Contact lenses are a popular choice of eyewear for people of all ages. Wearers may opt for them instead of glasses for various reasons: some want a different fashion ‘look’ without glasses; others may prefer them for sports and physical activities.
Whatever the reason they are worn, contact lenses offer natural eyesight and a complete field of view as they move with the eye.1 However, certain eye conditions may make contact lens use more difficult than wearing glasses, or may require special types.
Contact lenses for myopia, hyperopia, and presbyopia
Like glasses, contact lenses work by correcting refractive errors in the eyes through the addition or subtraction of focusing power. They are applied directly to the cornea (the clear front surface of the eye), and when used with care, offer a good alternative to glasses and a safe and effective way of correcting vision. Contacts can be used for the same vision problems as glasses, including:2
This is when near objects are clear, and distant objects are blurred. Contact lenses help correct this condition by diverging light rays and reducing the eye’s focusing power, moving the focus point back onto the retina.4
This condition is the opposite to myopia — distant objects are clear, while close objects are blurred. Contact lenses correct this by converging the light rays and increasing the eye’s focusing power, moving the focus point forward onto the retina.5
This condition, which typically occurs after the age of 40, is a natural decline in vision due to age — a natural decline in vision.3 Special bifocal and multifocal contact lenses are commonly used for this condition.
Contact lenses and astigmatism
Astigmatism is a condition that occurs due to the imperfect curvature of the cornea (or lens in the eye), which results in the blurring of both near and far vision. It is relatively common, requires prescription and can occur in combination with either short-sightedness or far-sightedness. When it is severe enough, astigmatism will often require corrective lenses to help treat it.6
If you have astigmatism, you may require a special type of contact lens called a toric lens. This type of lens is shaped in a particular way that creates different focusing powers in the horizontal and vertical orientations, meaning that the refractive power of the lens changes as you move around the surface of the lens — helping to correct the blurry vision caused by astigmatism.7
There are generally two types of toric lenses — rigid gas-permeable (hard) or hydrogel (soft) lenses — and soft lenses are available in different wear schedules, including daily disposables, twice-monthly, and monthly contact lenses for astigmatism.
Toric lenses are also designed with special features that allow them to stay in place. To get this right, however, you’ll need to have a contact lens fitting to ensure they don’t slip or affect your visual clarity.
Contact lenses and eye infections
When used correctly, contact lenses are very safe and easy to wear. However, they can increase the risk of eye infections, (like keratitis), because a foreign object comes in direct contact with the cornea. To help reduce the risk of getting an eye infection, you should consider the following:
- Clean and store your contacts properly, as instructed by your optician.
- Handle your lenses hygienically, making sure you clean your hands before picking them up.
- Use the cleaning solution as directed.
- Use disposable contacts according to the recommended schedule.
- Don’t leave your contacts in your eyes overnight (unless you have been prescribed special lenses for overnight use).
- Use properly fitting contacts — as ill-fitting contacts can cause scratches on the cornea, which makes it easier for microorganisms like bacteria and fungi to enter the eye.
- Have regular eye exams to ensure your contacts fit properly and your prescription hasn’t changed.
It’s important to be vigilant for symptoms such as red, irritated, or watery eyes, light sensitivity, eye pain, blurred vision, discharge, or any sort of discomfort with contact lens use. If you ever think you might have an eye infection, you should see your local Specsavers optician as soon as possible. Eye infections from contact lens use are usually treated with antibiotic eye drops, and in most cases, your doctor will advise that you stop using your lenses until the infection clears.8
Contact lenses and dry eyes
Dry eye syndrome is a common condition in which there is inadequate lubrication of the eyes. This can happen due to a lack of tears, or even poor-quality tears that dry out too quickly. The common symptoms for dry eyes are itchiness, soreness, stinging, burning, redness, light sensitivity, and watery or gritty eyes. This can occur especially after staring at a computer screen for a long time, remaining in an air-conditioned environment like an airplane, or from exposure to wind such as by riding a bike.
If you have dry eyes, you may find it difficult to wear contact lenses — and in some cases, wearing contact lenses may even help to cause dry eyes, due to the presence of the lens material reducing the flow of oxygen and production of tears.9 10
However, this doesn’t mean that people with dry eyes can’t use contact lenses. There are types of lenses that are less likely to cause this problem, such as silicone hydrogel lenses, which are made from advanced technologies that allow more oxygen to reach the cornea, and daily disposables, which are less likely to have deposits on the lens surface. If you have dry eyes, using lubricating eye drops may also help.10
Contact lenses and sensitive eyes
Many different things can lead to sensitive eyes, including smoke, dust, wind, allergies, dry eyes, and inadequate oxygen. Exposure to these irritants can lead to symptoms such as redness, itching, and discomfort, and if you have sensitive eyes you may find it challenging to use contact lenses. However, modern lenses are manufactured to be worn comfortably even by people with irritated or sensitive eyes. These lenses have high moisture retention, reduced protein deposits, and high oxygen transmission.
If you already have or are considering contact lenses, your first step should be to talk to your Specsavers optician, who can advise you on what option is best for you. They can also advise you on our contact lens easycare package (contact lens subscription), which has a range of benefits such as free eye tests, contact lens check-ups, and free replacement lenses.
1. American Optometric Association. (no date). Advantages and Disadvantages of Various Types of Contact Lenses. [Online]. Available at: https://www.aoa.org/patients-a... [Accessed 26 September 2019].
2. Kellogg Eye Center Michigan Medicine. (no date). Contact Lenses. [Online]. Available at: https://www.umkelloggeye.org/c... [Accessed 26 September 2019].
3. American Academy of Ophthalmology. (no date). What is Presbyopia? [Online]. Available at: https://www.aao.org/eye-health... [Accessed 26 September 2019].
4. American Academy of Ophthalmology. (no date). Nearsightedness: What is Myopia? [Online]. Available at: https://www.aao.org/eye-health... [Accessed 26 September 2019].
5. American Academy of Ophthalmology. (no date). Farsightedness: What is Hyperopia? [Online]. Available at: https://www.aao.org/eye-health... [Accessed 26 September 2019].
6. Mayo Clinic. (no date). Astigmatism. [Online]. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/dis... [Accessed 26 September 2019].
7. Cooper Vision. (no date). Toric Contact Lenses: What to Know. [Online]. Available at: https://coopervision.com/about... [Accessed 26 September 2019].
8. Kellogg Eye Center Michigan Medicine. (no date). Signs of Infection from Contact Lenses. [Online]. Available at: http://www.med.umich.edu/1libr... [Accessed 26 September 2019].
9. Mayo Clinic. (no date). Dry Eyes. [Online]. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/dis... [Accessed 26 September 2019].
10. Vision Direct. (no date). Dry Eyes and Contact Lenses. [Online]. Available at: https://www.visiondirect.co.uk... [Accessed 26 September 2019].