We’re glad you asked that question, since we’ve done quite a bit of research in this area. (Sometimes these things just work out.)
Your choices for lenses are widening faster than Homer Simpson’s waistline, so there’s never been a better time to say, “contact me!”
Hard lensesDespite any preconceptions you may have, these are not your father’s (or grandmother’s) hard contact lenses. Major advances have brought us “rigid gas permeable” lenses. Sometimes referred to as GP or RGP lenses, they** promote healthy oxygen flow and can slow down the development of nearsightedness** in young and adult lens wearers. Downside? They may take some getting used to.
Soft lensesContact lens wearers had a hard life before 1971, when lenses first showed a softer side. With soft lenses, oxygen passes through to the cornea more easily, making them** more comfortable** (and so more likely to be used regularly). Soft contact lenses can be the option of choice to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness, blurred vision, and age-related loss of close-up vision.
Daily wear disposableThere may be no better example of the term “throwaway society” than the daily wear contact lens. (You could make the same point about the term “planned obsolescence.”) No maintenance is required. But if this sounds like a negative review, not so fast. Daily wear disposable is considered the safest type because it** minimizes the chance for build-up of harmful materials**. So there you have it.
When they say “extended,” manufacturers recommend a 30-day lifespan. You can sleep in extended wear soft contact lenses, but be careful. Overnight use can increase the chance of eye infections, so they need to be removed for cleaning and disinfecting at least once a week. (An extended wear contact purported to be usable for 6 months is available in Korea, but the jury is still out on that one.)
Extended wear disposableSo you want to combine the convenience of throwing away old lenses with the convenience of not replacing them every day? That’s a lot of convenience to ask for, but you live in the right age to get it. This type is usually** recommended for six-day use, although some go as high as 30 days**. Again, the upside is less maintenance, but at the cost of vision that tends to be less sharp.
Pardon our grammar, but: ”don’t it make my brown eyes blue?” Well, it does if that’s your choice. It’s all about the look you’re going for. You can opt for a visibility tint (which basically is just a way to find it more easily if you drop it), enhancement tint, which deepens your natural color, or opaque tint – where all the wild colors and crazy designs live.
Toric softPeople with astigmatism (which is an inability of the eyes to focus properly) are used to seeing a look of helplessness on the faces of their optometrists. Many advances in vision tech seemed great, “unless you have astigmatism.” But no more. Toric contact lenses are** specifically designed to correct astigmatism**. Cool side note: They rotate with your initial blinks to stabilize and focus.
Bifocal or multifocalBifocal contact lenses are considered very high-tech in the eye care world. You can imagine that squeezing near- and far- (with some medium-) sightedness into one small lens was quite a task. The same precautions about misjudging distances that apply to bifocal eyeglasses apply double to contact lenses.** You won’t want to drive a car (or a golf ball) until you feel comfortable with them**.
Many of us are walking around with “hard to fit eyes” without even knowing it. Don’t worry, we can still live full and happy lives. The problem arises if we decide we want contact lenses. Hybrid contacts are large-diameter lenses that have a hard lens-like center, surrounded by a peripheral zone made of soft lens-like material. You may find that all this “hybriding” can be expensive, though.
We’ll round out our list with contact lenses that are technically not contact lenses, and not yet even available. Already eight years in the making and still awaiting "extensive clinical trials,’ these would be inserted into the eye in a 10-minute procedure similar to cataract surgery. The result, as claimed by manufacturer Ocumetics Bionic Lens, will be vision 3 times better than 20/20. Although not on the market just yet, this has our not-yet-bionic brains buzzing.
Jack wrote for HealthCentral as an editor on vision care, skin care, and mental health.