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Learn the right questions to ask your doctor
Owning more than one pair doesn’t have to be a splurge
It’s time to clear up common misconceptions.
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The contacts that are right for you depend on your habits and budget.
If you wear monthly contacts, you’ve probably been tempted by the sweet siren song of dailies. No case, no cleaning, no solution—what’s not to love?
If you wear dailies, on the other hand, you probably regularly wonder if the convenience is worth it. Even with vision insurance, you’re looking at hundreds of dollars out of pocket each year.
So which is best? We asked Matt Kauffman, O.D., director of the Cornea and Contact Lens Clinic at the University of Houston College of Optometry, to help us see the issue more clearly.
“The most important guide is your eyes,” he says. “Is your vision sharp and are your eyes healthy and comfortable?”
Here are the considerations—and how the two types stack up.
Your cornea (the eye’s thin, transparent covering) helps you see by focusing light as it enters your eye. To do the job well, your cornea needs a steady supply of oxygen. Contact lenses can sometimes make that a challenge.
“With contacts, you’re putting a barrier between your cornea and the air. And the longer you wear the same pair of contacts, the less oxygen gets transmitted through the lens over time,” explains Dr. Kauffman. “Even when you’re sleeping, your eyes still need that oxygen—it has to get in underneath your eyelids.”
The gist: The longer you keep your contacts in, the less healthy an environment you create for your cornea.
Dr. Kauffman also warns against the illusion of daily disinfecting for longer-term lenses. “Even though you clean and disinfect two-week, monthly, quarterly, or annual replacement lenses nightly, there’s still some deposits you miss. And over time, those deposits get worse and worse.”
This can cause serious eye infections, too, including keratitis, which can lead to blindness. A 2018 study at University College London found that the risk of developing keratitis was three times greater for people with careless contact lens hygiene.
To keep infection at bay, says Dr. Kauffman, your best bet may be to “make a fresh start every day” with a brand-new set of daily disposable lenses.
Ever had dry, itchy eyes? For contact lens wearers, that can happen a lot—and for lots of reasons. Over the course of the day, everything from the substances found in your tears to the allergens floating in the air can coat your lenses. Plus, lens-cleaning solutions may have harsh chemicals that can cause irritation, too.
To avoid discomfort, dailies may be your best bet. “Instead of soaking your lenses in cleaning solutions every night,” says Dr. Kauffman, “daily lenses that come in individually packaged blister packs are a lot more gentle on the eye.”
Plus, he explains, “Over the course of 30 days, the monthly replacement lenses can lose a lot of their moisture. Starting with a fresh lens every day is more hydrating.”
As any frequent traveler knows, moving liquids through airport security can get complicated. Your bottle of contact lens solution is one more thing to squeeze into your little zip-lock bag.
“With dailies, you can just throw a couple of packs into your suitcase,” Dr. Kauffman explains. “You don’t have to worry about bringing solutions and contact lens cases.”
Just grab and go—nothing could be simpler. Another point for dailies.
If you’re on a budget, the decision between daily and monthly replacement lenses isn’t so clear-cut.
“I don’t like to base eye-care decisions on price alone, but on what’s best for the patient,” Dr. Kauffman explains. “But the cost of 730 daily lenses would be more than the cost of 24 monthly lenses. When you break it down, the difference is about what you’d pay for a cup of coffee each day.”
Prices can run higher if you need a specialized prescription—like for astigmatism or for multifocal lenses. But vision insurance can sometimes offset a portion of the cost.
Winner: Monthlies (usually)
Check with your optometrist and your insurance rep before choosing a type of contact lens. Some plans provide an allowance toward the yearly costs of contacts, so cost may be a wash.
Whether you use daily or monthly replacement contact lenses, you’re tossing out as many as 730 little bits of plastic a year. A 2018 research report by the American Chemical Society found that anywhere from six to 10 metric tons of plastic lenses end up in our wastewater every year, posing a threat to aquatic life.
Environmental impact is a serious concern—and you have to balance the health of your eyes with the health of the planet.
Luckily, Dr. Kauffman points out, “One of the contact lens companies has started a recycling program for both the lenses and all the packaging.”
Check with your optometrist’s office to see if they provide recycle bins where you can drop off your used contacts, no matter which type you choose.
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