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For people with vision problems, contact lenses remain an effective tool. The thin plastic lenses are fitted over the cornea of the eye to correct vision problems such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism. These days you can wear contact lenses even if you have presbyopia and need bifocals.
Contact lenses are divided into two main categories: soft and rigid gas permeable.
Soft contact lenses are made of a soft polymer-plastic material combined with a percentage of water. Water allows oxygen to pass through the contact lens material and increases comfort. Many soft contact lenses also provide UV protection. Soft contact lenses are more comfortable than rigid gas permeable contact lenses when first inserted into the eye.
Many soft contact lenses are disposable and can be thrown away after a short period of use. Being able to have a fresh pair of soft contact lenses means less chance of infection, less cleaning, and more comfort, especially for people whose eyes naturally produce more protein that clouds contact lenses. Other soft contact lenses are worn on a yearly basis and are not disposable.
Rigid gas permeable lenses are more rigid than soft contact lenses and therefore more durable. Unlike older versions of hard contact lenses, rigid gas permeable lenses are made with silicone polymers, allowing oxygen to circulate to the cornea of the eye. Compared to soft contact lenses, rigid gas permeable contacts maintain their shape and offer clearer vision for some types of corrections. They are also easy to take care of and are extremely durable. The amount of time needed to adjust to rigid gas permeable contact lenses is longer than with soft contact lenses. To achieve maximum comfort, a rigid gas permeable contact lens should be worn every day.
Both rigid gas permeable and soft contacts are available as extended wear options. These contacts may be worn overnight. Sleeping in extended wear contacts may decrease the flow of oxygen to the cornea, so it is important to wear them as directed and get routine check ups with your eye doctor.
Toric contact lenses are special lenses for people with astigmatism. These lenses are made from the same material as other contact lenses and come in soft or rigid gas permeable forms. Like bifocal lenses, toric lenses have two powers, one for the astigmatism and another for nearsightedness or farsightedness. There is also a mechanism to keep the contact lens relatively stable on the eye when you blink or look around.
Before handling contact lenses, wash and rinse your hands. Use a mild non-cosmetic soap. Soaps containing perfumes, oils or lotions leave a film on the hands, which may be transferred to the lenses and cause eye irritation. Dry hands with a lint-free towel. Fingernails should be short and smooth to avoid damaging the lenses or scratching the eye. Apply cosmetics after inserting and handling contact lenses. Hairspray may leave deposits on the contact lens. Use hairspray before inserting contact lenses. Do not use tap water to clean or soak contact lenses. Tap water contains bacteria that can cause serious eye infections that may lead to blindness. Use lens care products recommended by your eye doctor. Contact lens solutions are designed for single use only in the storing case. Do not use solutions more than one time. Protein-removing enzyme cleaners are useful for rigid gas permeable contact lenses and for daily wear non-disposable soft contact lenses. Replace the contact lens storage case every three months. Rinse the storage case every day with sterile rinsing solution. Let the storage case air dry.
It is important to follow your doctor's recommendations regarding lens care and hygiene to prevent eye complications due to contact lens wear.
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