Contact Lenses

Buying Guide - Contact Lenses

Making a choice

Applying a contact lensBuying contact lenses can be difficult. On the surface they might all look the same, but the physical and practical requirements differ vastly from wearer to wearer, meaning there are many different types of lenses to choose from. We understand that peace of mind is very important when purchasing lenses and in order for that to happen, you need to know you are not just getting the best price but that you are getting the best fit for what you need.

There are a host of reasons to leave your glasses at home and opt for contact lenses instead. Unlike glasses, a contact lens is worn snugly on the eye, meaning you get peripheral vision and your central vision is natural. You have no frame or reflection to distract you, nor the discomfort that can come with glasses pressing down on your ears or the bridge of your nose, though it does take many people a while to get used to the sensation of using contact lenses, too. A contact lens will not steam up when you go from cold to warm environments. A contact lens will not be a fashion faux pas if you go for a cheap option, nor will it clash with your best evening wear. Whether it is a question of fashion, practicality, because you have lost or broken too many glasses to mention, or whether you are looking to alternate, contact lenses are becoming an increasingly popular choice.

The many products on the market might look the same and it can be tough to work out what the best contact lens choice is. The key is to know what you are looking for in a contact lens. If comfort or convenience tops your agenda, consider a soft disposable contact lens. If you want to make sure the cost of your contact lenses is kept to a minimum, a more long-term solution might be what you are after. Opticians will be able to offer you advice on what the best fit for you, but the information here will help you narrow down what can be a confusing choice.

Hydrogel

Soft contact lenses represent an ever-increasing chunk of the contact lens market, in no small part thanks to the development of silicone hydrogels, which helps the eye get more oxygen. This a healthier contact lens that is particularly useful for people looking to wear them every day and for long periods.

Hydrogel contact lenses are very common across the whole range of soft lenses, from daily to 30-day. While the ability for oxygen to get to the eye is the main plus, it is by no means the only characteristic of the material, and the performance of a hydrogel contact lens changes from manufacturer to manufacturer. Opticians will be able to advise on the ones that best suit your eyes' characteristics.

Shorter-term

Costume contact lensesContact lenses can be soft, hard, disposable or reusable, each with particular benefits depending on your lifestyle and what you are looking for.

Daily disposable soft lenses
The simple and convenient contact lens. Wear a new pair every day and throw them out at night. The advantages are multiple. You won't have to crawl around the bathroom floor if you drop one, and you will also avoid the heightened risk of irritants on a reusable contact lens or irritation caused by solutions.

Reuse can bring discomfort and they are the most expensive contact lens, too; though at least you will not be buying solution. If you are planning on only occasional wear, they might be ideal.

Weekly/monthly soft lenses
So long as you store and clean between wears, these can last you a month. The main benefit is cost while soft lenses tend to be more comfortable to start off with. Make sure you follow the manufacturer's advice on care and know when to throw them out.

Costume lenses
These lenses come in a variety of colours, shapes and sizes. Because of the nature of the materials used in these types of lenses, it's recommended that you do not wear costume lenses for a prolonged period of time. For a night out on the town or a fancy dress party? They're completely fine, yet still need cleaning and care like regular contacts.

Longer-term

Extended/continuous wear soft lenses
The development of permeable hydrogels has made it possible to keep a contact lens in for up to a month at a time. Previously, the eyes would have been deprived of oxygen, but nowadays they can breathe. This contact lens gives you great convenience without the cost issues raised by dailies.

That is not to say that the extreme convenience does not come without drawbacks. Irrespective of the material a contact lens is made from, sleeping with them in means a greater chance of infection. Opticians will be able to offer advice on whether this solution is suitable for you, and make sure you get a professional's opinion before going for a contact lens you can leave in overnight.

Rigid gas permeable lenses
Some opticians believe these to be better for you than the softer alternatives over the long term. They are a better option for someone looking for a contact lens to help correct an irregularly shaped eye. They are also more durable than their softer counterparts which means you can handle them with more confidence and they can last up to a year - although they need to be removed and cleaned at night. They tend not to be as suitable for an active lifestyle and sometimes need a bit of getting used to.

Bifocal, Multifocal and Toric

In many cases eyesight degenerates over time and some people will develop Presbyopia, which affects their ability to change focus across distances. People who wear glasses often opt for bifocal or multifocal (also known as varifocal) lenses which allow them to focus at different lengths depending on what part of the lens they look through. This technology has now been developed in contact lenses, and can be found in all types of contact lens, from dailies to rigid gas permeables.

Astigmatism results from an irregularly-shaped cornea and is extremely common. It used to be thought glasses were better for correcting the condition, but 'toric' lenses have been developed. Rigid lenses were historically considered more suitable for astigmatism, but soft 'toric' contact lenses are now available. Toric lenses are designed to be irregularly shaped to make up for the irregularity of the eye, as a result you need to make sure you put them in correctly.

If you have been told by your optician that you suffer either of these conditions, there is a suitable contact lens for you. You should make sure you have discussed whether a readily available contact lens will do the trick, or if you should look into getting your lenses made to the specific needs of your eyes.