There is one “best” contact lens
Do not think that if your first contact lens experience is less than ideal that you must be “contact lens intolerant”. The truth is, what one patient loves another patient may hate. It is all about how that contact’s shape and material interacts with your unique eyeball. Not every contact lens and eyeball play well together. There is no way to predict if you eye will like a particular lens until you give the lens a test drive for a few days in a trial pair. Expect some trial and error with various lens brands.Every doctor will have their go-to contact lens that “on average” they find the most success with in their area. However, you may not be average. It is not unusual for the second or even third trial pair of different contact lens brands be the “ah-ha!” moment when great comfort is found. Most doctors will have the patience as long as you do to find your “ah-ha!” contact lens.
- All contact lens cleaners are alike
The following is a very common conversation heard in an eye doctor’s office:
Patient: I suddenly noticed a month ago my contacts were not as comfortable anymore.
Doctor: Are you still using the same cleaner I prescribed when you ordered your contacts?
Patient: No. A month ago I found a generic cleaner for half the price so I started using that one. Contact lens cleaners are not alike. Stick with the solution your doctors recommends when you order your contacts and the risk of solution-caused comfort issues will be greatly minimized. Generic cleaners frequently will increase irritation with contact lens wear and reduce wear time.
- Contacts can roll behind my eye into my brain
There is an anatomical barrier called the conjunctiva which prevents the contact lens, or any foreign object, from getting behind the eye.
- Swimming will cause the lens to float out of my eye into my brain
To the contrary, swimming in contacts will actually adhere the contact lens to the eyeball tighter. For this reason, it is recommended to not remove the lens for a half hour after swimming to allow it time to dry. Trying to remove the lens too soon after swimming may cause a scratch on your eyeball from having to use extra force removing it.
Although pool swimming in contacts is generally safe (hot tubs and ocean water being an exception and an absolute no-no), if you swim frequently most eye doctors will recommend you use daily disposable contact lenses so that you never have to use the same lens twice since pool chemicals and other impurities may build up on the lens, increasing the risk of infection. If a daily disposable lens is not an option for you, your doctor will likely recommend a hydrogen peroxide based cleaning system. Hydrogen peroxide cleaners provide extra-strength cleaning of most things the pool may leave behind on your contacts. Wearing swim goggles is highly advised to reduce the risk of sight-threatening infections from wearing contacts while swimming.
- Buying contact lenses online is always the most economical way to buy contacts
Actually, this is rarely the case. Historically, online retailers averaged a few dollars cheaper than doctor’s offices for the same contacts. Recently, many of the most common contact lens manufactures now require “uniform pricing”, meaning online retailers and doctors now provide the exact same price for many brands of contacts.
The real cost savings in purchasing contacts from your doctor’s office occur when manufacture rebates (typically not valid with online purchases) and insurance benefits are applied.
- “I have allergy eyes, so I cannot wear contacts.”
For contact lens wearers who suffer from allergies, Dr. Butterworth, an optometrist from University of Iowa Department of Ophthalmology, states she recommends daily disposable soft lenses for her allergy patients. “Not only does this allow the patient to have a fresh, clean lens on the eye every day, but it eliminates several factors that can make patients’ ocular allergies worse,” she said. “Daily disposables also minimize a lot of debris buildup, which can exacerbate allergies.”
- Your eyes are too weird for contacts
Many patients believe that astigmatism will keep them from being able to wear contacts. However, we all have astigmatism to some degree. Astigmatism is the amount by which your cornea (the front surface of the eye) is not perfectly spherical. But nobody’s cornea is perfectly spherical, just like nobody’s head is perfectly round. If your astigmatism is high enough, you will likely be placed in an astigmatism correcting contact lens. For most doctors, more than half of their contact lens patients wear contacts specifically designed for astigmatism. Whether it is a small amount or a larger amount, there is a contact lens out there for you.
As a doctor of optometry, I hear it all. And with Dr. Google serving as an impromptu family physician these days, myths regarding eye health are bound to circulate. Here are the top vision myths debunked:
- Wearing eyeglasses that are too strong or have the wrong prescription will damage the eyes.
Prescription lenses in eyeglasses alter light rays into the eye. The prescription lenses do not change any part of the eye. In an adult, wearing glasses that are too strong or an incorrect prescription cannot harm the eye, although it may result in eyestrain or a temporary headache. With an incorrect prescription, vision will be blurry, but not harmful to the eye.
- Wearing eyeglasses will cause you to become dependent on them.
Eyeglasses are used to correct blurry vision. Since clear vision with eyeglasses is preferable to blurry vision, one may want to wear eyeglasses more often. With glasses, it may feel that you are becoming dependent on them. However, you are actually just getting used to seeing clearly.
- Wearing eyeglasses will weaken the eyes
Eyeglasses worn to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, or presbyopia will not weaken the eyes. In addition, glasses will not permanently “cure” these types of vision problems. Wearing glasses will enable clear vision caused by these refractive errors. (There are exceptions – glasses for children with crossed eyes (strabismus) or lazy eye (amblyopia). These glasses are used to help straighten the eyes or improve vision. Not wearing glasses may permanently impair vision).
- Using the eyes too much will “wear them out.”
Eyes are made for seeing and cannot be used too much. We would not lose our sense of hearing by using our ears excessively.
- Holding a book too close or sitting too close is harmful to the eyes.
Many children like to hold books very close to their eyes. Children have excellent focusing ability, so sitting close is normal and safe. Also, both children and adults who are nearsighted may get close to a book to see it clearly. This does not cause or worsen any type of eye problem.
As an optometrist, I often hear a variety of misconceptions about eyeglasses from my patients. Most concerns fall into a few broad categories with a few bizarre ones sprinkled in. I would like to take a brief moment to address some of the most common ones I hear:
- “Wearing glasses will make your eyes weaker.” This is probably the one myth I hear the most often and it is absolutely false. The biggest thing people forget to account for when they notice they are more reliant on their prescription glasses is that they are a bit older. As a person gets older, their ability to continue to see clearly without prescription glasses deteriorates. While this applies to everyone, it is most pronounced in my far-sighted patients in particular.
- “Not wearing your prescription glasses will make your eyes get worse.” This also is not true. Not wearing your glasses will not damage your eyes, but it can cause a significant amount of eyestrain. Extended viewing of computer monitors, smart phones, tablets or televisions without a proper prescription can lead to significant eyestrain and may cause you to discontinue viewing sooner than you planned.
- “You can’t play sports with glasses on.” Not true! Glasses for sports can be made to protect your eyes and clear your vision at the same time. Protective lenses such as polycarbonate plastic can be put into sports goggles to allow a person to wear glasses when participating in sporting activities. Many patients prefer to wear contacts when they play sports, but it is a personal preference. Be sure to talk to your optometrist if you need specialty lenses for any of the activities you participate in.
- “Over the counter readers are just as good as prescription glasses.” This myth is not necessarily untrue. For a small group of patients, over the counter readers do work just as well as prescription reading glasses. The bad news is it’s an extremely small group of patients and those glasses work only when they are reading. Proper prescription glasses can correct each eye individually for the distance so both eyes are in focus and balanced. Once the eyes are balanced and working together, your optometrist can determine the proper power you need for your computer monitor or for reading materials. For the overwhelming majority of patients, there is a difference between the prescriptions between their eyes or some astigmatism in their correction that you cannot find in over the counter glasses.
I hope these answers help open your eyes to how prescription glasses can help you see clearly.
~Ranjeet S. Bajwa, OD, FAAO
California Optometric Association