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Contact Lenses part 2: Opening the door to the contact lens room

The views expressed in this post are that of Eyecare Associates of Ankeny. The author has no financial disclosures to make regarding this blog post. Any views or classifications of contact lenses are opinion only and may not reflect the views of other doctors or intended by the manufacturer.
 

So you want to get a new set of contact lenses, but you don’t know where to start. In our office, much like many other optometry and ophthalmology practices, there is a entire room filled with contact lenses. Somewhere in that room is the right lens for you, but where do we start?

In part 1, I outlined the difficulty that we have in selecting that initial lens. In this post, I hope to outline the considerations to be made when selecting a lens.

So you want to put a piece of plastic in your eye to help you see better? This is a big decision, often a much bigger decision than we give it credit for.

A contact lens is a medical device, often categorized as a prosthetic by medical insurance plans. So, the number one thing a contact lens should be is effective. The number one consideration for a contact lens is that it provides good vision. This isn’t just a prescription issue. The same prescription in different contact lenses can provide much different vision. That’s why we write specific contact lens type/brand on your prescription as well.

Another thing that you will find on that contact lens prescription is the base curve of the contact lens. The base curve controls the fit of the lens and is also associated with the second consideration for contact lenses… the comfort. A contact lenses that fits well should feel good. A correctly fitting contact lenses is centered on your eye, moves a little bit when you blink, and does not rotate. A poor fitting contact can cause significant irritation, injury, and possibly lead to sight threatening diseases. There are surface treatments that manufacturers have developed to help with comfort and wettability that can also help with comfort. These technologies, especially some of the newer ones, have increased comfortable wear time in contact lenses for many patients.

Another aspect of the contact lens to consider is how much oxygen the contact allows through it. Remember that the clear part of your eye that a contact lens covers (the cornea) has no blood vessels in it. The only way that part of your eye gets oxygen is through the tears and environment surrounding it. Your contact lens can act as a direct barrier to that oxygen flow, so a contact that doesn’t allow enough oxygen through it can have some very adverse actions on the health of your eyes. This is why only very high oxygen permeable lenses have approval for extended wear, while most others you must take out every night before bed.

People know that most contacts have a set length of time they are approved for before the need to be thrown out, however very few factor that into their contact lenses selection. I like to call this the “how am I going to use my contact lenses test”. Are you somebody constantly on the move or wear contacts only for certain events like sports? Then a daily disposable contact lenses fits best into your lifestyle. Are you organized and structured? Then you would do just fine, with a lens that gets replaced on a monthly basis. Do you work odd, irregular hours and need to be able to be on the move at a moments notice? Then the convenience of an extended wear lens with overnight approval is best. Ask yourselves these questions before your next appointment. Also, remember contact lenses are approved to be used for a certain amount of time and not longer. Extending and over-wearing contact lenses is dangerous to your eye health.

And finally, there’s the cost. My monthly student loan payment is more than the mortgage on my house, so I completely understand this aspect. I also certainly consider this an aspect to consider when purchasing lenses. However, just remember not all contact lenses are the same when comparing those prices. Make sure you compare apples to apples if you are price shopping other retailers, especially the online places.

And just a little plug for our place, don’t think those other places are necessarily offering better prices. We are constantly comparing ourselves against those retailers and for many lenses we offer similar if not better prices. Often the trouble is that those places advertise their cheapest, lowest quality materials and not the products they actually fit. We also inventory lenses, so for some lenses it’s possible to get same day service.

So that’s a little primer on what to think about at your next contact lens appointment. Remember that the best way to pick out a contact lens is to do a little research before hand and then try out the lenses for yourself. At our office, we do contact lens trials where you can try a lens out in the real world for a couple days or weeks before you make that final decision.

So next up, let’s talk specific contact lenses in part 3.