When you take a peek into the wide world of contact lenses for vision correction, the differences between lenses can seem confusing. What are the differences between rigid gas-permeable lenses, daily disposables, extended wear, and so on?
Not every type of contact will be able to meet your vision needs, and your eye care provider is always best qualified to point you to the optimum contact lens type for your situation. However, it can be helpful to know a little bit of the language surrounding contact lenses to enhance your discussions with your provider.
Let’s look at a few of the most common contacts we fit our patients with at Uptown Eye Care and why you might choose one type of contact lens over others for your vision correction needs.
Planned Replacement: Soft Contacts
According to the CDC*, around 90% of contact wearers use soft contacts (also known as planned replacement contacts). The overwhelming popularity of soft contacts has to do with the variety of types and usage lengths available and with how easy they are for most people to use each day.
We’re going to take a look at three major types of soft contacts, starting with our favorite: daily disposables.
In our practice at Uptown Eye Care, we’ve found that daily disposable contacts work best for most people for several reasons:
- Useful for a wide range of conditions, such as myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), blurred vision, and loss of close-up vision related to aging.
- No storage necessary; can be used once and thrown out at the end of the day
- Comfortable wear, without a long (if any) adjustment period
- Easy, inexpensive replacement if you tear or lose a contact
- Helpful for children, teens, and adults who need a simplified contact lens care routine
Some of our favorite daily disposables are Freshday silicone hydrogel soft contacts from CooperVision. They maintain a superior degree of comfort with a 53% water content and provide a measure of UV blocking protection. Freshday also has Toric and Multifocal soft contact offerings for our patients with astigmatism and presbyopia.
Other daily wear contact lens options that we like include Precision 1 and Dailies Total 1 from Alcon, both focused on ease of use, comfort, and a measure of UV protection.
For myopia management in children (slowing the progression of nearsightedness), we often prescribe MiSight daily disposable contacts from CooperVision. You can learn more about Uptown Eye Care’s involvement in CooperVision’s Brilliant Futures Program for myopia management and education here.
Monthly disposable contact lenses help correct the same vision problems as daily disposables. However, they do require cleaning, disinfection, and overnight storage, so a dedicated lens care routine is a little more complicated.
The 30-day replacement schedule for monthly disposables makes them less expensive than daily contact lens options for everyday use, and their regular replacement helps maintain eye health and hygiene. Monthly contacts are also more durable than dailies, and are less expensive to replace than hard contacts if they tear or are lost.
We often point our patients to monthly options from Alcon and Bausch & Lomb, both long-time respected contact manufacturers that offer monthly disposables (such as Total 30 from Alcon or Ultra from Bauch and Lomb).
Contact lenses for overnight or extended wear are made out of a thinner contact lens material than dailies or from silicone hydrogel technology. They allow more oxygen through to help maintain healthy oxygen levels at the surface of the eye (a necessity as the lenses stay in place for long stretches of time). These lenses are mostly soft contacts, but a few extended wear hard contact types exist on the market.
Extended wear contacts are typically designed for overnight to 7-day continuous wear, though some last up to 30 days without the need for removal and re-insertion. Many monthly wear options are also capable of extended wear depending on their design and manufacturer recommendations.
Camping trips, travel, and other situations that make removing and reinserting contacts inconvenient are a few of the reasons that someone might choose extended wear contacts over a daily disposable, but there are a few drawbacks. The risk of infection from bacteria getting trapped between the lens and the eye increases with the time these contacts are worn, and they can cause irritation, discomfort, and watering of the eye.
Most major brands carry an extended wear contact lens. In our practice at Uptown Eye Care, we work with our patients to discuss lifestyle choices that may affect their need for extended wear lenses, making recommendations on an individual basis.
Rigid Gas-Permeable Lenses (RGP): Hard Contacts
Rigid gas-permeable lenses, or simply gas-permeable lenses, are generally known as hard contacts. They are fabricated from compounds containing silicone that allow oxygen to pass through and come in contact with your eye. These lenses tend to be less expensive in the long run compared to soft contacts, which may cost 1.5 to 2 times more.
While less popular in our practice than soft contacts, hard contacts can be used by people for the widest variety of vision issues. In particular, those with astigmatism, presbyopia, keratoconus, or patients willing to use RGP lenses to achieve sharper vision benefit the most from RGB lenses.
Comfort for gas permeable lenses is fine for most, though an adjustment period of a few days may be necessary. It’s also important to note that hard contacts should be worn regularly; if you stop wearing your RGP contacts for a time, you may need another adjustment period to achieve comfortable wear again.
In particular, patients with Keratoconus or Dry Eye Disease benefit from a specialized form of hard contacts known as Scleral Lenses. These lenses are larger than the average hard contact to increase comfort and allow for a fluid-filled reservoir, adding extra moisture between the lens material and the cornea. Scleral lenses are designed to fit an irregularly shaped or scarred cornea. We custom fit and order these special lenses for each patient.
Cleaning and proper storage can be an issue with hard contacts, which is one reason they are not often prescribed for children who are still learning proper hygiene routines. And while they tend to be cheaper in the long term than disposable soft contacts, hard lenses are also more expensive to replace if lost. Having to purchase a replacement or keeping a backup pair on hand doubles the expense.
We’ve Done the Research For You
Contact lenses are a medical device, and they require a prescription from a qualified eye care practitioner. While researching lens types can help you get an outside perspective on which options you’d like to pursue with your lenses, your best source of information is still found at your eye doctor’s office.
At Uptown Eye Care, our associates are specially trained to fit lenses to your eyes and your lifestyle. Whether you are looking for new or just different options for contact lens wear, we’ll work with you to help define your vision needs and select an ideal solution for your situation and routines.
Ready to walk through your contact lens options with us? Give us a call to schedule an appointment today!