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Contact lenses for astigmatism: Toric lenses and more

woman putting in contact lenses for her astigmatism

Contact lenses can be a great option to correct the visual effects of astigmatism. They offer more flexibility and a less restricted viewing area compared to the alternative of glasses for astigmatism.

While soft contact lenses are usually tolerated well in people with mild astigmatism, rigid gas permeable or hybrid contacts may provide even sharper overall vision. Deciding which lens will best correct your astigmatism depends on lens tolerance, eye characteristics and your current level of astigmatism.

SEE RELATED: Frequently asked questions about astigmatism

Toric contacts for astigmatism (soft contact lenses)

The term “toric lenses” is usually used to describe soft contact lenses specially designed to correct astigmatism.

Toric lenses are usually made with conventional hydrogel or more breathable silicone hydrogel materials.

Toric soft contact lenses for astigmatism differ from regular (spherical) soft contacts that correct only nearsightedness or farsightedness in two important ways:

  1. Toric lenses focus on different parts of the lens to correct the nearsightedness or farsightedness that accompanies astigmatism.

  2. Toric lenses have a design feature that allows them to rotate to the perfect angle on the front of your eye. 

Every eye with astigmatism is unique, so it can take a little trial and error to find the best fit, comfort and visual sharpness. Your eye doctor may experiment with two or three different brands before finding the perfect pair.

The cost of replacement toric astigmatism contacts is usually higher than that of regular contacts. The difference in cost will depend on the lens design, lens material and where you buy them.

SEE RELATED: What are the best astigmatism contacts?

Gas permeable contacts for astigmatism

Rigid gas permeable contact lenses (also called RGP or GP contact lenses) are another popular type of contact lens for astigmatism correction. Gas permeable lenses are rigid and retain their spherical shape on the eye, instead of conforming to the irregular shape of the cornea (front of the eye).

Many of these lenses can correct astigmatism without the traditional toric design, unless the patient has a high level of astigmatism.

Scleral lenses, specialized large-diameter gas permeable contacts, can also provide excellent astigmatism correction, even when the cornea has an irregular shape.

Many people with astigmatism who choose to be fitted with gas permeable contacts find their vision to be noticeably sharper than they do with toric soft contact lenses. However, these lenses can take more time to adapt to, due to their rigid quality and thicker profile.

Replacement GP lenses are generally more expensive than typical toric lenses. Fortunately, they don't need to be replaced as often as most soft contacts.

SEE RELATED: Can surgery fix astigmatism?

Hybrid contact lenses for astigmatism

In a way, hybrid lenses are a mix between gas permeable and soft contact lenses. The center is made of rigid gas permeable material, while the area around it is made of soft hydrogel or silicone hydrogel material.

Hybrid contact lenses have the potential to provide the best of both worlds for people with astigmatism — the sharper vision of GP lenses and the comfort of toric soft lenses. This can be especially relevant to people with higher levels of astigmatism, who aren’t happy with the comfort or correction level their current contacts or glasses provide.

Hybrid lenses also carry less of a risk of being dislodged during sports and other activities, due to their size and thinner edges. 

Like GP contacts, these lenses are custom-made for each wearer's eyes, resulting in a higher expense. Luckily, they also require less frequent replacement than soft lenses.

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Specialty contacts for astigmatism

Not long ago, the variety of astigmatism contacts was very limited — that certainly isn’t the case anymore.

Countless brands and styles of toric soft lenses are now available, including disposable contact lenses for astigmatism that are available in designs and materials for monthly, biweekly and even daily replacement.

There are toric color contact lenses that change your eye color while they correct the symptoms of astigmatism. Multifocal astigmatism lenses help with both astigmatism and presbyopia.

There are even toric silicone hydrogel lenses designed for up to 30 days of overnight wear and custom-made soft lenses that offer treatment for virtually any level of astigmatism.

SEE RELATED: How astigmatism affects lights

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