Daily Disposable Contact Lenses: A Healthy and Convenient Choice
On this page: Wear vs. replacement schedule • Why throw out lenses? • Convenience and health • Difference between daily disposables and regular lenses • Daily disposable lens cost • Can I wear daily disposables?
Daily disposable contact lenses are single-use lenses that are removed and discarded at the end of each day, and a fresh pair of lenses is applied to the eyes the next morning. Daily disposables are gaining in popularity among practitioners and consumers for their health and convenience benefits.
Disposable vs. Daily Disposable
When disposable contact lenses were introduced in 1987, they were considered an innovation because most contact lenses were replaced annually. Although called "disposable," the new lenses weren't single-use lenses; they were generally replaced every one to two weeks. Here's the terminology your eye care practitioner may use:
- Daily disposable lenses: Removed and discarded every day
- Disposable lenses: Replaced every one or two weeks
- Frequent replacement lenses: Replaced monthly or quarterly
- Traditional (reusable) lenses: Replaced every six months or longer
It's also common to lump disposable and frequent wear lenses together under the category of "disposable." The majority of contact lenses fit by eye care professionals today are disposable.
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Contact Lens Wear vs. Replacement
"Daily wear" is sometimes confused with "daily disposable," because a common misunderstanding about contact lenses involves replacement and removal intervals:
- Replacement schedule refers to how often your lenses are discarded and replaced.
- Wearing schedule refers to how long you wear your contacts before removing them. "Daily wear" means you wear contacts only during the day, and not while sleeping. "Extended wear" means you wear them continually for two or more days, including during sleep.
Disposable contacts can be prescribed for either daily wear or extended wear, depending on your eye physiology and needs. Daily disposable contacts are inherently for daily wear, but some people choose to wear them just for specific activities, such as sports, and then discard them immediately afterward without wearing them a full day.
Are you following your eye doctor's cleaning instructions? If not, you might be better off with daily disposables.
Why Throw Out Lenses at All?
The more frequently you replace your contact lenses, the healthier and more comfortable your eyes can be.
Protein, calcium, lipids and other substances found naturally in your tears can build up on your lenses. These deposits make your contacts less comfortable than when they were new, and can also make your eyes more prone to infection.
Of course, lenses can be cleaned, but cleaning is not 100 percent effective. Some deposits will remain and continue to accumulate over time.
Daily Disposables: Convenience and Health
There are two ways to avoid just about all contact lens care. One is to wear extended wear lenses continuously for several days, and then discard them when you remove them.
Unfortunately, overnight wear of contact lenses is not a good idea for everyone. And for many people, wearing contact lenses during sleep increases the risk of eye problems.
The other alternative is daily disposable lenses. Many eye care professionals and contact lens wearers feel that they offer the best of both worlds: They are convenient because no lens cleaning is required, and they are healthy because there is no day-to-day accumulation of lens deposits, and no overnight wear.
How Different Are Daily Disposables from Regular Lenses?
Even before the advent of disposable lenses, it was well known that replacing lenses often was a healthy thing to do. Problem was, contacts were too expensive to discard very often so various cleaning solutions and devices were used to prolong the life of the lens.
Then contact lens manufacturers developed new manufacturing methods to produce high-quality lenses in greater volume, at lower cost. These advances led to lower lens prices, making it affordable to replace lenses more often.
Some of today's disposable lenses are made of the same materials as traditional lenses; other disposables are made from new materials and designs developed especially for disposability.
How Much Do Daily Disposable Contacts Cost?
Daily disposable contact lenses, in general, are more expensive than lenses used for longer periods of time. But cost can vary widely, depending on the brand and the lens material. Daily disposable contact lenses made from silicone hydrogel materials are often positioned by lens manufacturers as "premium" daily disposables with the greatest benefit and the highest cost.
If you're considering daily disposables, remember that higher lens cost is offset by the money you'll save on lens care products, since they won't be needed.
In addition to the cost of the lenses, keep in mind that you'll need to be fit for lens wear by an eye care professional. Fitting fees vary widely, depending on where you live, the eye care practitioner you choose and how complicated your prescription is.
Despite the higher price tag, daily disposable lenses are often more affordable than many people expect. It's not unusual to spend more on a daily visit to Starbucks than on daily disposable contacts. And while you might enjoy your coffee for half an hour, a fresh pair of lenses will provide comfort and good vision all day long.
Can I Wear Daily Disposable Lenses?
Yes, you probably can. An eye care practitioner can tell you for sure.
The key is whether daily disposables are made in your particular prescription. In addition to standard single vision designs, some daily disposable brands are available in colors, in designs to correct astigmatism, and in multifocal designs to correct presbyopia.
If your prescription is outside the range in which daily disposable lenses are produced, you may have to stick with traditional disposables or frequent replacement lenses. Very unusual prescriptions may require reusable, annually replaced lenses. But the good news is that just about everyone can wear some type of contact lens.
[Page updated September 2015]