Soft contact lenses are medical devices which are among the most popular vision correction gadgets. They are used to correct refractive errors and to keep the eyes healthy. A person wears the small prescription lenses onto the eye. The corrective lenses adhere to the tear film on the corneal surface.
Soft contact lenses are made of hydrogels. It is a soft, breathable and flexible plastic that permits oxygen to get to the cornea. This lessens dry eyes and helps to keep the cornea healthy. Thin and pliable, the lenses conform to the eye’s front surface which also makes them comfortable to wear.
Before obtaining contact lenses, one must get a prescription from an authorized eye care practitioner. He/she performs a thorough eye exam and a vision check to determine eligibility for contact lenses. The professional also ensures the contacts fit well and shows the patient how to care for them. One may need follow-up exams as instructed by the professional. It could be after a week, a month, six months, and once a year or every two years.
There are various types of soft contacts including:
- Daily wear lenses (dailies) – These are designed for one-day wear. Dailies don’t need other products such as contact lens solution. They are ideal for busy professionals, sports enthusiasts, occasional lens users, allergy sufferers and people who don’t want the extra cleaning and maintenance involved.
- Two-week disposable lenses (weeklies) – These are worn daily for two weeks and replaced for a new pair. They need daily cleaning and storage overnight. They are ideal for first time contacts wearers and people with dry eyes
- Monthly disposable lenses (monthlies) - These are used daily, cleaned and stored overnight for a month and changed for a new pair. There are suitable for people who wear contacts for five or more days a week.
- Quarterly disposable lenses (quarterlies). – These lenses are worn for 90 days and replaced. One removes them every night for cleaning, disinfecting and storage. They are great for people who move about constantly and those who are cost conscious.
- Overnight (extended) wear lenses – These can be worn for up to 30 days making them low maintenance. One doesn’t have to remove them before going to bed or to take a shower/bath. Their downside is that they may lead to complications, such as the accumulation of debris under the lens, severe eye infections and corneal disorders.
Lenses are used to correct vision disorders including:
- Presbyopia (age-related loss of close-up vision)
- Astigmatism (blurred vision)
- Hyperopia (farsightedness)
- Myopia (nearsightedness)
Using contact lenses may lead to complications including:
- Dry eyes
- Eye discomfort
- Distorted vision
- Corneal abrasion
- Corneal inflammation
- Severe eye infections
- Permanent eye tissue damage leading to vision loss or blindness
This is why it is essential to ensure that the lenses are from an authorized eye care professional.
Using with Glasses
One can combine the use of contacts with eyeglasses. For instance, one can use contacts for distance vision and glasses for up close tasks. A person wearing contacts must consult the eye doctor before using eye drops.
To prevent problems one should:
- Avoid over-the-counter contact lenses
- Avoid expired contact lenses solution
- Replace contact lenses and cases as recommended
- Clean and rinse the contact lenses as directed by the doctor
- Dispose of the solution in the contact lens case every time after disinfecting and storing the lenses
- Be careful with contact lens solutions - Use the products specified for the specific type of contact lenses only
- Maintain good hygiene - Wash hands using the lint-free method before handling contacts
- Prevent the contact lenses from water and saliva – Remove the contacts before swimming or using a hot tub unless allowed by the doctor. A patient must not wet contact lenses with spit.
Dry eyes can be an issue for contact lens users, even with proper use and care. If the eyes are red or itchy, one should remove the contacts and use lubricating eye drops.
If a person experiences blurry vision, eye pain or extreme sensitivity to light, prompt treatment is necessary.