Who can wear contact lenses? At what age can you start?

Contact lenses are available for just about any prescription. They can correct your astigmatism, and multifocal contacts can help those with presbyopia to have crisp near, intermediate, and distance vision.

Numerous studies have found that children as young as eight years of age can adapt to, handle and care for contacts. Maturity, personal hygiene and motivation on the part of the young person are important factors to consider when assessing suitability for contact lens wear.

Are contacts OK for my eyes? Are RGPs a healthier choice?

Contact lenses have proven to be a healthy vision option for millions of people. But only your eye care professional can determine if they are right for you.

If you follow all prescribed steps for inserting, removing, and caring for them, contact lenses will continue to be safe and effective. You also need to see your eye care professional regularly to ensure long-term corneal health.

The most serious contact lens complication is a "corneal ulcer" or "microbial keratitis." On average, this occurs in 4 of every 10,000 wears; but with RGP lenses it drops to 1.2 of every 10,000 wearers. This is because RGPs provide more oxygen to the eye than many soft lenses, and RGPs better resist infection-causing deposits.

Should I wear contact lenses while playing sports?

Sports vision doctors agree that contact lenses are the best vision correction option for athletes. They can enhance visual skills like depth perception, peripheral awareness, and eye-hand/eye-foot coordination.

Unlike glasses, contacts offer athletes a competitive advantage because they stay in place under dynamic conditions, provide a wider vision field, and eliminate the risk of glasses-related injuries. Contact lenses also make it easy to wear protective goggles.

Can some contacts actually slow or control nearsightedness?

It appears so. A number of studies have show that RGP lenses used for overnight orthokeratology, and specially-designed soft contact lenses, can slow or stop the lengthening of the eye, which is the cause of myopia (nearsightedness).

To learn more, read about myopia control.

Aren't soft contact lenses the newest and best technology?

No. When they were first available in 1971, soft contact lenses were a giant leap in technology and comfort over old-style hard contact lenses.

But RGP contact lenses, first marketed in 1978, are a next-generation advancement. New, recently developed materials and designs make them a state-of-the-art option for contact lens wearers, offering sharper vision, better corneal health, longer lens life, and greater ease of care than most soft contacts.

Are contacts hard to take care of?

It differs from lens to lens:

  • RGP contacts, which last for years, need daily cleaning and disinfecting, but their slick surface resists deposit buildup.

  • Daily disposable soft lenses are worn once, then discarded, with no maintenance required.

  • Other disposable soft lenses are usually cleaned at the end of the day, then soaked in disinfecting solution until they're worn again, and may be replaced weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly.

  • Soft lenses that are replaced quarterly or annually might require weekly enzyming in additional to daily care.

Can I use tap water with my RGP contact lenses?

No. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that contact lenses not be exposed to any form of water. Acanthamoeba, an organism present in tap water and other forms of impure water, can become attached to a lens and cause a sight-threatening infection.

If your spare pair came sealed in the case with solution, you should keep the sealed lenses in solution until you need a spare lens. Otherwise, it is best to store them dry in a case with no solution. When you need a spare lens, clean the lens and soak it overnight in the recommended soaking/disinfecting solution prior to wearing it.

How often do GP lenses need to be replaced?

RGP lenses last an average of two years before needing replacement. This depends upon several factors including the lens material, how dry your eyes are, and how well you care for and clean your lenses. Some lens materials require annual replacement, and some people with dry eyes replace their RGPs annually. Other wearers may find that they are wearing the same lenses for several years.

 How can I get contact lenses that change my eye color?

Soft contact lenses are available that will change the color of your eyes, even if you don't require vision correction. Costume lenses for Halloween or theatrical purposes are also available.

RGP contact lenses sometimes have a color "handling tint" — a light tint that makes them easier to see — but RGPs are not available in colors that will change the appearance of your eyes. A RGP lens is smaller than the size of the iris, so RGP color lenses would not look natural.

All color contacts are prescribed medical devices that must be fitted and followed up by your eye care professional. And remember, even though such lenses might provoke curiosity by your friends and family members, never share them with anyone. Sharing lenses can lead to dangerous health problems. 

Should I see an optometrist or ophthalmologist for contacts?

It is your choice:

  • Optometrists (Doctors of Optometry, or ODs) perform eye examinations, treat eye disease, prescribe vision correction, fit contact lenses, and dispense eyeglasses.

  •  Ophthalmologists are medical doctors (MDs) who specialize in eyes. Many concentrate on eye surgery and treatment of disease, but some specialize in contact lenses.

  •  Also, in some states specially trained opticians or contact lens technicians are licensed to fit contact lenses. Since they must fit the lenses from an optometrist's or ophthalmologist's prescription, they often work with them in the same office.

Can I sleep in my contact lenses?

Ask your doctor. It depends on the type of lens you're wearing, the composition of your tear film, your general eye health, and other factors. RGP contact lenses and certain soft lenses can be slept in, but never wear them while sleeping unless your eye care practitioner says you can.

How long does it take for RGP lenses to feel comfortable?

It often takes one to two weeks for total comfort to be achieved. RGP lenses are smaller than soft lenses and they move more on the eye when you blink. The awareness that you experience will lessen as your lids adapt to moving over the lens edge as you blink.

Larger diameter "scleral" RGP lenses are now available that are as large as, or slightly larger than, soft lenses. The initial comfort of a scleral lens is similar to a soft lens and although historically these lenses have been reserved for irregular corneas, they are becoming more popular for healthy eyes, notably in designs for presbyopia and astigmatism.

I'm nervous about putting something in my eye. Can you help?

This is a common and natural concern, more often experienced by males, since females are accustomed to touching the eyelids when applying makeup.

It helps to first get used to touching your eyes without applying a lens. One very successful technique is to place a warm (not hot) drop of water on your index finger and bring it up to the eye and actually touch your eye. The water has a numbing effect such that you may not even feel your finger against your eye. Your eye care professional may also decide to use a numbing drop immediately prior to applying contact lenses for the first time.

It's easier than you think to get used to lens application. If fact, often when people get used to inserting and removing lenses, they question why they did not make the commitment to contact lenses sooner.

I'm a longtime soft lens wearer with astigmatism. Now I need a correction for reading. Can RGPs help me?

Yes, they most likely can. The back surface of a RGP lens will automatically correct your astigmatism by shaping your cornea into a sphere. And RGPs come in bifocal and multifocal designs, which provide good vision at near, mid-range and far distances.

I've been wearing RGPs for 30 years. I don't feel my lnese las as long as they used to, and tend to get filmy and feel dry after a year. What can I do?

This is a common complaint, as our eyes get drier over time. First, get your eye care practitioner's assessment and recommendations. Then be mindful of these factors:

  • Don't sleep in lenses that were prescribed for daytime wear only. This can result in a filmy lens and increase the potential for eye infection.

  • Rub and rinse your lenses after removal. Rubbing for 10-20 seconds helps remove debris and bacteria, and rubbing has been found to make contact lenses up to 8 times cleaner!

  • Wash your hands before handling lenses, and don't let lanolin-based soaps or hand creams come into contact with the lenses.

  • Some medicines can cause dryness and affect contact lens wear. Antihistamines, anti-anxiety agents and oral contraceptives are examples.

  • Plasma-treated lenses may reduce filming problems during the first several months of wearing a new lens.

  • Rewetting drops can help, especially if you spend a lot of time at the computer.

  • Extra-strength cleaners like Progent, or enzymatic cleaners, can help with tough, filmy deposits.