infection
Are under the age of nine
If you have very dry eyes, you may have problems but you could try using lubricating eye drops or Acuvue Oasys contact lenses.
Up until a few years ago, people with astigmatism couldn’t wear contacts. Now, many of them can, with the arrival of toric and Multifocal lenses. As a general rule, if your prescription is not too complicated, there is no reason why you shouldn’t wear contact lenses.
How Long Can I Wear Them For?
It depends which sort of lenses you have:
Daily wear lenses are worn during your waking hours.
Extended wear or EW lenses can be worn continuously. You can sleep in them for 6 or more consecutive nights and then dispose of them.
CW or continuous wear lenses are usually made from silicone hydrogel. You can wear these for up to a month and then discard them.
These last two are becoming very popular. The reason that they may be worn for such a long time is because they let a high amount of oxygen through to the eye – as much as 5-6 times more than ‘normal’ soft lenses.
You can take a short nap in ‘normal’ lenses but don’t ever try wearing them overnight – it’s extremely uncomfortable and could damage your eye.
How Often Should I Replace Them?
Again, it depends on which sort you have.
1. Daily disposables should be worn for one day and then thrown away. They come in multipacks. These are great for anyone with any kind of eye allergies as the short life of the lenses doesn’t allow for protein to build up on their surface. They’re also very useful for occasional wear.
2. The most common types of contacts are worn during the day and then disposed of after two weeks or a month.
3. Extended wear lenses are worn for 6 or 30 full days and nights and then disposed of.
4. Rigid gas permeable lenses are durable and if looked after well, can last for several years!
5. When contact lenses first became popular, they were mainly ‘Hard’ Lenses. These were replaced quarterly or annually but in order to last so long, they were thicker than those we’re used to now. They needed regular cleaning with protein removers which meant you couldn’t wear them while that was occurring. People used to join a ‘contact lens scheme’ – like an insurance policy so that if you lost one, you could get a replacement. With multipacks available that’s no longer necessary.
Are They Safe?
If good hygiene is used and you care for your lenses as instructed by your eye care professional, you shouldn’t have any difficulties. The most common causes of eye infections are poor cleaning and careless storing of the lenses.
If you wear contact lenses, you must see your eye care professional every six months to make sure that your eyes are tolerating the lenses successfully.
If you wish to buy colored or patterned lenses from the internet, you must have your eyes measured properly first in order to obtain correctly fitting lenses. Some sites sell ‘one size fits all’ lenses but the simple truth is that there is no such thing and wearing them would not only be uncomfortable but could damage your eye.
How come they’re Less Expensive to Buy Online?
Many people are tempted by the lower prices on offer but are worried about buying cheaper lenses online.
‘Cheaper’ doesn’t mean lower quality lenses. These online companies sell exactly the same lenses as your High Street provider. You just pay less for them online. This is because there are only a few main contact lens manufacturers and they just repackage the same lenses for their different ‘own brand’ outlets. It’s as simple as that!
If you already wear lenses and you get them from the High Street or a mall, do a search online and you can find out what brand your lenses actually are. Once you know, you can shop around to find the best deal! Buying ‘multipacks’ works out the cheapest and is also useful as it means you always have spare pairs of lenses.
Online providers don’t have to pay fees on expensive premises, eye doctor salaries or other overheads. They also buy in bulk directly from the manufacturer. All of these savings mean that they can afford to sell them more cheaply – and still make a profit! This method of selling has proved so successful that supermarkets and High Street eye doctors are now offering their own discounts. It’s a buyers market!
Do I need a Prescription to Buy Lenses Online?
Yes – you must have a prescription that is no older than a year. And, if you are buying colored or patterned lenses as a cosmetic feature and not a sight correction, you still need to have your eyes measured for the lenses to fit properly.
How do I get a Prescription?
If you are already a Contact Lens Wearer:
If your prescription is over a year old, you will need a sight test and to have your eyes checked to make sure they are healthy. Measurements will be taken to see if the shape of your eye has changed at all.
If you can’t find your prescription and it is under a year old, your provider is legally bound to give you a copy, free of charge.
If you’ve Never Worn Lenses:
You will need to see an eye care doctor for a sight test and to have your eyes measured. If your sight is normal – just ask for measurements for contacts.
Your contact lens prescription legally belongs to you and you should be given a copy of it at each appointment.
Contact lenses can revolutionize your vision and your appearance. Just follow the care instructions and make sure you get your check ups…and enjoy!