For people who need vision correction, but choose not to wear eyeglasses daily, contact lenses are a popular option. We asked our resident contact lens expert, Angela Cleveland, to answer some of the most common questions patients ask. We hope you can find the answers to yours here!
What are Contact Lenses?
Contacts are thin lenses that fit directly onto the eye’s surface to correct visual needs. Most popular contact lens options are made from a thin plastic material. They are able to absorb water from the eye to stay moist and keep the lens comfortable in the eye. Different brands and varieties of contacts are made of slightly different materials in order to meet the diverse needs of users.
The Origin of Contact Lenses
In 1888, Paris opticians Fick and Edouard Kalt introduced the first contact lenses to the eye industry. Made from a glass material, these lenses were also large in size and quite heavy. The glass lenses reduced oxygen supply to the cornea. As a result, wearers could only tolerate them for a few hours at a time. Therefore, those lenses never gained widespread acceptance. Later, introductions of more advanced materials would emerge. These would include non-porous plastics, hydrophilic hydrogel, and the newest technology, silicone-hydrogel. Today, most eye care professionals and contact lens wearers alike prefer soft contact lenses. However, in some cases, rigid gas permeable (RGP) lenses may still be the best option. People with certain ocular diseases, such as Keratoconus, are better able to use RGP lenses.
Will Contact Lenses fit my needs?
The contact lens industry has grown leaps and bounds over the years. Not only are contacts able to correct myopic (nearsighted) and hyperopic (farsighted) prescriptions, there are now options for astigmatic (resulting from the curvature of the eye) prescriptions. There are also contacts that correct presbyopic prescriptions. Presbyopia is the loss of the eye’s ability to change focus, typically resulting from age.
Have you ever wished your eyes were a different color? Wearing colored contacts is a way to achieve this! Because there are so many available options, contact lenses most likely could fit the needs of each individual. People choose to wear contacts for many reasons, from having the ability to change the appearance of eye color, functionality, or other optical reasons.
When compared to eyeglasses, contacts typically provide better peripheral vision. They also won’t fog over or collect moisture as glasses tend to do in abrupt temperature changes. Wearing contacts also allows one to wear the latest fashionable sunglasses without having to add costly prescription lenses. This feature may make contacts the preferred choice for sports or other outdoor activities.
Can a contact get stuck behind my eye?
The short answer is no! Your eye contains a membrane called the conjunctiva, which covers the white part of your eye and connects to your eyelid. Because of this, a contact cannot go behind your eye!
Is it safe to sleep in contacts?
There are basically two categories of soft contact lenses: daily wear and extended wear. Manufacturers and the FDA have different recommendations for different products. Some brands are FDA approved to wear continuously for two weeks, removing overnight at least once weekly. Others are approved to be worn up to four weeks, but also should be removed overnight at least once a week. Daily wear contacts should be disposed of every day.
Although the breathability of contacts has improved drastically over the years, the amount of oxygen the eye receives while wearing contacts is still reduced. This is especially true while sleeping. Lack of oxygen while sleeping with a contact lens in place can result in a corneal ulcer. A corneal ulcer is an open sore on your cornea. They are very painful, and can lead to the inability to wear contact lenses. Most importantly, an ulcer can cause permanent vision loss. Because of this, we recommend wearing contacts on a daily-wear basis and avoid sleeping in contacts.
Daily wear contacts allow more oxygen to your cornea, reduce the risk of corneal ulcers, and prevent the formation of protein deposits on the contact lens. These factors make them a more comfortable choice for dry eye sufferers.
Does wearing contacts mean I no longer need glasses?
Contacts are a safe, comfortable, and practical alternative to prescription eyeglasses for vision correction. In most cases, there is no reason contacts cannot be worn daily. However, we do recommend keeping a pair of eyeglasses that you can comfortably wear and see out of in case your eye care professional recommends suspending the use of contacts for a period of time for any reason.
We hope this has answered any questions you may have had about contact lenses. If you are a current contact lens wearer and are struggling with comfort or the ability to achieve the distance or near vision you desire, we will be glad to explore a more suitable option for you. If you have never worn contacts before but think they may be a good option for you, please contact our office. We can schedule a time for you to come in for a contact fitting appointment to discuss available options, and help you decide what is right for you!