Over 38 million Americans wear contact lenses. If you wear glasses, the freedom and flexibility to ditch your glasses for good is compelling. But as promising as this sounds, many contact lens wearers lose their enthusiasm and stop wearing contact lenses because of discomfort and irritation. If your lenses do not fit properly, you can experience red, swollen, gritty or dry eyes.
The first step to healthy eyes when wearing contact lenses is an eye exam and fitting with an eye care professional. If you have allergies or work in dusty environments, if you smoke, or you are taking other prescription medications, your doctor can counsel and prescribe the best contact lens solution for you and your lifestyle.
The next step is understanding the different contact lens types, with special attention to new oxygen friendly contacts that allow more oxygen to pas through the lens to the cornea and therefore promote eye health and wearing comfort.
Soft contact lenses are made from plastics containing water. The water transmits oxygen to the cornea, the only organ in the body that does not receive oxygen through blood vessels. Gas permeable (GP) contacts are rigid long lasting lenses that provide better vision than soft contact lenses. They are also less expensive but take some time to get used to.
Since 1999, a new soft contact lens has been available to the public that delivers six times more oxygen to the eye than traditional soft contacts. These are the silicon hydrogel contact lenses made from a material that offers a new level of comfort and convenience to contact lens wearers.
Silicon hydrogel soft contacts offer a number of benefits:
- Longer wear time, in some cases up to 30 days. This includes continuous wear(during night and day)
- Few eye health problems, such as infection
- Less discomfort or “drying” when compared with traditional soft contacts
Not all silicon hydrogel soft contact lenses are approved for 30-day wear however. Currently only two brands, Focus Night & Day by Ciba Vision, and Pure Vision by Bauche & Lomb are approved for wear during the day and while you sleep. Despite the eye health benefits, silicon hydrogels are also more expensive than conventional contacts, which may make them unsuitable for some wearers.
Here’s a list of top-selling silicon hydrogel contact lenses:
- Focus Night & Day by Ciba Vision: approved for 30 day continuous (night and day) wear
- PureVision by Bausch & Lomb: approved for 30 days continuous wear
- Acuvue Oasys: approved for 2 week daily wear (removed nightly for cleaning) use or 6 night extended wear, designed for people who have dry eyes
- O2 Optix by Ciba Vision: approved for 6 days continuous wear or 2 weeks daily wear
- Acuvue Advance: approved for 2 week disposable lens and has not yet been approved for extended wear.
- PureVision Toric by Bausch & Lomb: toric lens approved for 30 days extended wear
- Acuvue Advance For Astigmatism: toric lens approved for 2 week daily wear
Finally, make sure you choose a cleaning solution that is compatible with silicon hydrogels. You doctor may recommend: Aquify, Optifree Express, and ClearCare multipurpose solutions.
Please note: contact lenses, even if worn for cosmetic reasons, are medical devices that should be worn under the prescription, direction, and supervision of an eye care professional.