There are different pros and cons to either type of lens, along with considerations that may make a particular type specifically suitable for you: neither is ‘better’ than the other. However, if your optician has specifically advised you to wear one type of lens over the other, it’s important you follow their advice.
How do daily soft contact lenses work?
Soft contact lenses are made from a flexible plastic material which is hard when dry but becomes soft when hydrated. The soft, pliable material makes the lens easy to adjust to and very comfortable to wear. Soft lenses can be worn daily or casually, including only on special occasions. Lenses made from newer materials such as silicone hydrogel allow more oxygen to pass to the cornea of the eye: this ‘breathability’ provides increased comfort.
What are the benefits of daily use soft contact lenses?
Soft contact lenses are the most commonly used type for several reasons, including:
- They are made from flexible material that conforms to the shape of the cornea when properly fitted
- There is a shorter initial adaptation period for new users
- They offer greater comfort, even during initial use
- Soft lenses are ideal for intermittent users (those who use lenses casually rather than everyday)
- They are less susceptible to dust and other foreign objects becoming trapped under the lens
- They are less likely to fall out of the eye and are ideal for playing sports
- Soft lenses are not as light sensitive as hard lenses
Despite the advantages of soft contact lenses, they may not be suitable for everyone. They tend to be less durable than hard contact lenses and have a tendency to dry out in hot and windy conditions, which can cause discomfort.
How do daily use hard contact lenses work?
Rigid gas permeable (RGP) or hard contact lenses are made of a durable plastic material. Newer RGP materials transmit more oxygen to keep the cornea healthy. However, these types of contact lenses require a longer initial adaptation period: that is, it takes longer for them than soft lenses to become comfortable.
You need to wear hard lenses consistently for them to remain comfortable, and if you take an extended break from using them, you may need some time to re-adapt. Hard contact lenses are typically considered less suitable for playing sports as they are more easily dislodged from the surface of the eye. Also, the likelihood of foreign objects such as dust becoming trapped under the lens is higher than with soft lenses.
Although less popular than soft contact lenses, gas permeable lenses are the better choice in certain scenarios. For example, in people with a condition called keratoconus, the cornea becomes thinned out and bulges into a cone shape. Rigid gas permeable contact lenses can retain their shape when applied to the eye without conforming to the shape of the underlying, irregular cornea.
What are the benefits of daily use hard contact lenses?
Rigid gas permeable contact lenses have several advantages, including:
- They are made from durable material, are easier to handle, and less likely to tear
- Hard lenses are resistant to deposit build-up, thus providing crisper, clearer vision
- They are longer-lasting and therefore less expensive than soft contacts
Should I choose daily use soft or hard contact lenses?
If you intend to wear contacts intermittently or on special occasions, soft contact lenses are probably the best choice for you. If you have dry eyes or sensitive eyes, soft lenses are easy to adjust to, offer greater comfort, and are gentler on the eyes. Soft contact lenses take only a few days to get used to initially, compared to hard contact lenses that can take several weeks to become comfortable.
If you wear contacts daily and are looking for lenses that are cost-effective and durable, rigid gas permeable (hard) contacts may be your best bet. After the initial period of adjustment, you will benefit from less involved lens care and better lens performance in the long-term due to reduced deposit build-up. In the long run, hard contact lenses offer crisper, clearer vision. Rigid gas permeable lenses may also be preferable for people who work outdoors in hot conditions where soft contacts can dry out and cause discomfort.