What Contacts Are Right for Me?
The best contact lenses for you depend on many factors, including your visual needs and your reasons for wanting to wear contacts:
- If you want the sharpest vision possible, gas permeable contact lenses (also called RGP or GP lenses) usually are the best choice. Because GP contacts have a hard, polished surface, they typically have better optical qualities than soft contact lenses.
- If you have astigmatism, gas permeable lenses or special soft lenses called toric contact lenses are usually the best choice. These lenses have special features to correct blurred vision caused by unequal corneal curvature (the most common type of astigmatism).
- If comfort is your primary consideration, conventional soft contact lenses usually are your best choice. Most people find soft lenses are immediately comfortable, whereas gas permeable lenses usually require a period of adaptation (that can be several weeks) before the lenses are perfectly comfortable.
- If you don't want to bother with lens care and contact lens solutions, daily disposable contact lenses probably are your best choice. With these soft lenses, you wear them just once and then throw them away. It doesn't get any easier than that!
- If you are over age 40 and have presbyopia, the best lenses for you may be bifocal contacts or multifocal contact lenses. These lenses often can restore a full range of vision and reduce or eliminate your need for reading glasses.
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- If you are comfortable wearing eyeglasses and want to wear contacts only occasionally for sports or social events, soft lenses usually are the best choice. Most people can comfortably wear soft contacts on a sporadic basis, whereas gas permeable lenses usually have to be worn every day to maintain comfort.
Other factors also come into play when determining the type of contacts that are best for you. For example:
- You may want extended wear contact lenses so you can wear the lenses continuously and not have to remove them before sleep. But your eyes may not be able to tolerate extended wear, so daily disposable lenses may be a better option.
- You may need bifocal or multifocal contact lenses because you have presbyopia, but you find your vision with these lenses is not as good as you hoped it would be. In this case, maybe monovision, where your eye doctor uses regular (monofocal) soft lenses to fit one of your eyes for distance vision and the other for near vision, is a better option.
Or perhaps a modification of monovision, where one eye is fitted with a monofocal lens and the other eye is fitted with a multifocal lens, is the best solution.
- If you want the sharpest vision possible but you find you can't wear gas permeable lenses comfortably, perhaps hybrid contact lenses will satisfy your needs. Hybrid lenses have a GP center for clarity, surrounded by a "skirt" of soft lens material for greater comfort.
Keep in mind, though, that initial plans may change during your contact lens fitting. Depending on your comfort, your vision and how well your eyes tolerate the initial lens choice, changes may need to be made.
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 February 2014]