3 Questions to Ask Before Buying Contact Lenses
These simple questions can help you and your eye doctor find the ideal solution for you
Daily disposables versus biweeklies. Multifocals versus monovision. Silicone-based soft versus gas permeable. When did choosing contact lenses get so complicated?
“There are hundreds of contact lenses to choose from,” says David Cohen, O.D., an optometrist with Ocular Management Services inside America's Best Contacts & Eyeglasses in Charlotte, N.C. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the options.
The trick, he says, is to match your vision needs to your vision expectations. That’s where your eye doctor becomes your best ally.
Here are three questions to answer—and discuss with your optometrist—as well as a quick primer on the main varieties of contacts.
Question No. 1: What Do You Need to See Most?
Before you roll your eyes and answer everything, stop to really consider the daily demands you place on your eyes.
Do you spend a good chunk of your day behind the wheel, either for a living or shuttling the family around? Does work involve staring at a screen or other up-close activity? Do you toggle between tasks that have you looking both near and far? Or are you mainly interested in contacts for sports or special occasions?
Knowing what you need your contacts to do will help your eye doctor narrow your options, says Dr. Cohen.
Question No. 2: What Are Your Eye Issues?
The corrective power of contact lenses is greater than ever, which means more people are good candidates for contact lenses.
Different lenses can help if you have astigmatism, presbyopia, or some other eye health condition. You’ll need a thorough eye exam to know which lens is best for your needs.
“If you’re over 40 and you need bifocals, there are multifocal contacts, or monovision lenses, which use one eye for far vision and one eye for near," he says. "They take some getting used to, but I find those often work very well.”
Still, there’s no one-size-fits-all option. A thorough eye exam can help determine which lens is best for you.
Question No. 3: What’s Your Past Experience with Contact Lenses?
Discomfort is a common complaint among contact lens wearers, but many of the newer lenses are designed to be highly “breathable” and to mimic your eyes’ natural wetness to keep your cornea healthy. That means you won’t be forcing yourself to blink in an effort to fight that dry feeling.
Dr. Cohen also has a little trick he shares with patients who tell him their lenses bother them: Switch cleaning solutions.
“There could be a preservative in there bothering your eye,” he says. “It’s kind of like if you put on a T-shirt that just came out of the laundry and now your back is itchy. It’s most likely not the material that’s causing the itch. It’s something in that detergent.”
Look for a solution for sensitive eyes, or ask your optometrist for a recommendation.
Contact lenses are constantly evolving, says Dr. Cohen. If you wore them in the past and gave up on them for some reason, ask your eye doctor what’s new. Your aha moment may be in the future.
Contact Lenses: What Are Your Options?
Here are the main types of contacts your eye doctor will have you consider:
Daily disposable. Lightweight, flexible, and breathable, daily-wear soft contacts are great if you have allergies, if you don’t plan to wear contacts every day, or if you like the idea of starting each day with a fresh pair of lenses.
Planned replacement (Weeklies or Monthlies). These soft contacts are more durable than dailies, and depending on the make, they are designed to be tossed out after two weeks or one month. The downside is that they can attract more irritants over time, compared to a daily lens, so you need to be vigilant about cleaning them every night.
Gas permeable (GP). Made from a stiffer breathable material than soft lenses, GPs can correct astigmatism. Some contact lens wearers also say they see better with GPs than they do with soft lenses.
Multifocal. These lenses have two powers in one lens to help you see both near and far distances. They are soft, with GP options, but you’ll need an eye exam to know which one is right for you. Monovision is another option if you have presbyopia, or reading difficulties. Here, you wear one contact lens to correct distance vision and one to correct near vision. Your brain will need a few days to adapt to the change in how the eyes work together.
Toric. Designed for those with astigmatism, toric lenses come in a variety of soft or GP forms. They combine two powers in one lens—one corrects the astigmatism and the other corrects the vision.
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