Contact Lenses (Contacts)
Contact lenses are small pieces of medical-grade plastic specifically designed to sit directly on the eye. When fitted by an expert, modern contacts are so comfortable that most wearers will report little to no awareness of its presence.
While contact lenses are not recommended as a complete replacement for spectacles, they have many unique advantages, including:
Greater personal confidence – no more scratched lenses, cleaning clothes or foggy/wet lenses in the rain. Contact lenses will complement any outfit and occasion.
Enhanced sporting performance – Contact lenses provide natural vision with greater peripheral awareness and safety than spectacles. They can also be worn underneath normal polarised sporting sunglasses.
Changing or enhancing natural eye colour – Modern coloured contact lenses are allowing wearers to alter their natural eye colour like never before.
Types of Contact Lenses
Contact lenses fall into several categories depending on their replacement schedule and lens type:
1. Custom Conventional Soft Lenses
These customised soft lenses have a typical lifespan of about one to three years. They are mostly used where frequent-replacement lenses are not appropriate.
2. Rigid Gas Permeable (RGP) Lenses
RGPs are much harder and more durable than their soft counterpart and therefore have a significantly longer lifespan. While RGP's take a little longer to fit and adapt to, they more than compensate with crisp, stable vision and overall better eye health. RGPs are essential in certain eye conditions such as keratoconus.
3. Frequent Replacement (Disposable) Lenses
These are currently the mainstay of the contact lens industry due to greater convenience, comfort and hygiene. Replacement schedules can vary from daily, fortnightly, monthly or quarterly. Your optometrist will consider many factors before suggesting the lens type and replacement schedule to suit you.
4. Extended Wear (Leave-in) Lenses
The advent of new ultra high oxygen materials have allowed for lenses that can be worn both during the day and while you are asleep without removal for seven to thirty days. These lenses are ideal for those busy patients with healthy eyes who want the convenience of not storing their lens every night or before naps. To avoid problems, it is very important that patients keep to a strict replacement schedule recommended by the optometrist.
5. Combination (Piggy-Back) Lenses
These are specialised lenses which combine the benefits of an RGP with a soft outer skirt. They are often used in treating specific conditions such as post-corneal graft and highly distorted corneas.
6. Ortho-K Lenses
Ortho-K lenses are custom RGPs worn while sleeping at night to slowly reshape the cornea in order to provide clear vision during the day. There are some early evidence that the use of RGP may reduce the progression of myopia (short-sightedness).
7. Special Purpose Lenses
Many other specialised lenses are available for unusual or difficult cases. Speak to your optometrist for appropriate advice.
Looking After Yourself
Unlike spectacles, your contact lenses sit directly over living tissue and interact intimately with the front surface of the eye. While contact lenses are safe to wear, problems can arise if the advice given by your optometrist is not followed. These problems can vary from mild irritation, redness and unstable clarity to the worse-case-scenario of permanent vision loss.
Proper insertion and removal of a contact lens is a learned skill that is easy once mastered – like riding a bicycle. Your optometrist will teach your the correct procedure to avoid damaging the eye surface.
While they are rare, it only takes one infection to cause serious problems with your eyes. We want you to wear your lenses comfortably and safely for your whole life so good hygiene is essential:
1. Always wash your hands with soap and warm water before handling your contact lens. Dry your hands with a clean lint-free towel.
2. Properly disinfect the lens anytime it is out of the eye.
3. Your disinfectant solution may say “no rub required” on the bottle. We recommended that you always rub your lenses between your palm and index finger in a circular motion for 5 seconds on each side to allow better penetration of disinfectant and aid in protein removal.
4. Rinse the lens thoroughly with sterile solution – NEVER use tap water to rinse or store your contact lenses as it is a common source of very infectious and potentially damaging microbes that can produce sight-threatening infections.
5. Use only the solution recommended by your optometrist and advise him/her if there are any problems.
6. Wear your lenses to the recommended schedule. While your lenses may remain comfortable after the scheduled time lapses, an unacceptable level of microbes or proteins may be present. It is a false economy if infection occurs.
7. Place the clean lens in a container with fresh solution. Do not re-use solution or top it up. Replace the lens case frequently – every time you open a fresh bottle. Discard unused solution bottle three or six months after opening as recommended.
8. Clean your lens case and allow it to air-dry.
9. When contact lenses have been stored for seven days, regardless of the disinfectant system, re-disinfect before the next use.
10. Remove your contact lenses immediately if irritation occurs (e.g. redness, burning or excessive tearing) and discontinue wearing until you see your optometrist. Be sure to have correctly prescribed spectacles handy in case such a scenario occurs.
11. Never wear another person's contact lens. This is a great way to spread infection.
12. Call your optometrist immediately if you have any questions or concerns.