New Innovations in Contact Lens Design
Contact lenses have been around since the 1940's. Today there are about 30 million people wearing contacts in the United States. With the newer innovations in both soft and gas permeable (GP) contacts, we are now able to correct almost all vision problems, nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and the need for reading glasses. Today's new lens materials are manufactured to exacting standards, are more comfortable than ever before, and fit practically anyone.
Gas Permeable (GP) and Keratoconus contacts allow people with corneal irregularities, such as astigmatism, to see clearly. Crisp vision is the hallmark of these types of lenses. Contacts that are GP allow oxygen to pass through the material so that they can be worn longer than the original 'hard' contacts. Today's GP contacts can pass as much or more oxygen than a soft contact can. These contacts can now be made with any type of vision correction, even a bifocal. Typically, they can last from one to three years before replacing.
Soft lenses have been continually improved since their invention in 1956. First, there were daily wear (DW), contacts that can only be worn during hours that you are awake. Then extended wear (EW) came about and these lenses can be worn daily and removed at night or they can be used for occasional overnight wear. The longer a contact is in your eye the greater the chance of infection induced by corneal swelling and decreased tear film exchange. This swelling takes place as the contact lens impedes oxygen flow from the air to the cornea, causing the cornea to swell. It is important to realize that contact lenses are considered a medical device by the FDA and over wear can cause significant damage to your eyes if abused. Nowadays, contacts are almost all "planned replacement," which means that the contacts are replaced on a schedule that is mandated by the FDA. This reduces infections and protein build-up, the major cause of irritation. Recently, many manufacturers have now gone one step further and produced a silicon hydrogel soft contact. These contacts have the most 'breathable' material further reducing corneal swelling. These lenses are also available in a multifocal lens for those older than 40 that work at a computer and read. These silicon hydrogel contacts have made many people happy, because the end of the day comfort is so much better. We even have contacts that have special coatings that mimic natural cell membranes to reduce protein deposition and feel better for people with dry eye problems. The newest contacts are the ones worn by athletes to help cut down on glare by increasing the contrast. Many of the Tennessee Titans wide receivers and defensive backs wear these types of contacts on the field to get an 'edge' by seeing the ball sooner.
Lastly, there are now "hybrid" contacts, a soft lens skirt surrounding a GP center lens. These hybrids allow patients with irregular corneas to see crisply like a firm lens but have the added comfort of a soft lens. These new hybrid lenses are allowing people who have failed contact lens fittings in the past to finally enjoy the crisp vision and comfort that contact lenses can promise. This type of a lens can be worn in an environment where sharp vision is required, but dust is a concern. The soft skirt keeps debris from getting under the lens and causing discomfort. Care is the same as soft lenses and the life span is approximately 6 months before replacement.
So if you are considering contacts or have worn them in the past, you should realize that there are many options available to you. Lifestyle, sports, and occupational vision requirements, all have different types of vision needs for which a new specific contact lens may be appropriate. Contact lenses are a wonderful product and we at McCabe Vision Center take pride in providing all of the highest quality lenses. We will take the time to discuss with you which contact lens will optimize your vision and best suit your lifestyle.