Soft Contact Lenses
More than 90% of contact lens wearers choose soft lenses. Soft contact lenses are broadly categorized according to how frequently you should replace them (replacement schedule) and how many hours you can wear them before giving your eyes a break (wearing schedule).
There are also soft contact lenses specificially designed for people who have astigmatism, as well as for those with dry eye symptoms. Novelty contacts such as theatrical or color contacts can change a person's eye color or appearance.
Soft Contact Lenses: Replacement Schedule
Soft contact lens replacement schedules can range from a single day ("daily disposable" lenses) to several months ("conventional" lenses). Over the years, research has consistently shown that your risk for eye irritation and infection from wearing soft contacts increases the longer you go before discarding your lenses. Deposits (mucous, protein, oils, bacteria, minerals) accumulate on soft lenses even with the best cleaning techniques.
Today, most doctors recommend disposable soft contact lenses and either a daily or two-week replacement schedule. For the cleanest lenses, as well as the convenience of not having to clean your contacts every day, try daily disposable lenses. At the end of the day, you just throw them away!
Soft Contact Lenses: Wearing Schedule
Soft contacts are also categorized according to wearing schedule: daily wear, flexi-wear, or extended wear. Daily wear contacts are FDA-approved for wear only while you are awake. Flexi-wear lenses are FDA-approved for daily wear but also occasional overnight wear or napping. Extended wear lenses are FDA-approved for continuous day-and-night wear.
Generally, it appears to be safer to wear soft contact lenses on a daily wear basis. Sleeping while wearing contacts that are not designed for that purpose can increase your risk of serious eye infections and the growth of abnormal blood vessels into the cornea.
If you desire the option to wear your soft contact lenses continually (day-and-night), ask your eye doctor about silicone-hydrogel contact lenses. These are new-generation contacts that transmit up to six times more oxygen to the eye than standard disposable contacts. Many people can safely wear these lenses up to 30 days without removal. You should only sleep in contact lenses under the direction of your eye doctor.
Color Contact Lenses
Soft contacts for changing the color of your eyes are readily available. There are even theatrical contacts which make your eyes look like those of a cat, robot, vampire, etc. These color contacts are especially popular around Halloween. Most of these lenses are limited to daily wear only.
Color contact lenses are considered a medical device even though they can be available in non-prescription format and require a prescription from an eye doctor. The prescription verifies that an optical professional has performed a contact lens fitting and that your eyes can tolerate contact lens wear.
NEVER share your cosmetic contact lenses with anyone else. Sharing lenses can transfer bacteria that can cause a serious eye infection. Another way to avoid getting an eye infection is to practice proper contact lens handling and hygene. Bacterial infections like acanthamoeba keratitis can lead to developing a corneal ulcer.
Toric Contact Lenses for Asigmatism
A toric contact lens can be either soft or RGP. These contact lenses for astigmatism have two powers in them, one for astigmatism and the other for myopia or hyperopia. The lenses are created with curvatures at different angeles and must remain in position for crisp vision.
High levels of astigmatism can be corrected with custom contact lenses that are tailored to your eyes' specific needs. You can get them in either rigid gas permeable or soft contact lens materials depending on the type of astigmatism you have.
RGP custom contact lenses provide sharper vision than soft custom contacts. However, adjusting to how a rigid lens feels on the eye can be difficult for some. Soft custom contact lenses can correct higher levels of astigmatism than their toric counterparts, and are available in smaller power increments (0.25 diopters, as opposed to 0.50).
Contact Lenses for Dry Eyes
If dryness is interfering with your contact lens wear, there are several remedies available. In addition to lubricating eye drops and gels, there are contact lenses for dry eyes.
While soft contact lenses come in a wide range of water content levels, wearing lenses with a higher water content is not necessarily more comfortable. A contact lens with a high water content requires more moisture (your tears) to stay at its specific hydration level, especially in environments that exacerbate dry eye symptoms.
Silicone-hydrogel lenses have a higher oxygen permeability than other soft contact lens materials and have a low water content. Talk to your eye doctor about which brand of contact lenses can provide improved comfort for your dryness-related issues.