Contact lenses

Many people wear contact lenses as
well as glasses. Wearers may find
contact lenses better for
comfort, practicality or
therapeutic purposes.

What is a
Contact Lens?

A contact lens is a thin plastic lens placed directly onto the surface of the eye, usually to correct the vision. They can also be worn for therapeutic or cosmetic reasons.

There are two main types of contact lens: soft, and rigid gas permeable. Despite the names, both are actually ‘gas permeable’. This means they allow oxygen to pass through the lens to the eye, maintaining the health of the cornea. Without an adequate supply of oxygen, the cornea can swell, leading to vision problems. Your eye care professional will be able to talk through your options with you and advise on the best type of contact lens to suit your vision and lifestyle needs.

Soft 'progressive' or 'multifocal' lenses have also been designed to help correct the effects of presbyopia, an age-related condition which leads to blurred vision when viewing near objects. They avoid the need for a pair of reading glasses.

CB_AC_Item1_528x241_ContactLenses_lenses.jpg Soft lenses - Soft contact lenses are flexible lenses that consist of different proportions of water. They tend to be made from hydrogel, silicon hydrogel or polymacon. They’re the most common choice of contact lens, as they are comfortable to wear and easy to care for. There are different types of soft lenses:

Disposable: daily disposable contact lenses are, as the name suggests, replaced every day – this means less cleaning, and less risk of infections such as conjunctivitis. Other disposable lenses are designed to be replaced every two weeks, monthly or every three months. These are worn on a daily-wear basis, to be cleaned after each use to prevent the risk of eye infection.

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Permanent: (or ‘continuous wear’): designed to be worn continuously, day and night, for a set period of time as prescribed by your eye care practitioner.

CB_AC_Item1_528x241_ContactLenses_womanContactLenses.jpg Rigid gas permeable lenses - Rigid gas permeable (RGP) contact lenses are very durable, some lasting for several years. They are less flexible than soft lenses, so can require time to get used to before they feel comfortable. They also require a thorough care routine to prevent infection. RGP lenses are better for correcting the effects of astigmatism, as they create a new refractive surface over the cornea.

Therapeutic lenses: People with a sensitive cornea may find standard contact lenses uncomfortable. If so, a scleral lens can be used. This is a larger RGP lens that rests on the sclera (the white area of the eye), covering the whole of the cornea. Scleral lenses can also be used for people recovering from eye injuries, and for conditions such as dry eye syndrome and keratoconus.

Cosmetic lenses: Coloured and ‘special-effect’ lenses are also available, and are often for used theatrical purposes. Cosmetic lenses can also mask eye injuries or disfigurements.

Eye Care

Choosing the right lenses

Not all lenses are the same. The right lenses are essential for clear, comfortable vision. Your optician is always available to help with your choice. 

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Did You Know?
The Snellen Test

What is 20/20 vision?

Dutch ophthalmologist Dr Hermann Snellen devised his eye chart of different sized  
letters in 1862, specifically to measure visual acuity. The term 20/20 vision, is a reference  
to being 20 feet away from the eye chart. When metric took over, this term was  
replaced with 6/6 vision, as the test is conducted from 6 metres away.  
But this doesn't mean you have perfect vision. The test  doesn't take into  
consideration peripheral vision, colour definition or the depth of your perception.