As the New Year begins, many of us have made the resolution to exercise and live healthier lives. However, it can be difficult to exercise when glasses are bouncing up and down on your face, falling down, or fogging up as you run, bend, and stretch! For many people – even those who rely on progressive or bifocal glasses – contact lenses may be the solution to provide clear vision while enabling a healthy lifestyle. Contact lenses can also help people feel more confident in their appearance, and offer a respite for those that would otherwise have to wear thick and heavy glasses.
Many people have been told in the past that their eyes or their prescriptions were not suitable for contact lens wear. However, times have changed, and contact lens technology has significantly improved over the last few years. While before, choices were limited, these days there are numerous brands, materials, lens designs, and wear schedules that can fit almost everyone’s individual needs. For example:
- Daily disposables: for the occasional wearer, children, or people with dry eye or allergies.
- Monthly/Bi-weekly disposables: for the average contact lens wearer – someone who wears their contacts 5-6 days per week.
- Toric or Astigmatic contact lenses: for people with moderate to high amounts of astigmatism.
- Multifocal contact lenses: for people who need to wear reading glasses, bifocals, or progressives.
- Custom made soft lenses: for people with extremely high or unusual prescriptions.
- Rigid Gas Permeable “hard” contacts: for people with high or unusual prescriptions, corneal problems such as keratoconus, or for those that require very sharp crisp vision.
Contact lens materials have also changed significantly over the past few years. The last generation of soft contact lenses were made of plastic polymers which provided good comfort, but poor oxygen breathability. (Oxygen breathability is an important factor in safe and comfortable contact lens wear, as the cornea gets oxygen from the environment directly through diffusion – a contact lens sitting on the cornea can block that process.) The newest generation of contact lens materials offer superior oxygen breathability – silicone is incorporated into the polymer which allows more oxygen to pass through the contact lens directly to the cornea. These new materials can afford up to ten times more oxygen to the cornea than the previous generation of contact lenses, providing superior comfort and wearability.
For those who have been unable to wear contacts in the past due to dryness or dry eye – new research has shown that Omega-3 fish oil supplements (1200mg/day taken orally) can significantly improve the tear film. Many patients who were previously unable to tolerate contact lenses are actually now able to wear contact lenses comfortably for 8-10 hours with the introduction of fish oil into their daily vitamin routine. In addition, advances in re-wetting eye drop technology have improved the wearability of contacts while performing visually demanding tasks like computer use, reading, and long-distance driving.
Better contact lens care products have also enhanced the comfort and wearability of contact lenses. One-step hydrogen peroxide based cleaning systems such as Clear Care and OcuSoft offer a high level of preservative-free disinfection for those with sensitive eyes, or those who are allergic to various contact lens solution preservatives. The newest multi-purpose solutions (such as Opti-free Pure Moist, RevitaLens OcuTec, and BioTrue) offer increased comfort and moisture for everyday contact lens wear.
Ask your eye doctor if you are a candidate for contact lens wear, or if there have been any advances in contact lens technology that could be beneficial for your visual needs!
-Dr. Mika Fu