Types of contact lenses

Are you considering changing to contact lenses from glasses or do you just want wear contact lenses occasionally? Maybe you’ve worn lenses in the past but are considering them again? If so, you might just have a few questions about what's available.

To help you go to your optician with a better understanding of what contact lenses are available and what type might work best for you the team at Vision Direct have put together this guide. Any questions that you can’t find the answers to in our guide just call us on 01 513 4141 or email help@visiondirect.ie.

Contact lenses can be separated in three defining types these are:

  • Soft contact lenses
  • Gas permeable contact lenses (sometimes referred to as hard lenses or GP lenses)
  • Coloured contact lenses

Soft contact lenses

Soft contact lenses are the most popular choice for a number of reasons. They are made from the latest optical technology, making them comfortable, flexible and extremely breathable for long hours of wear. Their adaptable design also means they are compatible for almost anyone who wants to wear lenses.

A soft contact lens wearer also has much more freedom than a gas permeable wearer who is often bound by strict wearing patterns. Soft lenses can be worn sporadically and therefore are a great choice for anyone who wants to switch between lenses and glasses frequently.

As everyone leads different lifestyles soft contact lenses are supplied in a variation of different wearing patterns, these are:

Daily disposable

Daily disposable contact lenses also known as dailies are designed to be worn for one day and then thrown away. They require no additional products such as contact lens solution, although wearers sometimes find it handy to have some eye drops available if their eyes start to dry out.

Dailies are great for the following people:

  • Busy professionals or people that don’t want to be tied into additional cleaning and maintenance routines.
  • People that only want to wear lenses occasionally. Especially useful for sport enthusiasts.
  • Allergy sufferers: Due to the short frequency of wear there is less time for dirt and allergens to build up on the surface and cause irritation.

Two weekly disposable

Two weekly disposable lenses are sometimes referred to as weekly wear lenses. As the name suggests they are worn daily for a period of two weeks then replaced for a new pair.

Two-weekly contact lenses require daily cleaning and storage overnight. For this you will need a compatible contact lens solution. Your optician will recommend one that works best, but now day’s most multi-purpose solutions are safe to use with soft contact lenses. If you’re wearing silicone hydrogel lenses it’s worth double checking these are compatible if buying your own lens solution. Two weekly lenses are great for the following people:

  • First time wearers: They are often recommended for teenagers who want to wear their lenses frequently as they don’t require as much care as monthly lenses.
  • For dry eye sufferers who are struggling with monthly lenses and want a lower cost alternatively to daily disposables.

Monthly disposables

Monthly disposables are often called monthlies, and similar to two-weekly lenses they are worn daily, cleaned and stored overnight. As you’ve probably guessed already, you wear these lenses for a month and then change them for a new pair.

Monthlies are great for the following people:

  • People who want to wear their lenses 5 or more days a week.
  • For the cost conscious buying monthly lenses is much more cost effective than dailies.

Extended wear contact lenses

Extended wear contact lenses are made from silicone hydrogel, one of the latest advancements in lens technology. The silicone hydrogel material allows up to five times more oxygen to reach the eyes surface than that of a traditional soft lens, making these contact lenses exceptionally breathable.

If you’re interested in silicone hydrogel lenses please keep in mind that not all lenses made from this material are designed for extended wear. There are daily, two-weekly and monthly silicone hydrogel lenses available such as 1 Day Acuvue Trueye, Clariti and Avaira.

Extended wear contact lenses are also a popular choice because they can be worn continuously for a period of time, usually no longer than 30 days. This means you don’t need to take them out when you sleep or shower, making them extremely low maintenance.

Extended wear lenses are perfect for the following people:

  • People that are constantly on-the-go.
  • Anyone seeking a contact lens that requires little time and care.

Soft contact lenses are available to correct the following types of eye conditions:

  • Myopia: Also called as short-sightedness, is when a person is unable to see objects clearly in the distance. Contact lenses for this prescription require a minus/- power.
  • Hyperopia: Also known as long-sightedness, is when a person is unable to see objects clearly up close. Contact lenses for this prescription require a plus/+ power.
  • Astigmatism: Is a condition that affects the curvature of the eye causing blurred vision. Contact lenses for those with astigmatism often include the word ‘toric’ or ‘astigmatism’ in their name.
  • Presbyopia: Is a condition that occurs in the over 40’s causing loss to a person’s near vision. Contact lenses for presbyopia visual correction often include the word ‘multifocal’, ‘progressive’, ‘bifocal’ or ‘presbyopia’.

To find out what lenses will match your prescription you’ll need to contact your optician for a contact lens eye test and fitting.

Gas permeable contact lenses

Gas permeable contact lenses are another option for potential lens wearers. They are sometimes referred to as hard lenses, GP or RGP (rigid gas permeable lenses). However you should not be put off by the name, unlike soft lenses they do not contain water but they still provide high levels of comfort.

Gas permeable contact lenses have been on the market for a lot longer than soft lenses, and although they’ve fallen in popularity, they still have many benefits for specific types of contact lens wearers. They can be created to match many different prescriptions and eye types, making them perfect for those who are harder to fit with soft lenses.

Unlike soft lenses they are a lot more durable and can be worn for longer periods of time, often they are worn daily and replaced every six to twelve months.

Gas permeable lenses are perfect for the following people:

  • Those who have an astigmatism as they offer a more rigid fitted lens
  • People with eye conditions that cause irregularity to the shape
  • Soft lens wearers who don’t find their vision is sharp enough

If you’re not happy with gas permeable lenses and are unsure of soft lenses then there is an alternative where the optician can fit what is known as hybrid lenses, these types of lenses are fitted with both gas permeable and soft lens tissue for additional comfort for the eye.

Coloured contact lenses

Coloured contact lenses are soft lenses made to wear as daily or monthly disposables that can change a person’s eye colour. They are often available in a range of colours and shades.

Coloured or cosmetic lenses can be purchased to match an existing prescription for long or short-sightedness; some of the most popular include the Freshlook range made by Alcon. If you have a more severe eye condition such as astigmatism or presbyopia you will find it difficult to find any mainstream coloured lenses that are compatible. If you really want to wear coloured lenses we would advise speaking to your optician to see what options are available.

They can also be worn by people who don’t require contact lenses normally; this is called ‘no prescription’ or ‘plano’. If you want to by coloured prescriptions for cosmetic use only you will need to select ‘0.00’ under the power/sphere in the prescription details. It’s very important that you see an optician for a contact lens fitting even if you want to buy lenses with no prescription.