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How to choose contact lenses

Choosing the right contact lenses is a decision you should make with your eye doctor. The right choice depends on many factors, including your refractive error, how much contact lens wear your eyes can tolerate, your expectations and how willing you are to properly care for your lenses.

Here are some things to consider prior to your eye exam for contacts:

How Often Will You Wear Contacts?

Are you planning to wear contact lenses every day, or just on weekends or for special occasions?

Most people wear soft contact lenses, which usually can be worn comfortably either full-time or part-time. Rigid gas permeable contacts, on the other hand, must be worn on a consistent daily basis for them to be comfortable.

How Picky Are You About The Sharpness Of Your Vision?

Rigid gas permeable contact lenses (also called RGP or GP lenses) may take some getting used to at first, but they often provide sharper vision than soft contact lenses, especially if you have astigmatism.

If you try soft contacts and are disappointed with the clarity of your eyesight, consider switching to GP lenses.

Are You Willing To Care For Your Contacts Properly?

To avoid serious contact lens-related problems, including fungal eye infections and corneal ulcers, it is essential that you use the contact lens solutions your eye doctor recommends.

Though disposable contacts have reduced the risk of some eye infections, daily lens care is still essential to keep your eyes healthy when wearing contact lenses.

If you prefer to avoid the task of cleaning and disinfecting your lenses each day, consider daily disposable lenses. With these "one-day" soft lenses, you simply discard the lenses after a single use and put on a new pair the next day.

Is Overnight Wear Important To You?

Do you like the idea of wearing contact lenses continually, including overnight? Some contact lenses allow high amounts of oxygen to pass through them and have been FDA approved for overnight wear.

But continuous contact lens wear is not safe for everyone. If you are interested in extended wear contacts, your eye doctor will evaluate how well your eyes tolerate overnight wear to determine if it is safe for you.

Do You Want To Change Your Eye Color?

Color contact lenses are available to give you a new look. These specialty soft contact lenses can enhance your eye color or change it altogether, even if you have dark eyes.

Special-effect contact lenses (also called theatrical contact lenses or costume contacts) can dramatically change the appearance of your eyes. Special-effect contacts called gothic or costume contact lenses can even make you look like a vampire in the popular film series, The Twilight Saga.

Theatrical contact lenses are especially popular at Halloween and also are available without corrective power if you don't need vision correction.

But all contact lenses, even non-corrective (or "plano") special-effect contacts, are considered medical devices and cannot be purchased without a professional fitting and a contact lens prescription written by a licensed eye doctor.

Do You Wear Bifocals?

If you are over age 40 and need bifocals, multifocal contact lenses can reduce or eliminate your need for reading glasses.

Another option is monovision, where one contact lens is prescribed to give you good distance vision and the contact lens for the other eye is prescribed for good near vision. It may seem odd, but most people with presbyopia find monovision contacts provide clear, comfortable and natural-feeling vision.

What About Contact Lens Costs?

Contact lenses don't eliminate your need for eyeglasses, so you need to consider the cost of contact lenses and how this affects your budget. When considering contact lens costs, don't forget to add the cost of contact lens solutions.

Do You Have Allergies Or Dry Eyes?

Eye allergies or dry eyes may affect the comfort of your contacts or limit your ability to wear contact lenses. If you have either of these conditions, discuss them with your eye doctor prior to your contact lens fitting.

Daily disposable contacts can help reduce contact lens-related allergy symptoms and there are specific brands of contact lenses for dry eyes that may help you wear contacts more comfortably.

Seek Professional Advice

After considering all the above, it's time to visit your optometrist or ophthalmologist for a comprehensive eye exam and contact lens consultation.

Your eye doctor is the best person to help you decide if you are a good candidate for contact lens wear and help you choose contact lenses that are best for your individual needs.

Contact lenses have come a long way and offer some exciting options. You can bat a pair of baby blues one day, then flash golden tiger eyes the next. You can even toss disposable lenses in the trash each night.

For people with vision problems, contacts remain an effective, almost invisible tool. The thin plastic lenses fit over your cornea — the clear, front part of your eye — to correct vision problems including nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. You can wear contacts even if you have presbyopia and need bifocals.

Talk to your eye doctor about the best type of lenses for you. Get regular eye exams to keep your peepers healthy and make sure your prescription stays up to date.

Soft Contact Lenses

They’re made from a special type of plastic mixed with water. The water content lets oxygen pass through the lens to your cornea. That makes the lenses more comfortable, lessens dry eyes, and helps keep your cornea healthy. If it doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can swell, get cloudy, and cause blurry vision or other, more serious problems.

Pros. Many soft lenses are disposable, so you can throw them away after using them for a short time. Having a fresh pair of soft contacts means less chance of infection, less cleaning, and more comfort.

While soft contact lenses are commonly throwaways, whether it be daily disposable, 2 week replacement, or monthly replacement(all of which you take out and clean at night) there are some soft lenses that aren’t aren’t. Depending on what you need for your eyes, you may in rare cases wear the same pair for about a year and take them out and clean them each night. These are typically more custom-designed contact lenses.

Compared with rigid gas-permeable lenses, the other main type of contacts, soft lenses feel better when you first put them in.

As a bonus, many soft lenses provide UV protection.

Cons. Soft contact lens material can absorb particles, chemicals, bacteria, and mold more easily than both hard and rigid gas-permeable lenses. They soak up all kinds of things that can irritate your eyes — smoke and sprays in the air and lotion or soap on your hands.

Soft contacts are also more fragile. They can rip or tear more easily than hard or gas-permeable lenses.

Varieties. New types of soft lenses come to market as new technologies develop.

  • Daily disposables are soft contacts that you wear only for a day and then throw away. That means you don’t have to clean them regularly or risk dry eyes and irritation from contact solutions. If you have allergies, they may be the best choice for you.
  • Silicone-based materials create an extremely breathable lens that lets plenty of oxygen pass through to your cornea. They also keep deposits from building up. That means less irritation from dry eyes. Some silicone contacts are FDA-approved for extended wear, so you can use them for up to 30 days. But many eye doctors say to remove any type of contact lens at bedtime. Why? Your cornea gets less oxygen when you sleep in contacts, so the risk of serious complications is higher. Silicone lenses aren’t for everyone, so talk with your eye care professional if you’re interested in them.

Colored, Soft Contacts

They’re hip, they’re fun, and colored contacts can even be practical.

  • Visibility tint lenses have a tiny bit of color so you can find your lens if you drop it. It isn’t enough to affect the color of your eyes.
  • Enhancement tint lenses play up your natural eye color. They’re slightly darker than a visibility tint.
  • Color tint lenses are darker, opaque, and change the color of your eyes. Specialty colors include amethyst, violet, and green.

Remember, colored contacts are a medical device just like clear lenses. Get them from your eye doctor and nowhere else. Don’t share them with anyone. Clean and care for them just as you would any prescription lenses.

Rigid Gas-Permeable Lenses

As the name suggests, these are stiffer than soft contacts. They’re made from silicone, and they’re designed to let oxygen pass through to your cornea.

Pros. You might see better than you do with soft lenses. They correct substantial astigmatism. They’re easy to take care of and durable.

Cons. At first. the lenses don’t feel as comfortable as soft contacts. It takes longer to get used to them, so you need to wear them every day.

Bifocal Contacts

As you age, the lens in your eye loses the ability to focus from far to near — a condition called presbyopia. You’ll know you have it when it’s hard to read up close.

If you have trouble with both near and far vision, bifocal lenses can help. They have both your distance prescription and near prescription in one lens. They come in soft and gas-permeable options.

You need a professional fitting and evaluation to know which bifocal design is best for your needs.

Monovision Lenses

You won’t have the same prescription in both eyes. One will have a contact for distance vision, and the other will be for seeing up close. This can take a while to get used to. Each eye works on its own. That makes it harder for them to work together. You might have problems with depth perception. That can make it hard to drive. You might have to adjust your gaze more often to allow one eye or the other to see properly.

Another monovision option: Wear a bifocal lens in one eye, and a single-vision lens in the other. This makes driving easier.

Readers and Contacts

One more option: Get your contact prescription for distance vision. Wear reading glasses over your contacts when you need to see up close.

Toric Lenses for Astigmatism

If you have astigmatism and want to wear contacts, you’ll need a toric lens. They’re made from the same material as other contacts but work with your eyeball, which isn’t completely round. They come in soft or rigid gas-permeable forms, extended wear, daily disposable, and even in colored lenses. Like bifocal lenses in a pair of glasses, toric lenses have two powers in one lens: one that corrects your astigmatism, and another for nearsightedness or farsightedness.

Lenses That Reshape Your Cornea

If you’re mildly nearsighted, your eye doctor may suggest orthokeratology, or ortho-k for short. They’ll use a special contact lens to reshape your cornea — and improve your vision. But the results only last while you have the contact in.

This procedure isn’t widely used, because laser vision correction offers the same result in less time and is permanent. Laser surgery is now OK for professionals — like members of the military or airline pilots — whose jobs didn’t allow them, But you still have to qualify to be a good candidate for laser eye surgery.

If you can’t have laser surgery, ask your eye care professional if ortho-k could work for you.

Show Sources

AllAboutVision.com: “Torics,” “Orthroscopy.”

Dillehay, SM. Eye Contact Lens, May 2007.

Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists: “Rigid Contact Lenses,” “Soft (Toric) Contact Lenses.”

Are you new to wearing contact lenses? Whether you just found out you need them or are making the switch from glasses, it can feel daunting to start wearing contacts. But there’s no need to worry! Contacts are highly effective. Plus, they’re easy and safe to use! There are many kinds to choose from, so you’ll be able to get exactly what you need.

How do you know which contacts to choose though? Is one type better than another? You’ll need to follow your eye doctor’s instructions, but here are some tips on how to choose contact lenses.

Length of Wear

Before choosing contact lenses, consider how you’re going to wear them. You can wear contact lenses for various lengths of time, so make sure you get the right ones for your lifestyle.

Several-Day Wear

You can rewear some contacts for many days before replacing them. This can mean six days or up to one month, depending on the lens. In most cases, these will be soft lenses. Your doctor will schedule when you should replace them, since these lenses will eventually have buildup and wear out.

Single-Day Wear

Daily disposable lenses are available for people who don’t want to worry about cleaning and maintaining their lenses. You can toss these soft lenses at the end of the day, then pull out a new pair the next morning.

Overnight Wear

Some contacts can be worn overnight because they allow enough oxygen to reach your eyes. Many doctors don’t recommend this though, so check with your doctor to find out what’s safe for you.

Soft or Rigid

Contact lenses are either soft or rigid. Your doctor will help you determine which type is right for you. However, soft contacts are more commonly used. They’re very comfortable, especially for newbies. Also, the flexible hydrogel or silicone hydrogel materials allow better airflow to your eyes.

Rigid contacts are gas permeable and they resist deposit buildup. These lenses provide sharper acuity than soft lenses do. A great plus is they’re cheaper in the long-run because of their durability. But they’re not very comfortable unless worn consistently.

Specific Needs

You need to take into consideration whether you have specific eye-related needs. Find out what they are before choosing your pair of lenses. For example, dry eyes or allergies may make it difficult for you to wear lenses. Daily disposable contacts are best in this case, but always consult a doctor before choosing.

If you enjoy reading but need a different prescription for seeing into the distance, consider asking about bifocal or multifocal contacts. That way, you won’t have to switch back and forth between contacts and glasses.

Contact Lens Types

There are various types of contact lenses, just like there are for glasses. You may need multifocal, bifocal, nearsighted or farsighted lenses. Bifocal contacts are designed to help people who need correction for seeing both far and near. Multifocal lenses include bifocal lenses, but also include trifocal and other lens types. These are available in soft or rigid setups and help provide a natural transition from near to far vision.

If you have astigmatism, both gas permeable and toric lenses will help correct the problem. Both can help with correcting near or farsightedness while also correcting astigmatism. To determine what type of lens you need, visit your eye doctor. He or she will direct you to the lenses that can help you see the best.

Colors and Effects

Not all contact lenses are clear. Some come with colors, either to help you locate your lenses more easily or to provide an effect. Colored lenses can help enhance or transform the color of your eyes. Some can even change the look of naturally dark eyes. Colored lenses can also provide special effects, such as cat eyes. While these are great for Halloween or theatrical performances, you’ll still need a fitting and prescription.

Cost Comparisons

While choosing contact lenses, you will find that prices vary based on many factors. Lens type, brand, length of wear and effects will all come with different costs.

It’s good to get an idea of contact lens costs before you get started. Prepare yourself by researching lenses and calculating what they would cost you to wear. Take into consideration how many days you can wear a pair of lenses. Some prices will be higher because of brand names. If you need budget-friendly options, talk to your doctor to find less expensive brands.

Always Consult Your Doctor

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again! Always see your doctor before buying contacts. Although you can wear them just for fun, contact lenses are medical devices and need prescriptions. Yes, even if you have 20/20 vision, you’ll have to visit an eye doctor for a fitting. Improperly fitting contacts can cause injuries and infections.

There’s a lot to keep in mind when choosing contact lenses. But you should always think about what your doctor’s suggested. You may like the idea of wearing contacts day and night for a month, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe for your specific eyes.

Lenses Aren’t for Sharing

When deciding on a lens type, it may tempt you to try a pair from someone else. If anyone offers to let you try their used lenses, don’t do it. Contact lenses aren’t like glasses.

Since they come into direct contact with your eyes, they contain particles and bacteria. You never want to transfer this stuff from someone else’s eyes to your own. That’d be an invitation for infections.

It’s up to You and Your Doctor

Choosing contact lenses can feel intimidating, whether you’re new to the game or you’ve been around for a while. You’ll find the same type of lenses from several different brands, so it’s important to understand the differences between them.

Keep your doctor’s advice and these tips in mind when comparing your options. And don’t worry about making a perfect choice the first time around. If you don’t like what you chose, you can always try something different next time.

It’s important to keep your eyes healthy. To learn more, read our blog post on contact lenses and general eye health.

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Dailies, hard or soft, multifocal lenses — these are just a few of the options to consider when selecting contact lenses that'll best suit your eyes.

Contact lens wearers, consider your options. There are extended-wear contacts, disposables, and even lenses that can change your eye color. But as with any purchase of a medical device, buying contact lenses should be done with care and caution. These tips will help you choose the right type of contact lens for your needs.

Contact Lens Options

Your first step is to choose from two basic types of lenses: soft and hard. “Most people who wear contact lenses wear soft lenses — 9 of 10 people,” says Thomas L. Steinemann, MD, associate professor of ophthalmology at Case Western University and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “The rigid gas-permeable lenses are worn by only about 10 percent of people.” Hard lenses are usually the better choice for people who have astigmatism or a medical condition in which protein deposits form on the contact lens.

After you've chosen hard or soft lenses, there are many categories of contact lens available, both in terms of how they accomplish vision correction and how often they need to be replaced:

Daily wear contact lenses. This type of contact lens is usually the least expensive option. Daily wear contact lenses have to be taken out and disinfected every night and are replaced on a set schedule. The replacement time can vary widely by type and brand, from every two weeks to every three months.

Extended wear contact lenses. This type of contact lens is designed to be worn overnight, though they need to be removed at least once a week for cleaning and disinfection. However, many eye professionals do not encourage their use. “I recommend that people not wear contacts overnight, even if they are extended-wear lenses,” says Dr. Steinemann. When you sleep with your contact lenses in, you reduce the amount of oxygen to the eyes, making your eyes more vulnerable to infection — especially corneal infection.

Disposable contact lenses. Daily disposable lenses get tossed every day after use, so no maintenance is involved. They cost more because you need a new pair every day, but they are much more convenient. Disposables that are replaced weekly or monthly require the same regular care as daily wear lenses. Disposables are a good option for people with allergies or other conditions that exacerbate the formation of protein deposits from tear film.

Toric contact lenses. This type of lens is used to correct astigmatism, a condition in which vision is blurred because of an irregularly shaped cornea or lens inside the eye. They are usually more expensive than other contact lenses.

Colored contact lenses. Colored contacts can dramatically change the color of your eyes — making even the brownest eyes look blue or green, for instance — or enhance your natural color. They can be worn for purely cosmetic purposes or to also correct vision.

Multifocal contact lenses. People with presbyopia — a condition that occurs as people get older and their eyes have a harder time bringing close objects into focus — can sometimes have their vision corrected with bifocal or multifocal lenses. One technique, called monovision, uses a contact lens for distance in the dominant eye and a contact lens for near vision in the non-dominant eye. Modified monovision uses a bifocal or multifocal lens in the non-dominant eye. “It can be tricky for some people who can’t deal with blurriness or who have trouble filtering out visual distractions,” says Steinemann.

Buying Contacts? Follow These Safety Tips

When purchasing contact lenses, keep these tips in mind:

  • Don’t buy lenses out of broken box sets. Make sure the package is sealed properly.
  • Use caution when buying contacts on the Internet. Stay with reputable Web sites that will confirm your prescription with your eye doctor and that offer brand name products. When you receive your order, make sure the information on each contact lens box matches your prescription.
  • Be sure to use a current prescription from your eye care professional; prescriptions are only good for one year from the date they are written.

Even if you do not need vision correction, don’t buy cosmetic lenses without consulting an eye care professional. Theatrical contact lenses that are used for Halloween or other occasions are sold on the Internet, beauty salons, and even convenience stores. But even cosmetic lenses, like lenses used for vision correction, must be fitted by trained professionals and should be monitored with follow-up visits to prevent eye infections and other problems.

Contact lenses are an excellent way to correct vision. And by taking a few necessary precautions, you can determine the contact lens type that’s best suited for your needs.

Choosing the best contact lenses for your needs depends on many factors. You don’t need to know how to choose contact lenses that fit. Your optometrist looks after the fitting. But you may still want some guidance.

The first step is talking to your eye doctor. They’ll be able to diagnose eye refractive errors and write the correct prescription. Let’s learn more about contact lenses and how they can improve your visual acuity.

Contact Lens Variations

To find the best brand of contact lenses, advice from professionals is paramount. One brand can feel uncomfortable while another can be the perfect fit. Your optometrist can point you in the right direction. They can prescribe the best type of lens for your daily needs. They can also instruct you on how to care for contact lenses and what to avoid.

But first things first. You’ll need to understand the difference between the many types of lenses on the market today.

Your most basic choice is between hard or soft contact lenses. The soft variety is the most commonly worn type of contact lenses. Rigid gas permeable contact lenses are mostly worn by people that suffer from astigmatism.

Some of the most common contact lens variations include:

1. Day-to-Day Wear

Day-to-day lenses are the most inexpensive of all contact lens types. You can wear them all day long but you have to take them out and disinfect them each night. There is a lot more maintenance involved with this type of lenses. Also, you will need to always have contact lens solution and a case handy.

2. Extended Wear

You can wear these overnight. But, you must remove them at least once a week for cleaning and disinfecting. Extended wear contacts can be worn continuously for anything from 7 days to 30 days. Of course, you’ll do well to take them out every few days, disinfect and clean their case.

3. Disposable

You can wear dailies. Daily contact lenses can be thrown out at the end of the day. These are a low maintenance form of lenses. Still, they can be more expensive as you will need a new pair each day. You’ll have to weigh convenience over price. Weekly or monthly disposables work much the same as day-to-day lenses. They’re the ideal option for people who suffer from severe allergies.

4. Toric

Toric lenses are hard contact lenses. They correct astigmatism, a condition which causes blurred vision or an irregular shaped cornea. Toric lenses are a bit more expensive because they are not for everyone.

5. Multifocal

These types of lenses are also very specific, reserved for people who suffer from farsightedness. In other words, they struggle to focus on objects close up, while they can see objects further away. Most people would use bifocal glasses to correct this issue. But, today multifocal contact lenses work well for this condition too. Still, multifocal lenses can be tricky. Some people cannot handle the blurriness or struggle to filter out visual distractions.

How to Choose Contact Lenses: What to Consider

An eye doctor will generally ask you to consider some of the following before choosing contact lenses that suit you:

1. How Often Do You Plan on Wearing Contacts?

One of the most basic considerations is how often you plan on switching from glasses to contacts. Will you wear them only on weekends, every day or only on special occasions? The optometrist will most likely prescribe soft contact lenses. You can wear these as often as you please. By comparison, you’ll need to wear hard contacts daily to become comfortable with them.

2. How Sharp Do You Want Your Vision to Be?

Hard contact lenses, also known as rigid gas permeable contact lenses, can offer a sharper vision. They are best suited for people with astigmatism. Of course, people that do not have this condition can also wear them. Try out a variety of soft and hard lenses to see which ones fit best. Your optometrist may have samples you can try in their office.

3. Will You Be Able to Care for Your Contacts Properly?

It’s important to follow the care instructions associated with your lenses. This will help you avoid eye infections and corneal ulcers. Your doctor will suggest the right type of contact lens solution and cleaning schedule for you to follow.

Disposable contact lenses have a reduced risk for eye infections. You’ll still need to clean them and throw them out when the expiry date comes around. This is particularly important for people who have extended wear lenses.

4. Do You Prefer Overnight or Disposable Contact Lenses?

If the thought of having to remove your contact lenses every night puts you off, then extended wear contact lenses could be for you. Health Canada has approved some brands of contact lenses for overnight wear as they allow for improved amounts of oxygen to pass through them.

But, it’s important to first consult with your eye doctor about whether your eyes can tolerate the use of extended wear contacts.

5. Do You Use Bifocal Glasses?

Many people over the age of 40 require the use of glasses to assist with either near or far-sightedness. This is where bifocal glasses have played an important role for years now. Yet, multifocal contact lenses have made their way to market and are being used to replace bifocal glasses.

Another option is monovision contact lenses. This means that you use one contact lens for good vision and the other for nearsightedness. Many people use monovision contact lenses as an alternative to bifocal glasses or multifocal lenses.

6. Can You Afford the Cost of Contact Lenses?

Contact lenses can be expensive. This is largely dependent on the brand. You’ll need to be able to afford regular contact lens replacement and the solution needed to keep them clean and disinfected.

7. Do You Suffer From Chronic Allergies?

Whether you suffer from dry eyes or persistent allergies, there’s a type of contacts out there for you. You’ll need to discuss these conditions with your eye doctor before buying a certain lens brand. Disposable daily contacts are well suited for those with dry eyes or allergies. These will limit irritants and help keep infections away from your eyes.

Find Your Perfect Lens

Looking for advice and guidance on how to choose contact lenses that won’t irritate your eyes? Your eye care professional can help guide you to the right contacts based on your specific needs and lifestyle. It may take some trial and error but you should eventually find what works best for you with the help of your eye doctor.

Whether you’re looking for daily, weekly or monthly lenses, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for.