- Contact Lenses: Colored, Soft, Hard, Toric and Bifocal Center
- Laser Eye Surgery Pictures Slideshow
- Anatomy of the Eye
- Your Eyewear Guide for Vision
- Find a local Eye Doctor in your town
Contact lenses have come a long way lately, and offer some exciting options for the consumer. You can bat a pair of baby blues one day, then flash golden tiger eyes the next. You can toss your disposable lenses in the trash each night. Or you can leave in your extended wear lenses for an entire month.
For people with vision problems, contact lenses remain an effective, almost invisible tool. The thin plastic or glass lenses are fitted over the cornea of the eye to correct vision problems such as nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism. These days you can wear contact lenses even if you have presbyopia and need bifocals.
You have so many options, how do you choose? Check out your choices of contact lenses here. Then talk with your eye doctor about the contact lens that may work best for you.
Quick GuideCommon Eye Problems and Infections
Colored Contact Lenses
They're hip and they're fun, but colored contact lenses can also be quite practical. There are four types of colored contact lenses, each offering a slightly different benefit:
- Visibility tint. These colored contact lenses are lightly tinted so you can find your lens if you drop it. Visibility tints don't affect the color of your eyes.
- Enhancement tint. These colored contact lenses have a translucent tint that's meant to enhance your natural eye color. Enhancement tints are slightly darker than a visibility tint.
- Color tint. Darker, opaque tints that change the color of your eyes. Color tints come in a wide array of specialty colors, including amethyst, violet and green. The center of this colored contact lens is clear so you can see.
- Light-Filtering tint. These colored contact lenses are designed for athletes and sports fans. They enhance certain colors and mute others to make balls stand out. For instance contact lenses for tennis players would enhance optic yellow, the color of tennis balls.
Remember, never share colored contacts lenses with anyone. Clean and care for them just as you would any prescription contact lens.
Soft Contact Lenses
Soft contact lenses are made of a soft plastic and are more comfortable than hard contact lenses because they hold more water. Many soft contact lenses also provide UV protection. They are usually disposable and can be thrown away after a short period of use, generally every two to four weeks or daily, depending on the type of contact lens prescribed. Being able to have a fresh pair of soft contact lenses means less chance of infection, less cleaning, and more comfort, especially for people whose eyes naturally produce more protein that clouds contact lenses.
While most people choose soft contact lenses because of their benefits, there are also some disadvantages. Soft contact lenses easily absorb pollutants like lotion or soap from your hands, which can irritate your eyes. Soft contact lenses are also more fragile than hard contact lenses and can rip or tear easily.
The most recent type of soft contact lenses to hit the market include Daily Disposables and New Silicone Extended Wear Disposables.
- Daily disposables. These soft contact lenses are only worn once and then thrown away. The benefits of Daily Disposables include never having to clean your contact lenses, convenient replacement schedule, and reduction of dry eye and irritation related to contact solutions. If you are an allergy sufferer, these are the contact lenses for you.
- Silicone Extended Wear Disposables. These soft contact lenses are made with a new material that can be worn for up to 30 nights and days. The new silicone material also prevents deposit build up and reduces dry eye irritation.
Rigid Gas Permeable Hard Contact Lenses
Rigid gas permeable lenses, or hard contact lenses, are more rigid than soft contact lenses and therefore more durable. Unlike older versions of hard contact lenses, rigid gas permeable lenses are made with silicone polymers, allowing oxygen to circulate to the cornea of the eye. Compared to soft contact lenses, hard contacts maintain their shape better and offer clearer vision for some types of corrections. They are also easy to take care of and are extremely durable. However, if you are considering this type of hard contact lens, you should know that:
- There is a 10-15 times greater risk of developing corneal ulcers, a serious infection, which may damage your vision if not treated.
- Sleeping in extended wear contacts may decrease flow of oxygen to the cornea.
- Undesirable reshaping of the cornea may occur.
- The amount of time needed to adjust to hard contact lenses is often repeated after not wearing them for as little as a day. Therefore, in order to achieve maximum comfort you have to wear the contact lenses everyday.
Bifocal Contact Lenses
Bifocal contact lenses are designed to give good vision to people who have a presbyopia . These contact lenses work much like bifocal eyeglasses, having two powers on one lens one to correct distant vision and another to correct near vision. Bifocal contact lenses come as both soft and rigid gas permeable lenses.
Toric Contact Lenses
Toric contact lenses are special lenses for people with astigmatism. Toric contact lenses are made from the same material as other contact lenses and come in soft or rigid gas permeable forms. Like bifocal lenses, toric lenses have two powers, one for the astigmatism and another for nearsightedness or farsightedness if either of these conditions is also present.
How Do I Know Which Type of Contact Lens Is Right For Me?
The type of vision correction needed, your lifestyle, and expense will all play a role in your eye care specialist's recommendations for the type of contact lenses that you should wear.
Who Should Not Wear Contact Lenses?
Contact lenses are generally not prescribed for people who:
- Do not produce enough tears
- Are constantly exposed to fumes
- Have a history of viral infection of the cornea
- Are under age 9
Where Do I Go to Get Contacts Lenses?
Contact lenses can be purchased from a variety of places including your eye doctor, a store specializing in optical wear, through mail order, or over the Internet. There is no one best place to buy contact lenses from. Before you begin to shop around for contact lenses, make sure you ask your eye doctor for your contact lens prescription. Without your prescription, you must buy your contact lenses directly from your eye doctor.
When shopping for contact lenses, cheaper does not always mean better. Some other things to keep in mind when pricing contact lenses include:
- Convenience. Is customer service readily available to assist you if need be? Does the company have policies with regard to contact lenses damaged during shipping?
- Insurance coverage. Be sure to contact your insurance company about their policy on contact lenses. This should be done before being fitted for contact lenses. Many plans offer discounts on contact lenses as long as they are purchased from specific retailers. Many plans also do not cover disposable or specialty contact lenses such as colored or bifocal contact lenses.
- Availability. Are your contact lenses in stock? Are you willing to wait longer if necessary for your contact lenses to arrive?
Regardless of where you get your contact lenses, it is important to regularly get eye exams so that any changes in your prescription can be noted and the overall health of your eye maintained.
Reviewed by the doctors at The Cleveland Clinic Cole Eye Institute.
Edited by Charlotte E. Grayson, MD, WebMD, November 2004.
Portions of this page © The Cleveland Clinic 2000-2005
Daily Health News
Subscribe to MedicineNet's General Health Newsletter
Top Contact Lenses: Colored, Soft, Hard, Toric & Bifoc Related Articles
Astigmatism and Your EyesAstigmatism is a common eye condition that's easily corrected by eyeglasses, contact lenses, or surgery. Symptoms of astigmatism are headaches, fatigue, eyestrain and blurred vision.
Astigmatism OverviewAstigmatism is an eye condition in which the cornea is abnormally curved and causes out-of-focus vision. Symptoms of astigmatism may include eye strain, squinting, eye fatigue, and headaches. Most astigmatism arised within the cornea although some forms occur in the lens. Astigmatism is diagnosed via a complete eye exam. Some cases of astigmatism can be treated with corrective eyewear. Astigmatism can also be treated with LASIK surgery.
BlepharitisBlepharitis is inflammation of the eyelids. Acne rosacea, Staphylococcal bacteria, allergies, sensitivities to makeup or contact lens solutions, head lice, or other conditions may cause blepharitis. Symptoms and signs include itchy eyelids, burning sensation in the eyes, crusting of the eyelids, light sensitivity, red, swollen eyelids, loss of eyelashes, and dandruff of the lashes and eyebrows. Proper eyelid hygiene and a regular cleaning routine controls blepharitis.
Blepharitis PictureBlepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids and occurs in two forms, anterior (outside of the eyelid) and posterior (inner eyelid). See a picture of Blepharitis and learn more about the health topic.
BlindnessBlindness is the state of being sightless. Causes of blindness include macular degeneration, stroke, cataract, glaucoma, infection and trauma. Symptoms and signs may include eye pain, eye discharge, or the cornea or pupil turning white. Treatment of blindness depends upon the cause of the blindness.
Corneal UlcerA corneal ulcer is an open sore on the cornea. Infection is a common cause of corneal ulcer. Symptoms and signs of corneal ulcer include redness, eye pain and discharge, blurred vision, photophobia, and a gray or white spot on the cornea. Treatment depends upon the cause of the corneal ulcer.
Eye AllergyEye allergy (or allergic eye disease) are typically associated with hay fever and atopic dermatitis. Medications and cosmetics may cause eye allergies. Allergic eye conditions include allergic conjunctivitis, conjunctivitis with atopic dermatitis, vernal keratoconjunctivitis, and giant papillary conjunctivitis. Dry eye, tear-duct obstruction, and conjunctivitis due to infection are frequently confused with eye allergies. Eye allergies may be treated with topical antihistamines, decongestants, topical mast-cell stabilizers, topical anti-inflammatory drugs, systemic medications, and allergy shots.
How to Relieve Eye AllergiesEye allergies, or allergic conjunctivitis, cause itchy eyes and other allergic symptoms. Avoiding allergens and using medicated eye drops can help. Learn about eye allergy triggers like mold and pollen, and eye allergy relief like shots and eye drops.
Eye CareMany common eye disorders resolve without treatment and some may be managed with over-the-counter (OTC) products. It's important to visit a physician or ophthalmologist is the problem involves the eyeball itself or the condition hasn't improved after 72 hours of use of an eye-care OTC product.
Marfan syndrome is hereditary (genetic) condition affecting connective tissue. A person with Marfan syndrome may exhibit the following symptoms and characteristics:
- Dislocation of one or both lenses of the eye
- A protruding or indented breastbone
- Flat feet
- Aortic dilatation
- Dural ectasia (a problem with the sac surrounding the spinal cord)
- Stretch marks
- Collapsed lung
Though there is no cure for Marfan syndrome, there are treatments that can minimize and sometimes prevent some complications.
MyopiaMyopia, or nearsightedness, makes it difficult to focus on objects that are far away. The condition runs in families and occurs because light focuses in front of the retina, instead of directly on it. Headaches, eye strain, and fatigue are symptoms of myopia. The condition is diagnosed by having an eye exam and can be treated by wearing glasses or contact lenses or by having refractive surgery.
PresbyopiaPresbyopia is the age-related loss of the ability to focus on objects that are close up. The condition generally affects people over 45 years of age and causes blurred vision, headaches, and the need to hold reading material at arm's length. Presbyopia cannot be cured. Prescription contact lenses and glasses can help those who have presbyopia to see more clearly.
Sty (Stye)A sty is a bump that forms on the eyelid as a result of a blocked gland. Styes may be caused by infections, burns, or trauma to the eyelid. Most styes resolve on their own. The application of warm compresses can speed healing. In some cases, steroid injection or incision and drainage may be necessary. Keeping the area clean and consuming a diet high in omega-3-fatty acids may help prevent the formation of styes.
Subconjunctival HemorrhageA subconjunctival hemorrhage is bleeding under the eye's conjunctiva. There is usually no obvious cause for a subconjunctival hemorrhage, but it may be caused by sneezing, vomiting, infections on the outside of the eye, coughing, and clotting disorders. Symptoms and signs include blood in the white of the eye and a sense of fullness under the lid. No treatment is needed.