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Although it’s unlikely that demand for traditional glasses will ever disappear altogether (after all, they’re stylish, comfortable, and convenient), contact lenses have been popular for decades and continue to be a great choice for eyewear. From typical prescription options, to ones that change the color of the eye, to futuristic “smart” lenses—contacts have come a long way since 1888!
Contact lenses are a great alternative to wearing glasses for many people because they offer a lot of flexibility. You can wear your non-prescription sunglasses, goggles, helmets, headbands, or other kinds of eyewear over your contacts. People with contact lenses don’t have to worry about glasses slipping off or getting knocked off with physical activity. Plus, contacts don’t fog up and won’t produce a glare in photos. Unless you’re up close to someone, you can’t even tell they’re wearing them.
There is a wide variety of contact lenses available to fit most people. Advances in recent years have created many options with cool features perfectly suited to a range of prescription types and eyewear needs.
Toric lenses are used for people with astigmatism (irregular curvature of the eye). The way that toric contacts work is they have different powers at various places on the lens and they stay in place on the eye with a weighted section so that they don’t rotate. Unlike a regular prescription contact lens that can rotate and give consistently clear vision, the toric lenses have to stay in one position. Most wearers will never notice the weighted section. Usually the “weight” is just a tiny line in the lens, adding a small amount of material to orient the lens. With the lens on your fingertip up to the light, you may be able to see the line, but it is imperceptible when the contact lens is in place on your eye.
Gas permeable lenses are not soft and flexible like the ones most people imagine when they think of contact lenses. The rigid lenses still have breathability for air to reach your eye, but they are rigid. By keeping their perfectly rounded shape, the lenses can help give clear vision to people with astigmatism. The downside is that some people find them hard to become accustomed to wearing because they feel the lens more than they feel soft lenses.
People who need reading glasses or progressive lenses can benefit from bifocal and multifocal lenses. These are designed for those who require more than one prescription in the same lens—a common need among people over forty due to common age-related vision loss known as presbyopia.
Hybrid lenses are made of a rigid middle zone and a soft outer rim. They are specially designed for high astigmatism, certain irregular corneas, and people with early stage keratoconus. People with these conditions used to be limited to glasses, but hybrid lenses make it possible for them to wear contact lenses.
Conditions such as keratoconus, dry eyes, giant papillary conjunctivitis, post-refractive surgery (such as LASIK), and presbyopia can make contact lens fitting more difficult, but most people are able to find contact lenses to comfortably fit their eyes and needs. If you want to try contact lenses, talk to your eye care professional about which options are best for you!