Contact lenses are tiny plastic miracles: Pop them into your eye and voilà—the world is crystal clear. Soft and pliable, today’s contacts are more comfortable than ever. Best of all, new options for contact lenses abound, opening up a world of better vision for people with a range of eye conditions—from disposable contact lenses and gas permeable contacts to multifocal contacts and even toric contact lenses to correct astigmatism.
To get the full story about today’s contact lenses—and what you need to know before you buy—I spoke with Kristen Bianco, contact lens specialist for Cohen’s Fashion Optical. Read on for Bianco’s most frequently asked questions about contacts, as well as her expertise-filled answers.
Are contact lenses right for me?
“Almost everyone can wear contacts,” says Bianco. “They come in many sizes and can be tailored to the curvature of your eye as determined by your eye doctor.” With several technological advancements made in recent years, contact lenses are now available to correct a range of vision problems. For example, we now have toric soft lenses for astigmatism (an imperfection in the eye’s curvature), bifocal lenses for presbyopia (farsightedness), and multifocal lenses in various wear schedules, including daily, bi-weekly, and monthly.
What is the best type of contact lens?
There are many different types of contact lenses, from soft contacts and extended-wear varieties to rigid gas permeable (also known as RGP or GP) contact lenses. Originally, hard contacts made of polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) were the only type of commercially available contact lenses. Today, hard contacts are nearly obsolete as consumers favor more comfortable soft contacts, made from gel-like plastics, and the newer GP contacts, made with a firm yet flexible plastic that allows oxygen to flow through.
Your doctor can help you find the ones that work best for you. “My preference is a onetime use, daily wear lens,” says Bianco. “The best wear schedule is to change lenses out as often as possible.”
Can I sleep in my contacts?
“It’s never recommended to sleep in your contact lenses,” says Bianco. Contacts need moisture and air, both of which are in short supply while the eyes are shut. Wearing contacts while sleeping can result in irritated, dry eyes, and it can also lead to a condition called hypoxia, or oxygen deprivation. Moreover, sleeping in contacts can increase your odds of developing an eye infection, because bacteria can get into the cornea (while you are awake, blinking can flush bacteria out).
Can kids wear contacts?
Yes—though experts differ on their opinion of how young a child can be to start wearing contact lenses. Contacts require a certain level of care and responsibility, and some children are ready for that sooner than others. “It’s subjective to the parent and doctor,” says Bianco. “I have had patients as young as 8 years old wear them for sports or dance.”
Why do I have to be fit for contacts every year?
Quite simply, things change. “Contact lens wearers are more prone to infections or irritations due to misuse,” says Bianco. “The health of the eye as well as the shape of the eye can alter from year to year.” An annual contact lens exam is different from a routine eye exam: Your doctor will check the fit of your contacts and will make sure that the contacts you’ve been wearing are not harming your eyes.
Are contact lenses bad for your eyes?
Contact lenses are very safe—as long as you consult your doctor for the best fit, take care of them properly, use good hygiene, and don’t leave them in your eyes for too long. Experts recommend that you wear your contacts for no longer than 10-12 hours a day, taking them out before bedtime or discarding them if they are the daily-use variety. Take care of your contacts as if they are a part of you…because in a sense, they are.
Are you ready to shop for contacts, or to book a contact lens exam with one of Cohen’s expert eye doctors?
Find a Cohen’s location and get rolling.