The guide to the length of time contact lenses are worn depends entirely upon what type of lenses you choose. Your lifestyle and preferences and what your eye doctor recommends will help you choose from a bewildering array of options. Some disposable lenses are prescribed for longer wearing, from 7-10 days, while other types are strictly wear-once and discard. The only common factor in all contact lenses is that they all have some type of frequent replacement schedule which must be strictly adhered to. All contact lenses exams require longer appointments and more frequent follow-up visits than for those only wearing eye glasses. The reason contact lenses need to be replaced is mainly because of infection and durability. Disposable lenses are made of very fine flexible plastic which can easily tear. Longer lasting lenses are stronger and more durable. Wearing contact lenses longer than their recommended life cycle will create problems. Ensuring that your lenses are replaced at the correct time is imperative. Having a system whereby you note the replacement date on your calendar or personal diary, and a warning about a week before to ensure that you have to replace new lenses can be helpful. Cleaning and disinfecting longer-lasting contact lenses may be a bind, whereas daily disposable lenses require no cleaning as they are discarded at the end of every wear. The good thing about all disposable lenses is that you always have a spare pair on hand, should one be lost or damaged. Here are some definitions and guidelines on the different types of contact lenses which are available today. Hopefully some of the confusion can be eliminated once the facts are clearly outlined. Of course, cost may also affect your decision on which contact lens to choose..
Daily disposable Contact Lenses (1 Day)
The majority of soft contact lenses available are 'disposable' and according to the FDA the definition means used once and then discarded. This means a new pair of lenses should be used every day. In practice this is not quite the case. The majority of wearers of soft contact lenses choose these daily disposables. They are easy to adapt to and being soft they are very comfortable. Of course, daily disposables are very easily torn; hence they are for one-time use only. The other benefit to daily disposable contact lenses is that disinfecting or soaking is not necessary as they are sterile when they are delivered straight from the package and will not be re-used. They are available in tints and are great for active lifestyles and sports as they are more difficult to dislodge than rigid or 'hard' contact lenses. Daily disposable contact lenses are also a great option for you if you plan on wearing contacts for certain activities or only on weekends. It can be hard to remember when to replace a 2 week or monthly lens especially if your only wearing them part time.
Extended Wear Lenses (7-30 days)
Extended Wear lenses have been introduced but are still termed 'disposable', although they are intended for multiple day use. Extended wear lenses may be worn continuously for the prescribed wearing period and then thrown away. These may last from 7 days and up to 30 days depending upon the intended use period, which will be clearly stated. For those who want to wear contact lenses overnight, these are the best choice as they are designed with that in mind. They require little or no cleaning and are available in tints and bifocals. If instructions are followed, there is very little likelihood of infection. The 30-day contact lenses certainly take the hassle out of wearing contact lenses, and wearers almost forget that they actually need them. Although initially eye infections were common, these longer-lasting lenses are now made of silicone hydrogel with high oxygen permeability and allows the cornea to breathe, keeping it healthy. However, 30 days continuous wear is not suitable for all people. If you are interested, discuss this option with your eye doctor.
Bi-Weekly or Monthly Disposable Contact lenses
Most soft contact lenses are replaced on a bi-weekly or monthly schedule. They require simple cleaning and disinfection between uses and are removed at nighttime. These lenses are good for eye health and are available in most prescriptions.
Quarterly or Conventional Lenses
These contact lenses are not commonly prescribed anymore. Because they are replaced less frequently, there are less comfortable, less breathable and increase chances of infection.
Rigid Gas Permeables (RGP)
These contact lenses are stronger than the soft contact lenses, and although they are still made of plastic, they are firmer and more durable. They have a relatively long life and are usually changed at an annual check-up, although some may last for 2 years. The advantage of these lenses is that the harder finish essentially resurfaces the cornea gives slightly clearer results. They will correct most vision problems, unlike soft contact lenses. They are easy to put on, easy to handle and can be made into bifocal lenses. They are also easy to clean and disinfect but cannot be left in overnight under any circumstances.
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