What are Contact Lenses?
Contact lenses, which are excellent alternatives to prescription eyeglasses for vision correction, are thin, clear, curved lenses that are placed on the surface of the eye. They are almost invisible tools that aid people with vision problems such as astigmatism and near- or far-sightedness. Contact lenses are also being used today as fashion tools to create a temporary, aesthetically pleasant eye color.
Benefits of Contact Lenses
Using contact lenses have various benefits to its wearers. They offer improved, unobstructed vision without visual distortion common in prescription glasses. They are also convenient to use and basically hands-free, all weather, and won’t fog up with sweat or heat. They allow you to move freely whilst retaining clear vision, making them a better choice over eyeglasses for sports and other outdoor activities.
Contact lenses, however, are temporary and have to be taken out and disposed of after a certain period of time.
Types of Contact Lenses
Today, there are a wide variety of contact lenses to choose from depending on your preference, vision problem, and eye condition. Choices include soft and hard contact lenses. The latter are made of hard plastic or silicone-based, breathable material, thus reducing the risk of eye infections. Also called gas permeable contacts (GP), hard contacts are less comfortable than soft lenses, but are less expensive, offer superior optical characteristics, and provide clear, crisp vision.
Soft contact lenses, on the other hand, are more popular, flexible and comfortable, as they take the shape of the eye. There are several types of soft contact lenses available in the market today which include the following:
Daily-wear: these lenses have to be removed, cleaned and disinfected every night.
Extended-wear: these can be worn while asleep but must be removed at least once a week. They are available for continuous wear, ranging from 6 nights to up to 30 days.
Disposable: this is best for occasional use; they are removed at night and disposed of after a certain timeframe depending on the contact lens - daily, weekly or monthly.
Cosmetic or color-tinted: these can change the tint and color of the eyes and can drastically change one’s appearance.
Corneal reshaping lenses: these can be worn overnight and are meant to gradually reshape the cornea to correct specific vision problems
Many contact lenses today are equipped with features such as UV protection. There are also hybrid contact lenses available for more complex vision conditions.
Eye Specialists: Optometrist and Ophthalmologist
If you start to experience vision problems, it is imperative to consult a good eye doctor who will properly diagnose and treat your eye condition. It is important to acknowledge that as far as the eyes are concerned, you can either see an optometrist or an ophthalmologist, but it is always best to visit both.
What is an Optometrist?
An optometrist is an eye doctor who examines the eyes for vision problems, diagnoses the type of refractive errors and corrects them by prescribing contact lenses or prescription glasses. To become an optometrist, one must complete a four-year college degree program and pursue another four years of post-graduate training in optometry and earn a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree. Although they are licensed eye doctors, they are not trained or licensed to perform surgery.
What is an Ophthalmologist?
An ophthalmologist, on the other hand, is a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing eye problems, treating them by prescribing medications, and performing eye surgeries. They are also trained to examine the eye and recommend the use of eyeglasses and contact lenses. To become an ophthalmologist, one must complete four years of college and four years of medical school followed by a year of internship and another three to five years of hospital residency in the field of ophthalmology.
When to Wear Contact Lenses and Which Doctor to See
If your eyes are in good health and don't require surgical or medical treatment, a routine eye exam can be easily facilitated by an optometrist. Ordinary vision problems, such as inability to focus at a certain distance, do not typically require the services of an ophthalmologist. However, for more serious medical eye conditions, such as blurred vision caused by glaucoma or cataract, medical eye care by an ophthalmologist is required. Co-management by both an optometrist and ophthalmologist is recommended for chronic eye health problems, where the former specialist will recommend you to the latter, and vice-versa.
Eye doctors prescribe wearing contact lenses for any of the following conditions:
Farsightedness (Hyperopia) - when you have difficulty focusing on objects close to you.
Nearsightedness (Myopia) - when you find it difficult to focus on far objects.
Astigmatism - a condition wherein you have distorted vision both when objects are up close or at a distance.
Presbyopia - an age-related condition where adults start having difficulty seeing objects up close.
The aforementioned conditions are usually accompanied by other symptoms including headaches, migraine, nausea, and dizziness. To properly diagnose your condition, a visual acuity test is usually performed followed by a machine-operated vision screening test. Based on the results, the eye doctor will recommend the use of contact lenses and a treatment plan to suit your individual needs.
- Dillehay, SM. Eye Contact Lens, May 2007.
- Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists: “Rigid Contact Lenses,” “Soft (Toric) Contact Lenses.”