How to Choose Contact Lenses
Choosing the right contact lenses is a decision you should make with your eye doctor. The right choice depends on many factors, including your refractive error, how much contact lens wear your eyes can tolerate, your expectations and how willing you are to properly care for your lenses.
Here are some things to consider prior to your eye exam for contacts:
How Often Will You Wear Contacts?
Are you planning to wear contact lenses every day, or just on weekends or for special occasions?
Most people wear soft contact lenses, which usually can be worn comfortably either full-time or part-time. Rigid gas permeable contacts, on the other hand, must be worn on a consistent daily basis for them to be comfortable.
How Picky Are You About the Sharpness of Your Vision?
Rigid gas permeable contact lenses (also called RGP or GP lenses) may take some getting used to at first, but they often provide sharper vision than soft contact lenses, especially if you have astigmatism.
If you try soft contacts and are disappointed with the clarity of your eyesight, consider switching to GP lenses.
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Are You Willing to Care for Your Contacts Properly?
Though disposable contacts have reduced the risk of some eye infections, daily lens care is still essential to keep your eyes healthy when wearing contact lenses.
If you prefer to avoid the task of cleaning and disinfecting your lenses each day, consider daily disposable lenses. With these "one-day" soft lenses, you simply discard the lenses after a single use and put on a new pair the next day.
Is Overnight Wear Important to You?
Do you like the idea of wearing contact lenses continually, including overnight? Some contact lenses allow high amounts of oxygen to pass through them and have been FDA approved for overnight wear.
But continuous contact lens wear is not safe for everyone. If you are interested in extended wear contacts, your eye doctor will evaluate how well your eyes tolerate overnight wear to determine if it is safe for you.
Do You Want to Change Your Eye Color?
Special-effect contact lenses (also called theatrical contact lenses or costume contacts) can dramatically change the appearance of your eyes. Special-effect contacts called gothic contact lenses can even make you look like a vampire in the popular film series, The Twilight Saga.
Theatrical contact lenses are especially popular at Halloween and also are available without corrective power if you don't need vision correction.
But all contact lenses, even non-corrective (or "plano") special-effect contacts, are considered medical devices and cannot be purchased without a professional fitting and a contact lens prescription written by a licensed eye doctor.
Do You Wear Bifocals?
Another option is monovision, where one contact lens is prescribed to give you good distance vision and the contact lens for the other eye is prescribed for good near vision. It may seem odd, but most people with presbyopia find monovision contacts provide clear, comfortable and natural-feeling vision.
What About Contact Lens Costs?
Contact lenses don't eliminate your need for eyeglasses, so you need to consider the cost of contact lenses and how this affects your budget. When considering contact lens costs, don't forget to add the cost of contact lens solutions.
Do You Have Allergies or Dry Eyes?
Eye allergies or dry eyes may affect the comfort of your contacts or limit your ability to wear contact lenses. If you have either of these conditions, discuss them with your eye doctor prior to your contact lens fitting.
Daily disposable contacts can help reduce contact lens-related allergy symptoms and there are specific brands of contact lenses for dry eyes that may help you wear contacts more comfortably.
Seek Professional Advice
Your eye doctor is the best person to help you decide if you are a good candidate for contact lens wear and help you choose contact lenses that are best for your individual needs.
About the Author: Gary Heiting, OD, is senior editor of AllAboutVision.com. Dr. Heiting has more than 25 years of experience as an eye care provider, health educator and consultant to the eyewear industry. His special interests include contact lenses, nutrition and preventive vision care. Connect with Dr. Heiting via Google+.
[Page updated May 2015]