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How do Contact Lenses Work?

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Glasses are great and can be a part of your daily aesthetic, but sometimes you want to switch it up. That’s where contact lenses come in and provide an alternative look. Whether you’re wearing your glasses or contact lenses, staying caught up on your eye exams for updated prescriptions is essential.

But how do contact lenses work? And what are some different types of contact lenses? Let’s look into contact lenses, including some reasons to try them out.

Contact Lenses & You

Contact lenses work by treating refractive errors. Contact lenses increase or decrease the focusing potential of the cornea and directly project light onto the retina to treat refractive errors. 

Some examples of refractive errors include:

These refractive errors can be treated using different lenses customized for your use based on your prescription.

Some reasons to consider the change to contact lenses:

  • Contact lenses move with your eye and allow a natural field of view.
  • Unlike glasses, they do not fog up or get splattered by mud or rain.
  • Contact lenses are great for physical activities like sports or longer hikes.
  • Many people can benefit from a confidence boost from switching to contact lenses.

Contact lens technology has evolved over the years, and they’re more versatile than ever before. Let’s look at the different types of contact lenses.

Rigid Gas-Permeable (RGP) Lenses

Rigid gas-permeable lenses are made of flexible plastics that allow oxygen to pass through to your eyes. These lenses are more durable than soft contact lenses, and while you must remove them for cleaning and disinfection every night, some can be worn for a week or up to 30 days.

RGP lenses provide excellent vision, a short adaptation period, and are comfortable to wear. These lenses are easy to use and care for and are available for myopia control and corneal refractive therapy. 

Soft Contact Lenses

Soft contact lenses are one of the most commonly prescribed lenses. These lenses are made of soft, flexible plastics and are used to correct various refractive errors. They are comfortable and even easier to adapt to than rigid gas-permeable lenses.

Newer soft lens materials include silicone-hydrogels to provide more oxygen to your eye.

Extended-wear Lenses

Extended-wear lenses can usually be worn for extended periods without removal. Some are even FDA-approved for up to 30 days. 

This type of lens is also available for overnight wear in soft or RGP lenses.

Extended-wear Disposable

Extended-wear disposable lenses can be worn for an extended period, usually anywhere from 1 to 6 days. Extender-wear disposable lenses require little or no maintenance and lessen the risk of eye infection if the wearing instructions are followed.

These lenses are also available in tints and bifocals, with spare lenses available. 

Planned Replacement Lenses

Planned replacement lenses are soft daily-wear lenses that are replaced on a planned schedule. The replacement schedule is usually set up for every 2 weeks, monthly, or quarterly. 

Planned replacement lenses are easy to clean, disinfect, and good for your eye health. These lenses are also available in most prescriptions. 

Now that you know the focusing areas of treatment of contact lenses and some different types, let’s look at how to care for your contact lenses properly.

A contact lens sitting on a contact lens case

Caring for Your Contact Lenses

Contact lenses are a great option and can be a very convenient option when you’re tired of your glasses, but it’s essential to practice proper maintenance.

Contact lenses are safe for long-term use when handled with care. Following your optometrist’s instructions for wearing, cleaning, and storing your lenses is a great start. 

Some general tips to follow when considering contact lens safety:

  • Avoid sleeping in your contact lenses unless your lenses are designed to be slept in.
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water and dry them with a clean towel before handling your lenses.
  • Keep your contact lenses away from water as water can introduce germs into your eyes.
  • Properly clean your lenses by rinsing and rubbing them with a disinfecting solution every time you remove them. 
  • Carry a backup pair of glasses with an updated prescription if you have to remove your lenses.
  • Remove your contact lenses and call your optometrist immediately if you have eye pain, discomfort, redness, or blurred vision. 

Contact lenses are customizable and can fit a variety of situations depending on your needs. Getting your contact lens exam can solidify what type of contact lenses are best for you. 

Switching up Your Look

There are different types of contact lenses that can support all budgets, lifestyles, and preferences. Choosing the right lenses for you will come down to your optometrist’s recommendation and your vision needs.

Book an appointment with your optometrist today to get your contact lens exam and get a little more flexibility in your look.

Written by Dr. Santarlas, OD

Dr. Santarlas received his undergraduate degree from the University of South Carolina in marine geochemistry. He spent three years in the US Naval Reserves and then completed a postgraduate year at the University of Queensland in Brisbane Australia studying satellite remote sensing. He subsequently obtained his doctorate in Optometry from the University of Missouri – St. Louis in 2002. Upon graduation, he started a private practice in rural Illinois where he practiced solo and in group retail. He moved to San Diego in 2008 and became involved with the UC San Diego Shiley Eye Center. Here he specialized in pediatrics and community Ophthalmology.
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