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Contact lenses.

Contact lenses

Millions of people’s lives are improved each day because of contact lenses.

Contact lenses are one of the most useful inventions of the 20th century. Millions of people’s lives are improved each day by the independence and lifestyle benefits contact lenses provide.

Contact lenses have a long history. They were first conceived by Leonardo Di Vinci around 1508! More about the history can be found here.

Modern day spectacle frames come in a beautiful array of colours and styles which make them far more attractive than before. However, there are times when wearing glasses may interfere with your lifestyle. Whether it is travel, sports, or being around young children, sometimes glasses just don’t work for us and contact lenses can be a real boon.

Whether you are looking for Acuvue, Air Optix or daily disposables you have come to the right place at The Eye Practice. What is critical to understand is that the majority of soft contact lens products are one-size-fits-all. If you are struggling despite having trialled a number of different lens designs, it could be because of a multitude of reasons.

Maybe it is time to see a contact lens expert.

Contact lenses are convenient, safe and provide either complete or partial freedom from glasses.

However, up to 50% of wearers fail in the first year – and over half of those are due to contact lens discomfort and intolerance. Find out how you can avoid becoming part of this alarming statistic.

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Why did Contact Lenses not work for me in the past?

About half of all contact lens wearers fail in the first year. This statistic rises to 70% within 10 years. It is common for individuals to assume they just can’t wear them. But even if you have previously failed in contact lenses, the fact is that most people CAN wear them, provided they are correctly fitted by a contact lens expert.*

A one-size-fits-all approach

The high failure rate of soft disposable lenses is often linked to the commoditisation, or the one-size-fits-all approach. These lenses are deservedly popular and can be great when they work. In the instances where they don’t, other types such as custom contact lenses can be considered. It is also where an experienced optometrist can make all the difference.

Toxicity to cleaning solutions

Contact lens cleaning solutions can also be the culprit when it comes to poor success. Toxicity to the preservatives in the lens solutions builds up over time and can cause discomfort and contact lens intolerance. So which is the best contact lens solution? Where possible, the best is NO contact lens cleaning solution.

Daily disposables are replaced on a daily basis and remove this preservative toxicity issue. If a contact lens disinfection system is required, then we recommend hydrogen peroxide (AOSept). This provides excellent disinfection and, when neutralised, becomes unpreserved saline. This means no toxicity or irritation to the eye surface.

Knowing when to wear your contact lenses

Poor compliance is a third reason for failing in contact lenses. Not everyone can wear their lenses all day every day, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a successful wearing schedule for you. Dr Jim Kokkinakis has written a brief summary of the top 5 reasons why contact lenses fail on LinkedIn.

At The Eye Practice, our optometrists have 3 decades of experience in fitting advanced contact lenses. Our principle optometrist is one of only 40 members of the International Society of Contact Lens Specialists.

*Under National Law, an optometrist or ophthalmologist cannot technically use the term ‘contact lens specialist’ to describe themselves even if they have extensive experience or expertise in this area.

Are Contact Lenses safe?

When fitted correctly, monitored regularly and worn according to your practitioner’s directions, contact lenses can be almost as safe as glasses. Unfortunately, these things don’t happen most of the time. Poor compliance (not sticking to recommended wearing and cleaning schedules) is a major reason for complications to occur.

We need to remember to not take these medical devices lightly. We are placing them on our eye, which delivers our most precious sense, our vision.

Most contact lens failure is due to discomfort, but there are other risks associated with contact lenses. Some contact lenses are marketed as ‘extended wear’. This means they have been approved in suitable patients for overnight wear for up to 30 days.

Unfortunately, extended wear lenses are 20-30 times more likely to result in a severe reaction. This can include infection, inflammation and scarring. The eye is an almost sterile environment.

Leaving a lens in overnight is like sleeping in the same underwear for a month. Do you really need to see your dreams any clearer?

These lenses are best reserved for occasional overnight wear where work or professional sport necessitates it.

Assuming you are suitable, you should be changing your lenses daily. It is just common sense and good hygiene.

Types of contact lenses

With the multitude of designs on offer, it is little wonder that people get overwhelmed. Read on for an explanation of the various types:

Are disposable contact lenses the best choice?

There are many different types of contact lenses to choose from.  Even within the ever-popular disposable designs, there are all sorts. These include daily, fortnightly or monthly disposables, torics (for astigmatism) and multifocals.

Comfort and simplicity of use can make us complacent about the fact that we are wearing something on our most precious organs – our eyes.

Multifocal contact lenses for reading

Presbyopia strikes everyone once they get to their mid-forties or so.  Lights aren’t bright enough, nor arms long enough to read small print anymore.  Reading glasses and multifocals restore clear vision but bring their own set of problems.  Until recently, multifocal contact lenses had a low success rate but modern advances in design have resulted in effective multifocal contact lenses with much higher success rates.

Toric contact lenses for astigmatism

Astigmatism is present in most eyes to a small degree. It is simply when the two curves of your cornea (front surface of your eye) are not the same, resulting in a slightly egg-shaped front surface. This isn’t visible to someone looking at your eyes, but it can distort your vision if there is more than a small difference in curvature. Astigmatism is easily corrected with glasses – not so easily with contact lenses (called torics), which can cause inconsistent vision.  An experienced practitioner will have a range of options for correcting astigmatism.

RGP (Gas permeable) contact lenses

RGP stands for Rigid Gas Permeable. This means the lenses are hard (rigid) and breathable (oxygen transfers easily across the lens material). They are usually more difficult to fit successfully than soft lenses as they have to be tailored to the individual eye (unlike many soft lenses which can fit a range of eye shapes). RGPs, when fitted properly, provide very clear vision (even on irregular corneas) and provide the necessary oxygen to the eye to allow for long wearing times. What’s not to like? The reason that RGPs are not more popular than their soft, disposable cousins is that they require some getting used to when you first get them.

Another use of RGP lenses is piggy-backing.  Piggy back contact lenses consist of a smaller RGP lens sitting right on top on a larger soft lens. This provides the best of both worlds – the comfort of soft and the vision of the hard lens. This is often a less expensive option than a hybrid lens.  The soft lens is usually a thin disposable lens in a very breathable material.

Hybrid contact lenses

Sometimes you need the sharp vision that RGPs provide but the comfort of soft lenses. This is where hybrid lenses come in.  They have a hard central zone, made from RGP material, with a soft outer skirt. This can greatly improve your tolerance of a lens on your eye.  The soft skirt stabilises the lens and makes it feel more like a soft lens in the eye. These lenses are most often used in the treatment of keratoconus, but are also used on very sensitive eyes where contact lenses are required.

Scleral contact lenses for dry eyes

Dry eyes can be an obstacle when it comes to successful contact lens wear.  Soft disposable lenses can dehydrate your eyes even more and may not be tolerated, especially in office environments. However, recent advances in technology have resulted in some very comfortable contact lens materials that are well tolerated even by people with drier eyes.  Interestingly, a special type of contact lens called a scleral lens, is one of the best treatments for severe dry eyes. These lenses are made from a hard material and vault the sensitive front surface of your eye. They act as a physical barrier to protect the eye and prevent evaporation of your tears.

Custom contact lenses for the difficult eye

If you think you’ve tried them all and practically given up on contact lenses, custom-made lenses may be the solution for you. While disposables often take a one-size-fits-all approach (when is that ever true?) these lenses are tailored to your individual eyes, no matter how unusual they are. Tailoring the right lens for each individual is a job for a contact lens expert. Especially if you have had trouble with contact lenses in the past, getting the right lens for your eye is essential to success.

Contact lenses for keratoconus

Keratoconus is a corneal disease that affects about 1 in 2,000 Australians (at least 10,000 people). The mainstay of successful management is contact lenses – provided they are comfortable and fit properly. In fact, poor contact lens fit is one of the causes of progression of this disease. It is essential to find an expert contact lens practitioner who is experienced in keratoconus and fits patients every week. This helps to keep you out of needing a corneal transplant for longer – preferably for good. Contact lenses for keratoconus include soft custom lenses, RGP contact lenses, sclerals and hybrid contact lenses.

If you do end up needing a corneal graft, it is not unusual to need a special kind of contact lens afterwards, to provide functional vision.

These lenses are tricky to fit and best left to the experts.

Can ortho-k contact lenses prevent myopia?

If your child is short-sighted, contact lenses may actually stop them from getting worse. Orthokeratology (or ortho-k) is a system of wearing hard contact lenses during sleep to correct myopia. It reshapes the surface of the cornea. This can correct mild to moderate amounts of myopia (or shortsightedness). Over the past few years, newer lens designs have greatly increased the success-rate of ortho-k. More information on orthokeratology lenses.

I’m interested in wearing contact lenses, but not sure if I can…

The next step is a visit to an eye practitioner who is highly experienced or a specialist in contact lenses. Anyone can fit you with disposables and send you off with a 6 month supply of lenses, but your chances of failure are 50% in the first year. Finding the right practitioner can greatly increase your chance of success.

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More about contact lenses

Hard contact lenses

Hard contact lenses (also called RGPs) often provide clearer vision than soft lenses.

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