Contact Lens Types: An Introduction
According to the BCLA There are two main types of contact lenses: soft lenses made of water-containing plastic; and gas permeable (or 'rigid gas permeable'-RGP's-) lenses which are less flexible.
Soft contact lenses are very thin and comfortable to wear, they cover the Iris and cornea and rest on the sclera (the white of the eye).
Gas permeable lenses are smaller and more rigid and take a little time to get used to. There are over 3.7 million people in the UK wearing contact lenses, most of whom chose soft contact lenses.
There are so many choices within the soft contact lens field that it can be difficult to choose which one is right for you It may be that you start with one type - say monthly contact lenses and then move on to daily contact lenses.
Increased choice translates to increased confusion among new contact lens wearers. In this post, we’ll explore the range of soft contact lenses available online. After you’ve finished reading this piece, you should have a good sense of what lenses would work best for your lifestyle.
What Contact Lenses Do I Need?
There are many kinds of contact lenses, and even those who do not have problems with their eyesight may still choose to get coloured lenses for cosmetic reasons.
In most cases, contacts are used for correcting vision problems and the type of lens you choose should be designed to cater to your particular requirements. Whether you are short sighted or long sighted or whether you have astigmatism or need multifocals, there is almost definitely a contact lens that will suit you.
If you want to wear contact lenses to correct your eyesight, you must start by consulting an eyecare practitioner for a fitting. Only registered Optometrists, Contact lens opticians and medical practitioners can fit contact lenses.
Before your Optometrist decides on the best contact lenses for you, he/she will discuss your lifestyle, as what you want from a contact lens will help determine what type of contact lenses you are most suited to.
Contact lens wearers normally fall in one of four categories
- A Full Time Wearer - If you are someone who wants to wear contact lenses every day, maybe having a day off every now and then or having a break at the weekends, then you are one of the lucky ones as you are suited to all types of contact lenses daily contact lenses which are thrown away each evening for total convenience, or two weekly disposable lenses or monthly disposable contact lenses, so your decision may come down to how much time you want to invest in cleaning and storing your lenses and how much you want to spend
- Occasional Wearer - If you only want to wear contact lenses at the weekends, for sports or for nights out and special occasions then you are ideally suited to daily disposable contact lenses. These lenses require no fussy cleaning regimes, offer a healthy option as lenses don't sit in stagnant solution whilst not being used and the cost is kept relatively low as you are only wearing the lenses occasionally.
- Put them in and Forget about them Wearer! - If you want to forget you are wearing contact lenses then continuous wear contact lenses are ideal for you. Ideally suited to certain occupations like firemen or hospital workers who want to be able to see immediately on waking, and those of us who really can't be bothered to put lenses in and take them out each day!
As the name suggests, you put them in and leave them in for up to a month at a time, 24 hours a day. Supremely convenient - but they do require careful fitting by an Optometrist plus regular checkups to make sure that there are no complications from wearing them day in and day out.
Daily Disposable Contact Lenses
We'll start our list with the most talked about lens and arguably the Optometrist's favorite lens - daily disposable contact lenses also referred to as simply 'Dailies'.
As you might’ve guessed already, these lenses are only intended for one-day use. Dailies users throw away their soft contacts every night and open a new pack of lenses every morning.
The reason dailies have grown so popular has to do with their high safety profile. Because you dispose of dailies before bed, they are the healthiest option for your eyes
People who wear daily disposable lenses don’t have to put up with pesky protein deposits that often accumulate on weekly or monthly contacts. Not only do these protein accumulations cloud up your vision, but they could also cause serious eye irritation and even scratch the cornea.
Thanks to modern manufacturing processes, dailies have never been as affordable as they are today. This doesn’t mean, however, that daily contacts are necessarily cheap. Usually, daily disposable contacts are the most expensive option in the contact lens market. However, by using daily lenses such as Crystal Aqua Daily they can work out cheaper than monthlies, once you take solutions into account.
In terms of safety, comfort, and convenience, however, dailies remain the king. If you make the investment in these lenses, you’ll be rewarded with a greatly reduced risk of eye discomfort and infection.
People who live extremely busy lifestyles and struggle to practice proper hygiene are prime candidates for these one-day lenses. Dry eye sufferers and professional athletes also frequently use dailies lenses to their advantage.
It's worth noting since dailies are thrown away every night, they have drawn the ire of environmentalists concerned about ocean pollution. Dailies wearers are strongly encouraged to get in the habit of throwing their lenses in a recycling bin and not down the toilet.
You can learn even more about the cost and benefits of daily disposable lenses by clicking on this link to see our full range of daily contact lenses..
Weekly Or Two Weekly Contacts
These are a good middle-of-the-road option: Weekly or Bi-weekly contact lenses are worn daily but removed, stored and cleaned. You will need to partake in a good cleaning and storing technique and invest in a good all-in-one-solution.
Since you wear weekly or two weekly lenses longer than dailies, you’re at a slightly higher risk of developing infections but a good cleaning regime will help in keeping your eyes super safe.
Patients who don’t want the increased risks of wearing monthly lenses but don’t want the higher price tag of dailies might enjoy weekly or two weekly contact lenses. Take a peek at our weekly lenses line on this official webpage.
Monthly Contact Lenses
People looking for a more affordable option and willing to invest time to achieve great hygiene skills might want to look into monthly disposable contact lenses, often referred to simply as monthlies. Usually intended for 30-day use, these soft contacts are certainly a cheaper option. They do, however, come with an increased risk of infection and eye discomfort, due to an inevitable accumulation of contact lens deposits from your tears and the environment.
Investing in a powerful all-in-one solution is a must for any monthly contact lens wearer. Find out more about monthly contact lenses by reading our in-depth guide.
Please keep in mind monthly contacts should not be worn overnight unless they are clearly listed as “continuous wear” products.
It goes without saying that people interested in monthly contact lenses must have immaculate contact lens hygiene. A few essential techniques all monthly wearers need to master include:
- Washing and drying their hands before handling lenses.
- Never expose contact lenses to tap water.
- Taking lenses out before bedtime.
- Washing lenses in approved contact lens solution.
- Submerging contacts in contact solution overnight in a clean contact lens case.
It's worth pointing out that as 1 pair of lenses last a complete month there is far less environmental waste with these type of lenses.
Although they are the main three categories of contact lenses it's worth pointing out that in each of those categories you can get different types of contact lenses
- Toric Contact Lenses - Toric lenses are for the treatment of astigmatism
- Multifocal and Varifocal Contact Lenses - Multifocal lenses are for those with presbyopia.
- Coloured Contact Lenses - When choosing coloured contact lenses, you can select from a rainbow of colours that alter your appearance. Options include natural blues, greens, browns and hazels, as well as more dramatic tones like brilliant blue, gemstone green and amethyst.
If you want to wear contact lenses to correct your eyesight, you must start by consulting an eyecare practitioner for a fitting. Only registered Optometrists and Contact Lens Opticians are qualified to fit contact lenses. Find out if you are entitled to a free sight test on the NHS.
Author: John Dreyer Optometrist Bsc(Hons), MCOPTOM, DipCLP
Created: 24 Apr 2015, Last modified: 3 Jan 2023