Sometimes, we face confusion in our business. Whether it be terminology, materials or the prescriptions themselves, we can forget that you all don’t speak the same “language” that we do. One of the subjects that causes the most confusion is contact lenses.
There are so many things going on in the world of contacts. From “contact lens exams” to wear and care to disposal to the sleeping in them controversy, it’s no wonder that patients get flustered and sometimes ask for the cheapest lenses instead of ordering the ones that are actually the best for them based on the doctor’s evaluation!
Let’s begin by reminding you that, in the US, the law states that you must have a valid, up-to-date contact lens prescription signed by your eye doctor. Contact lenses have been recognized by the FDA as Class II or Class III medical devices since 1976. Regular-wear contact lenses are Class II medical devices, meaning they pose a moderate risk to patient health when used without appropriate physician oversight.
Now, to address the “contact lens exam” question: “Why do I have to have a contact lens exam – or evaluation – when I have been wearing contacts forever?”
Very simply, your eyes change as do the lens styles and materials. Something may have become available since your last exam that will more closely fit your needs. Also, the doctors have to evaluate the health of your eye to make sure that you can safely continue wearing contacts.
But my eyes feel fine!
That may be. Some of the signs of contact lens noncompliance – or abuse – don’t cause your eyes to feel or look any different… at first! In their early stages, many sight-threatening conditions have no obvious symptoms. The doctors will evaluate your eye by using a microscope-like instrument called a slit lamp. This can show them whether the cornea is strong enough for you to keep wearing contact lenses. Remember. They are called “contact” lenses because they come in direct contact with your eye.
What about people who have dry eyes? Or who need bifocals? Can they wear contacts?
Well, as with most things there are gray areas involved. There is no one simple answer for every situation.
Today’s disposable contact lenses are made with materials that not only allow more air to pass through them but are also wetter than the older styles. This makes wearing lenses more comfortable for people who suffer from dry eyes. Still, until a patient has actually tried the lenses, it’s difficult to predict the outcome. For this reason, you will receive diagnostic – or trial – lenses at the end of your exam. Most doctors will have you wear them for several days to make sure that you can wear them comfortably during all of your day-to-day activities.
As far as “bifocal” contact lenses, the industry has taken huge strides in the design and usability of multifocal contacts. The number of patients forced to give up clear vision at certain distances have been greatly reduced. They are more user friendly, making the transition from distance focus to near much easier.
What about sleeping in them?
Um… technically, there are contact lenses on the market that have been approved for overnight wear. Most doctors hesitate – if not outright refuse – to prescribe overnight wear even for these lenses. Patient non-compliance increases the more that they sleep in their lenses. Long-term extended wear can cause a multitude of issues from eye infections to corneal ulcers. Some can cause such severe complications that they can only be treated with surgery. Even with that, your vision may not be completely correctable. Best to just take the contacts out at night and put new, fresh ones in every morning.
Okay. I get that. Well. Do people still wear the old-fashioned kind?
If you mean the soft contact lenses that came in little bottles that you had to cook to sterilize and that people kept for far longer than they should have because they were expensive to replace, yes. There are still a few around, but they are rarely prescribed anymore. The materials in disposable lenses are much more comfortable and healthier to wear.
If you mean rigid gas permeable – or RGP – lenses, they are still used quite often for a multitude of reasons. Some corneal conditions allow better vision with RGPs. And, some patients simply prefer them. Regardless, they are available if warranted.
So, yes. Some people still wear “old-fashioned” contacts.
But… if you can put on a fresh pair in the morning – without the hassle of disinfecting and soaking every night – why wouldn’t you?
Daily disposable contact lenses are a fabulous choice for pretty much all lens wearers. They’re especially convenient for patients who only wear them on special occasions or for sports.
Well… can’t I do that with my bi-weekly or monthly contacts?
Yeah. You can. But they aren’t made to last forever. They are designed to last for about two weeks or one month whether you wear them or not. Plus, when asked, many patients deny re-disinfecting their lenses if they haven’t worn them for several days. Disinfecting solutions break down just like the lenses do. After 6 to 8 hours, they start losing their sanitizing properties. If you leave them in the case for a few days, you really should replace your disinfecting solution the night before you plan to wear them again.
Contact lens cases are like little petri dishes. And many wearers don’t change their cases. Ever! It’s a good idea to change your case at least once a month. Many disinfecting solutions come packaged with new cases so there is no excuse, anymore!
For these reasons, daily disposables win the argument hands down. And, before you talk about expense, once you factor in the bottles of solution and new cases, the prices become very competitive. Besides, many of the contact lens manufacturers offer amazing rebates on the purchase of annual supplies of daily disposable contacts. Combine that with your vision care benefits if you have them and your paying very little for a full year of contact lenses!
Give us a call! We’ll set you up for the freedom of life without glasses. If you haven’t been able to wear contact lenses in the past, let’s try again! You might be pleasantly surprised.