Anyone looking to equip themselves with a set of contact lenses for the very first time need not feel frightened and alone. Across the globe there are millions of people who discretely wear corrective lenses every day, with the vast majority in agreement that contacts are far superior to spectacles. But the initial decision of which type to wear can leave newcomers feeling baffled.
First of all comes the choice between glasses and contact lenses. People with vision problems are likely to find many aspects of their everyday routine become difficult. Eyesight is something a lot of people take for granted, so when it is impaired in some way we suddenly realise how useful vision is and our habits usually have to adapt.
As both glasses and contacts have their pros and cons, many people opt for a combination of the two, wearing one or the other depending on what activities they have planned. Those who frequently play sport, for example, are likely to wear contact lenses more often, as they allow us a little more freedom to move. In addition, it makes no sense to wear stylish designer specs to a rugby match where they will most likely end up crushed in the mud.
Once the decision to wear contacts has been made, the next step is to choose between daily disposables, monthly lenses and extended-wear contacts. They are all very popular, though each have their own distinct advantages. But it is important to remember that two people will rarely feel exactly the same about a particular contact lens product the decision really is down to personal preference.
The general rule is that daily disposables are simplest of all to use. As the name suggests, these are not the kind of contacts that require cleaning or storing in any particular way. They are simply removed from single-use containers, placed in the eye each morning and discarded every night before bed. This makes the daily disposables option appeal to those who only intend to wear contact lenses every now and then, or people who simply do not want the hassle of caring for their lenses in the same way that monthly wearers need to.
Daily disposable contact lenses are also widely regarded the best option for anyone with sensitive eyes. Since a fresh pair is inserted every day, the chance of lenses getting dirty or contaminated is minimal, making sore eyes far less likely as a result. In addition, the soft material they are made from allows oxygen through the lens, enabling the eye to "breathe".
There are also disposable contacts available, which the user can wear for slightly longer periods, a fortnight or month for example. These products share all the same advantages of daily disposables, but need to be properly stored and cleaned every day to prevent irritation or infection. These "semi-disposable" contact lenses are ideal for people who shudder at the environmental impact of throwing a pair in the bin every day. But remember, the cleaning ritual is a genuine commitment and may be too much for some.
The final option is extended-wear contact lenses, which do pretty much what they say on the pack. Basically, they are contacts that can be worn continuously for a longer period of time, with wearers even able to sleep in them. But it is still a good idea to remove them two or three nights a week, to give the eyes a break and prevent irritation.
Perhaps the best advice to anyone trying contact lenses for the first time is to do plenty of homework before committing to any particular type. Newcomers should also pay a visit to their optician to ensure their eyes are suitable for contacts before taking the plunge.
by Alexa Kaczka