A Look into Contact Lens Health

UT Health Austin ophthalmologist, Gene Kim, MD, encourages healthy contact lens wear and care.

Reviewed by: Gene Kim, MD
Written by: Kaylee Fang

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Whether you’re new to contacts or a lifelong wearer, eye health and safety are a top priority to ensure the long-term wellness of your vision.

Types of Contact Lenses

Soft Contacts

Soft contacts are made of silicone hydrogel that offers comfort and flexibility. You may need to change them more frequently because they aren’t very durable. Infection risks are also higher with soft contacts.

Hard Contacts

Hard contacts are made of rigid gas-permeable plastic that ensures stiffness. They also are custom-made, causing them to be more expensive. As long as they are cleaned properly, there is a lesser chance of infection.

“Hard contacts are cleaner and more breathable. You actually see better in hard contacts than soft contacts,” explains Dr. Kim.

Cosmetic Contacts

Wearing decorative contact lenses, such as different colors, can be risky. If they are obtained without a prescription or not used properly, they can cause serious damage to your eyes.

“Avoid getting contacts on the side of the grocery aisle and costume shops because they are the most suffocating types. The safest practice is to not wear colored contacts,” advises Dr. Kim.

Benefits of Contact Lenses

Vision Correction

A contact lens is a medical device that can be worn to correct a variety of vision conditions, such as nearsightedness and farsightedness.

“If you have an extreme prescription, you see better in contacts than glasses. When you wear contacts, you probably see a higher quality of vision. The contacts are draping over the eye, which is what gives more periphery,” says Dr. Kim.

Physical Activity

Contact lenses allow freedom of movement. They offer a better fit and level of comfort if you wear a helmet or other protective gear. They move with the eyes, so the center of the lens is in line of sight, which helps eliminate potential distortions and blind spots associated with glasses. They also don’t mist over or fog up during your workout or game.

Challenges with Contact Lenses

Dry-eye Syndrome

Contact lenses wrap around the eye, which prevents the eye from breathing as freely as it should. Therefore, it’s not recommended to wear them if you are experiencing any dry-eye syndrome. Dry-eye syndrome is a common condition that occurs when tears can’t provide adequate moisture. Float your contact lens, so artificial tears can help with comfort throughout the day.

Allergies

If you are experiencing an allergic reaction to the disinfecting solution or the contact lenses, then consider not wearing them. The irritation is usually uncomfortable and can lead to serious infections. When wearing any form of contact lens, be cautious of the development of mucus. This can be a sign of an allergic reaction.

Age

Children and teens often try contact lenses to alter their appearance. Children’s eyes are delicate and sensitive, so they may not respond well to them. Children should wear dailies because there are fewer variables to handle with contact lens care. It’s recommended that the earliest age to try contact lenses is during the adolescence period.

“Unfortunately, many college students, 19- to 21-year-old come in with infections because they were buying cheap contacts rather than breathable ones. Don’t sacrifice your health for cost,” suggests Dr. Kim.

The Do’s of Contact Lenses

Make sure to follow these best practices for contact lens wear and care:

  • Do wash your hands before touching your eyes
  • Do remove your contacts before swimming or showering
  • Do carry a pair of glasses with you in case you need to remove your contacts

The Don’ts of Contact Lenses

Make sure to avoid these harmful practices to protect your eyes:

  • Don’t use tap water, instead use a solution
  • Don’t wear your contacts past their recommended use
  • Don’t share your contacts with others

Tips for Buying

Dailies: Use a new set of contacts each day. Daily contacts usually are made thinly. Natural deposits from your eyes build up easily on the surface, so they can’t be reused.

Monthlies: The purpose of using monthlies is to avoid removal and storage where infection is likely to occur. They are more durable and long-lasting because of their thicker composition. They must be cleaned properly to ensure contact lens safety.

“I think the two things that you really want to care about are breathability and cleanliness. So, that’s how you make the decision between dailies and monthlies,” recommends Dr. Kim.

For more information about whether contacts are the best fit for you, visit your optometrist for a contact lens exam and fitting. Individuals that are unable to wear contacts shouldn’t get discouraged because glasses are an alternative for vision correction. To make an appointment with UT Health Austin’s Mitchel and Shannon Wong Eye Institute, call 1-833-UT-CARES (1-833-882-2737) or visit here.

About UT Health Austin

UT Health Austin is the clinical practice of the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin. We collaborate with our colleagues at the Dell Medical School and The University of Texas at Austin to utilize the latest research, diagnostic, and treatment techniques, allowing us to provide patients with an unparalleled quality of care. Our experienced healthcare professionals deliver personalized, whole-person care of uncompromising quality and treat each patient as an individual with unique circumstances, priorities, and beliefs. Working directly with you, your care team creates an individualized care plan to help you reach the goals that matter most to you — in the care room and beyond. For more information, call us at 1-833-UT-CARES or request an appointment here.