These days, contact lenses are more popular than ever. With lenses for every type of vision condition –from myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism, and presbyopia — there are more products than ever out there to satisfy consumer needs. At your eye exam, your eye doctor will determine based on your vision correction needs, eye health and personal lifestyle, what contact lenses you need. Your eye doctor carefully considers factors like dry or watery eyes, allergies, or other conditions. This short guide will break down the different types of lenses out there and the best contact lenses options you have.
There are several classes of materials available on the market today. The three main types are hydrogel, silicone hydrogel, and gas permeable lenses. During your eye exam, your eye doctor can determine which class of material is most appropriate for you, taking into consideration specific needs for eye health, vision correction, convenience, and cost.
- Hydrogel – These contacts are the industry mainstay for thirty years. They are softer than original hard contact lenses, made from a soft, pliable polymer. They conform to the eye shape easily. These come in a wide variety of replacement schedules ranging from daily, two-week, monthly, quarterly, to annual.
- Silicone Hydrogel – These are the most commonly prescribed class of lens in the United States. They are more oxygen permeable than hydrogels which reduce the risk of ocular health problems related to inadequate oxygenation including corneal neovascularization, stromal edema, and epithelial microcysts. Like hydrogel contact lenses, these come in a wide variety of replacement schedules ranging from daily, two-week, monthly, quarterly, to annual.
- Rigid Gas Permeable – RGP contact lenses, or “hard” lenses, are incredibly oxygen permeable. They are the gold standard for providing the best visual quality, especially for patients with high degrees of astigmatism and patients with the eye disease, keratoconus. Generally, these lenses get designed for annual replacement. The traditional small diameter or corneal RGP lenses often take some time for eyes to adjust to them. However, the newer large-diameter scleral lenses provide exceptional wearing comfort and on-eye stability. At the moment, scleral lenses are relatively expensive and most commonly prescribed for esoteric eye diseases, such as keratoconus. For more information, check out our guide on what are scleral lenses.
Your Health, Your Lenses
Since the best contact lens for you depends on many factors, the first thing you’ll want to do is have a comprehensive eye exam. Your doctor will be able to determine your candidacy for contact lenses and also discuss what you can reasonably expect. It’s essential you report any changes in your eye health as this will help determine the best contact lenses for you. Here are some other factors you and your doctor will want to account for:
- How Often You Change Your Lenses: There are daily, weekly or monthly contact lenses on the market. Single-use contact lenses are not available in all parameters and often carry a cost-premium. Be sure to check with your doctor to see what your eyes adapt to best.
- Comfort vs. Visual Acuity: Soft lenses are often more comfortable in the beginning and take less time adjusting to. Hard lenses offer greater visual acuity.
- Different Conditions: If you need reading glasses or contact lenses for astigmatism, there are increased complexities to bring you a desirable outcome that your eye doctor can help you with.
The Best Contact Lens for You
Everybody has their own individual contact lens needs. If you follow this easy guide, you’ll be on your way to finding the best contact lenses for you, so you can see things clearly while ensuring your comfort.