Many seek contact lens wear for convenience, appearance, or performance in physical activities. While they are extremely useful on all of these fronts, the initial introduction to contact lenses can be overwhelming with how many types of lenses are available and what exactly is necessary in order to take proper care of your eyes when wearing them. This article outlines the types of soft contact lenses that our eye doctors may recommend to you.
Replacement Frequency of Soft Contact Lenses
How often you will replace the lenses is one of the first choices you will make. Options include daily, bi-weekly, or monthly replacement. Daily disposable lenses are replaced after every use, which means that each lens can only be used for one day before being thrown out. The benefit of this is that dailies eliminate the need for overnight storage in solution, negating the possibility of contamination and consequently decreasing the risk of eye infections. This also means that there is no need to purchase saline solution, unless this is preferred to rinse the lenses. The trade-off is that more lenses are needed, resulting in higher cost if contacts are worn very often. Although they are the most pricey option, daily disposable lenses are overall the best for eye health, contact lens comfort, and convenience.
Monthly lenses are the opposite in that a new lens is opened and worn for one month then replaced. These lenses must be stored in a cleaned contact lens case overnight using preferably hydrogen peroxide solution. These lenses cost less but are not as easy to clean as daily lenses and the cleaning process must include rub and rinse steps. This also means that these solutions must be purchased in addition to the lenses themselves. This adds some cost, though the monthly modality is still the cheapest way to go. Bi-weekly lenses are the middle option in that they are replaced every two weeks and also require a solution for the lenses to be stored in.
Soft Contact Lens Design
There are also several design types to consider. These include spherical (correcting only the first number in your prescription), toric (correcting astigmatism as well as spherical refractive error), and multifocal (providing distance and near correction, like progressive addition lenses) lenses. The choice largely depends on what your prescription actually is and how old you are. If you do not have enough astigmatism to affect your vision, you will be put in a spherical lens as these are usually more comfortable, cheaper, and more convenient. If you are past your early forties and beginning to experience blur at near, you will likely want to try multifocals as these provide some correction both far away and up close. However, multifocals do not widely come in astigmatic designs as of yet, which means that you may have to pick and choose between a perfect distance correction or correction at near if you have significant astigmatism.
Contact Lens Materials
Finally, all contact lens brands use different materials and versions that fall into two types: hydrogel and silicone hydrogel. Hydrogel lenses are older, less stiff, slightly less comfortable, and come with lower oxygen permeability (making them less healthy), but are cheaper. Silicone hydrogel materials are usually the first recommended choice unless there is some extra need for a hydrogel, like less rigidity or a different fitting profile.