Many people have questions about how to put contacts in, how to take care of them, and the different options and styles available. Read our guide to get your questions answered, find out whether contacts are right for you...and discover who even invented contact lenses, anyway.
The concept of contact lenses has been around since the 16th Century. Leonardo da Vinci is often credited with introducing the idea in his 1508 Codex of the eye, Manual D; Descartes followed with his own version in 1636. Then in 1801, scientist Thomas Young created a basic pair of contact lenses, based on Descartes’ model. However, it wasn’t until 1888 that German ophthalmologist Adolf Gaston Eugen Fick successfully fitted the first pair of contacts. Unfortunately, Fick’s lenses were large and unwieldy and could only be worn for a few short hours at a time. Many other models followed Fick’s initial success, and in 1949, the first corneal rigid lenses were developed. Gas permeable and soft contacts followed in the late 1950’s.
Yes. Proper care and maintenance of your contacts will ensure that your eyes stay healthy and safe for as long as you wear your contacts.
No. There is nowhere for it to go. The conjunctiva, the fine, thin membrane that covers the sclera (white part) and inside of your eyelids is well attached to the side walls of the eye socket. Although you cannot lose a lens, it can find its way up and under the upper lid and be pretty hard to locate. A soft lens can roll up and likewise be hard to find. Either way, if you flush your eye with water or saline, the lens should float out.
In rare instances, an RGP (“hard”) lens may adhere by suction to the conjunctiva. First, apply wetting solution to the lens and wait about a minute. Then try to move the lens while gently pressing on one edge. If that doesn't work, you can try to very gently lift up under one edge to break the seal. Or go see your eye doctor. If a contact lens adheres repeatedly, it is not fitted correctly and should be replaced.
Soft contacts are made from hydrophilic (water-absorbing) plastic. They are pliable and can easily fold or roll. Hard contacts, most often referred to as Rigid Gas Permeable (RGP) lenses, are made from a variety of silicone-acrylate combinations. They aren’t nearly as flexible as soft lenses.
That largely depends on how responsible you are. Contacts have frequently been used with premature infants, who sometimes have vision problems. With proper contact lens care and maintenance, people of all ages can wear contacts safely and effectively, even children.
You should use products specifically designed for use with the type of lenses you’re wearing. Saline solution can be used with any contact lens. The rewetting drops for RGP (“hard”) lenses are far more effective for those lenses than saline; special soft lens lubricating drops also work well for wearers of those contacts. Drink more water to help increase your natural tear production. Unless directed to do so by your eye doctor, do not use medicated eye drops, including "get the red out" brands, with contact lenses. Soft lenses may concentrate the drug and alter the effect. The lens itself may be damaged.
Look into contact lenses for dry eyes, which lock in moisture while encouraging oxygen transmission.
Many people have a fear of putting foreign objects in their eyes. For the most part, that's a healthy thing; it keeps people from poking their eyes out. Unfortunately, it may also prevent people from trying contact lenses. Most first-time wearers are surprised at the level of comfort that contact lenses provide. Initial contact lens fittings by professional eye care specialists can minimize or eliminate any irritation associated with new lenses. After a brief adjustment period, most people report they can no longer feel contact lenses on their eyes.
For those who’ve decided to make the leap to wearing contact lenses, getting used to wearing them is only part of the adjustment. You also have to learn how to put them in and take them out.
For many people new to contacts, this is the part they least look forward to. But follow these simple steps and with a little patience and practice, you’ll be putting in contacts with no problems.
These directions are written for righties; just swap the directions if you’re a lefty.
Of course, what goes in your eye must eventually come out. This too takes some practice and patience, but most people find this to be a bit easier than learning to put them in.
Hold the top and bottom lid of your eye open with one hand while you use the other hand to gently pinch the contact lens between your thumb and index finger to remove it.
Another method is to slide the lens towards the bottom of the eye, away from your cornea, and gently pinch to remove it from there. You can also press in with your forefinger on the center of the upper lid and thumb on the center of the lower lid, force a blink, and catch the lens as it falls out. If you choose this option, be sure to do this over a clean towel so that if you miss the contact lens as it pops out of your eye, you don’t lose it on the floor or down the sink.
Alternately cover each eye with your hand. Do not simply squeeze your lids closed. Compare the vision. If one eye is noticeably worse, switch the lenses and try again.
Yes, soft contact lenses can be inside out. Here are three methods that can help you tell if yours is. Not all methods work for all lenses, so choose the one that works for you.
(1) Place the lens on the tip of your finger facing upward, like a bowl, and look at it from the side. If the edges of the bowl flare outward, the lens is inside out.
(2) Add saline, drop by drop, to fill the bowl. If the edges begin to curl inwards, it's the correct way.
(3) Place the lens on the crease in your hand just below your pinkie. This is sometimes called the "life line” or “heart line." Make sure the lens is centered over the crease. As you curl your fingers inward to close your hand, the edges of the lens should roll inward to form a "soft taco." This is the correct position.
Cleaning contacts is not a difficult job, but it’s a job that must be done consistently, with care, using the proper tools. If you take care of your contact lenses, you’ll continue to enjoy the clear vision they were designed to provide.
It depends on the type of contact. High-quality RGP (“hard”) extended wear lenses are designed to stay in your eyes for long periods of time. Some even state that you don’t need to take them out for their whole 30-day periodyou just pop them in on day one and forget about them for a whole month.
There is one of kind of lens that you absolutely have to clean every day, and that’s soft contact lenses. In order to ensure that they stay comfortable and safe to wear, you’ll want to take them out every night before you go to sleep. Disinfecting them every day removes proteins and prevents build-up that can cause eye infections or make them uncomfortable to wear.
Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water before you begin. It’s best to use antibacterial soap, if possible. Oil or lotion-based soaps may cloud or otherwise soil your lenses.
Step 1. Scrub Your Contact Lenses
Be sure to scrub gentlyscrubbing the contact lens too aggressively may tear the lens and make it unsuitable for use. Be sure to not touch the lens with your fingernails. Not only are they sharp, they are a playground for dirt and bacteria.
Here’s a useful tip: don’t clean your lenses with tap water, saliva (spit), or saline solution. None of these will disinfect your lenses and may even introduce germs and microorganisms to the lens.
Step 2. Store Contact Lenses in a Safe Place
After you have scrubbed both sides of the contact lens:
Do not turn the case upside down or on its side. Doing so could cause the contact to slide out of the solution, and not be properly cleaned.
Step 3. Soak Contact Lenses in an Approved Solution
Once your contacts are properly stored:
If there is still dirt or debris on your contact lenses, you can repeat Step 1 before reinserting them into your eyes.
For a more visual step-by-step, here’s a video that shows how to clean your contact lenses properly.
Proper care of your contact lens case is important. You should empty your lens case of the old solution every time you put your contacts in your eyes. Scrub the inside of the case with your finger (making sure that you’ve washed and rinsed your hands thoroughly first) and then rinse the inside of the case with fresh contact lens solution. Allow the case to air dry face-down on a clean towel.
The American Optometric Association recommends you replace your contact lens case at least every three months. Your contact lens solution manufacturer may recommend replacement more frequently.
Rule one: Do not "mix and match" contact lens products. The chemicals used within any one care system are designed to be compatible. Using alternative products could create chemical reactions that could damage or discolor the lenses, irritate your eyes, or reduce the desired effect of the product. Unless you're a chemist, don't do it.
Rule two: When it comes to saline, you have a choice between unpreserved and preserved products. Unpreserved is preferable, and if your system requires unpreserved, that's what you use. Within each of those categories (preserved or unpreserved), choose the least expensive. Saline is saline: salt in sterile, distilled water with a few buffers added.
Yes, but you shouldn’t. Home prepared saline is not sterile and there is the risk of bacterial or parasitic contamination. Although extremely rare, the resulting infection can be so damaging that it simply is not worth the risk.
No. Soft lenses must be stored in a disinfecting solution. Temporary storage in saline is allowed, but the lenses will have to be disinfected prior to the next use. RGP (“hard”) lenses can be stored in tap water in an emergency, but they will need to be cleaned and conditioned by soaking in an appropriate disinfecting solution prior to use.
All good things must come to an end, including contacts. Some contacts are made to be worn once and discarded, while others are made to last up to a year.
Dispose of your contacts as recommended. Wearing your lenses past the recommended replacement interval may result in serious complications affecting your eye health and vision. Disposable lenses are meant to be discarded at regular intervals, and even extended wear lenses should be discarded after their recommended use.
Absolutely. Never, never wear a lens that is obviously damaged, even if it feels alright. It could be causing damage to your eyes that might not be immediately apparent. And never wear a lens that is uncomfortable, causes pain or leaves your vision hazy or distorted.
The expiration date on soft contacts is usually four years after they were manufactured and packaged.
Gas permeable (“hard”) contact lenses are packaged differently. They are generally shipped dry and so there’s no risk that the lenses will be contaminated or unsterile. Hard contact lenses don’t usually have an expiration date.
The short answer: no. Soft contact lenses are typically made of silicone hydrogel. Like most plastics, it doesn’t biodegrade, which means your contacts are unsuitable for your compost. And because contact lenses are so small, most recycling facilities’ machinery can’t process them. Their packaging isn’t recyclable either because of the mixed plastics.
Consider this, however: the raw material used to produce one pair of glasses is equal to about four years of daily disposables. But glasses don’t produce the same amount of waste from packaging and can be donated when you get a new pair.
Can you? Yes. Should you? No. Here’s why: Waterin lakes, rivers, oceans, hot tubs, and swimming poolsis full of bacteria and microorganisms. Even tap water can harbor microbes that can cause some pretty serious problems. And then there are the harsh chemicals used to keep pools and hot tubs clean. Your contacts are like little sponges that absorb anything they might be exposed to, including whatever’s in the water. By exposing your contacts to these potentially harmful microorganisms and chemicals, you’re exposing yourself and your precious eyes, too.
However, are people still going to do it? Yup. So if you must, there are some precautions you can take in order to protect your eyes. If you wear disposable contacts, throw them out after swimming. At the very least, give them a thorough cleaning. Swimming in contacts and then leaving them in overnight is a dangerous combination that significantly increases your risk of an eye infection.
Also, wear a pair of quality goggles. Your goggles should fit snugly against your eyes and shouldn’t leak. You can even buy prescription goggles so you can have crystal clear vision in the water without worrying about your contacts.
Yesin fact, most sports medicine specialists recommend them over eyeglasses. They can enhance depth perception, peripheral awareness, and eye-hand/eye-foot coordination. And since they stay in place more easily and provide a wider visual field than glasses, contacts offer athletes a competitive advantage. Contact lenses also make it easy to wear protective goggles.
Hard, gas permeable contact lenses and certain soft lenses can be slept in, but always be sure to check with your eye care professional first. Whether you can sleep in your contact lenses depends on the type of lens you're wearing, the composition of your tear film, your general eye health, and other factors.
Just about everybody can wear contacts to correct just about any eye condition. Contacts can correct both near-sightedness and far-sightedness, and there are toric contacts for astigmatism as well as bifocal contacts for presbyopia. Contact lenses can even be worn by people who don't need vision correction, but who simply want to change the color or shape of their eyesthis option provides some great possibilities for Halloween and costume parties.
Yes; anyone who needs lenses with multiple powers can now take advantage of the convenience of contacts. Bifocal contact lenses with more than one prescription are available in alternating vision or simultaneous vision.
Alternating vision lenses work similarly to bifocal glasses. There is a visible line between two portions of the lens. Most of these lenses are gas permeable, which means they do not move around on the surface of your eye. When you look down, the contact lens stays in place and you are able to view things through the lower portion of the lens.
Simultaneous vision lenses, on the other hand, have your eyes looking through near and distance powers at the same time. Your eyes can determine which power to use. Simultaneous lenses are available in two versions.
The first is concentric ring bifocal contact lenses, in which multiple rings are centered around the pupil of your eye. One ring is for distance vision while the other is for close-up work. If more than two rings are required, due to your prescription, the rings will alternate. The location of the powers will differ based on your prescription.
Aspheric lenses, the second type of simultaneous vision lenses, are also known as progressive contacts. With these, your eyes work together looking through the combined powers. These are the most popular lenses available today.
Your decision will be based not only on your personal preference, but also on what your doctor determines will work best for your eyes. Pupil size is a factor, as is your prescription for near work.
Toric soft contact lenses work well for wearers with astigmatism (a condition in which the eye is more oval than round, causing visual distortion). Toric contact lenses have two different optical powers on each lens and are slightly weighted at the bottom to keep lenses in place.
Gas permeable (hard) contact lenses can sometimes correct astigmatism without the need for different optical powers. Hard contact lenses retain their shape and don’t conform to the abnormal curve of the eye in wearers who have astigmatism.
Hybrid contact lenseslenses with a rigid gas permeable center surrounded by an outer rim made of soft contact hydrogel or silicone hydrogel materialcan offer the best of both worlds.
Contact lenses aren’t one-size-fits-all. Each pair of contact lenses must be customized to the wearer. Eye size, corneal diameter, and corneal shape all affect the size of contact lenses. During your eye exam, your doctor will spend time measuring your eye so that your prescription and the shape of the lens both work for you. The most common reason why contacts aren’t comfortable is that the diameter of the lens and the base curve are either too big or too small, so proper fit is important.
Virtually all contact lenses today are tinted, either to make them more visible, change the wearer’s eye color, or filter light. Here are some types of colored contacts:
Photochromic contact lenses are a fairly recent development. These contacts use the same technology as Transitions lenses that darken when exposed to direct sunlight. Photochromic contacts, approved by the FDA in 2018, adapt to changing light conditions and reduce exposure to UV rays and blue light. However, they aren’t a substitute for sunglasses that block UV rays and harmful blue light.
The price of contact lenses can vary greatly. If you have a difficult prescription or need correction for problems like astigmatism, contact lenses can be fairly expensive. However, if you have no special requirements, the cost will be significantly cheaper.
After that, it really depends on the type of contacts you buy. Soft daily disposables can be quite pricey; hard oxygen permeable lenses provide a better value. While initially more expensive, oxygen permeables can last for years and are inexpensive to care for. They can also accommodate any prescription, no matter how difficult, because they are custom-made for each individual wearer.
If you still have questions about contacts or which contact lenses will work for you, please call us at 1-800-248-9427 and speak to one of our friendly opticians.
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Also see: Color Contact Lenses | Dry Eye Contact Lenses | Disposable Contact Lenses | Types of Contact Lenses | The History of Contact Lenses