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, or astigmatism. You can wear contacts even if you have presbyopia and need bifocals.
In a tough economy, saving money is on everyone's mind. But when it comes to eye care, experts say that what you do to save money today may put you at risk of much higher costs in the future.
"As people try to ration their income, they will often choose to forgo or skip their routine eye exam," says Samuel Pierce, OD, a Trussville, Ala.-based optometrist and a board member of the American Optometric Association. "It's penny-wise and health care-foolish."
Talk with your eye doctor about the best type of lenses for you, and get your regular eye exams so you not only keep your eyes healthy, but also keep your contact prescription up-to-date.
Soft Contact Lenses
Soft contacts are made of a type of plastic combined with water. Water lets oxygen pass through the contact lens to your cornea, which increases comfort, reduces dry eyes, and helps keep your cornea healthy. If your cornea doesn’t get enough oxygen, it may swell, get cloudy, and lead to blurred vision or problems that are more serious.
Benefits. 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.
Some soft lenses are not disposable. You wear the same pair for about a year, cleaning them each night. These are typically more “custom” designed contact lenses.
Compared to rigid gas-permeables, the other main type of contacts, soft lenses are typically more comfortable when you first insert them into your eyes.
As a bonus, many soft lenses provide UV protection.
Disadvantages. Soft contacts more easily absorb pollutants 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 contact lenses are also more fragile and rip or tear more easily than hard or gas-permeable lenses.
Varieties. New types of soft lenses continue to come to market as new technologies develop.
Daily disposables are soft contacts that you wear only for one day and then throw away, which means you don’t have to clean them regularly or risk dry eye and irritation from contact solutions. If you have allergies, daily disposables may be the right choice for you.
Silicone-based materials create an extremely breathable contact lens, meaning oxygen can pass through your lens to your cornea. This material also keeps deposits from building up, so these lenses cause less irritation from dry eyes. Some silicone contacts allow extended wear -- you can wear these lenses for up to 30 days and sleep in them for 30. However, your cornea gets less oxygen when you sleep wearing your contacts. The risk of very serious complications is always higher when you sleep in any type of contact lens, so make sure you balance convenience with safety when deciding on contact lenses. To prevent problems, follow directions on the lenses, and see your eye doctor for regular checkups. Silicone lenses are not for everyone so talk with your eye care professional if you’re interested in them.