They seem like such a bother! The safe use of contact lenses
requires thought and care, not to mention the dexterity needed to actually stick them in ones eyes. On the other hand prescription glasses can just be dusted off and jammed on the end of one's nose. So why do millions of people prefer contacts?
The fact is, contacts look better – and that's probably the primary reason so many people opt for them. But they also provide better vision than glasses and, in particular, don't interfere with peripheral sight. Participants in sports love that they don't fall off, and birdwatchers and photographers attest to the fact they make using binoculars and cameras easier. Anyone who lives in a wet or northern climate appreciates that contacts don't become rain-socked, or fog up when one comes in from the cold.
Types of Contacts
There are two main types of contacts – soft and hard. Soft lenses are made from plastic materials that absorb water, and range from ones with low oxygen permeability to high. Hard lenses have high impermeability and don't contain water.
Within these two general categories there are a host of other variables, including wear time. The advent of continuous wear lenses has altered the daily rituals of insertion and removal for many users. Until quite recently, the maximum continuous wear time was six days, but the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has now authorized lenses for up to 30 days. Extended wear lenses are not for everyone however; some eyes will not tolerate them. Continuous wear also raises the risk of eye infections for some patients.
There is a growing market also for colored lenses
, both for those with therapeutic value, or just cosmetic enhancement of the eyes.
Who can Wear Contacts?
Just about everyone can wear contacts. They help with vision disorders
like myopia (nearsightedness) and astigmatism (impaired vision usually from an irregular shaped cornea). Opaque lenses can change eye color or hide disfigurement of the cornea that was caused by scarring.
Contact use can be problematic for people who suffer frequent eye infections, or produce insufficient tears or "Dry Eye”. Also affected are people who suffer severe allergic reactions or exposure to dust of chemical fumes. And there are people who simply cannot or will not follow the contacts care regimen set up by their eye care professional.
Contacts require diligence in insertion and cleaning. Many of the care requirements are simple common sense. Hands should be washed before handling the lens. The cleaning regimen must be adhered to – whether it requires a single multipurpose solution or steps. Tap water should not be used for the rinsing of the lenses. They should never be put in the mouth or come in contact with saliva for wetting. Non-continuous wear contacts should be removed before swimming and, in the case of continuous wear, goggles worn. Contacts should be removed immediately if eyes become red, irritated or painful. And it is recommended that contacts wearers consult their eye care professionals annually, in case their eyes have changed.
There are definite advantages to contact lenses. They are a safe and attractive alternative
to prescription eyeglasses. With the beauty of contacts comes responsibility, but the resulting advantages are well worth the effort.