Thinking of switching contact lenses?
Thinking of Switching to Contact Lenses?
Get tips for making the transition from eyeglasses to contact lenses a smooth one.
By Krisha McCoy
Medically Reviewed by Christine Wilmsen Craig, MD
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If you have been wearing eyeglasses for some time, you might be thinking of making the switch to contact lenses. If so, there are some important factors to consider when making your decision and it's important to include your eye-care professional in the process.
People use contact lenses as an alternative to eyeglasses for a variety of reasons. "Glasses are easy to use, but they may not be desirable because of cosmetic concerns, or for active people who do sporting activities," says Thomas L. Steinemann, MD, associate professor of ophthalmology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and an ophthalmologist at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland.
Are Contact Lenses for You?
Eyeglasses and contact lenses are the two most popular methods of correcting common vision problems, including myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), astigmatism (blurred vision due to changes in the shape of the eye), and presbyopia (trouble reading or seeing objects close up due to an aging, rigid lens).
On top of being easy to use, "glasses are relatively inexpensive and basically risk-free," says Dr. Steinemann. But people who prefer their life without the hassle of keeping track of their spectacles, their appearance without glasses on their face, and their physical activities without glasses causing a problem may want to make the switch to contact lenses, he says.
Almost everyone who uses eyeglasses for vision correction is also a candidate for contact lenses. The most important consideration in determining whether someone should wear contact lenses, according to Steinemann, is whether the person is motivated to wear the contact lenses and responsible enough to practice proper lens care.
"It has to do with proper care and hygiene," says Steinemann. "People who don't have good hygiene, those who work in dirty environments, and people who aren't able to follow the directions for wearing contacts properly" are not good candidates for contact lenses. In addition, he says, older people tend to have more problems with contact lenses because aging is associated with dry eyes. "For people who have dry eyes, it is more challenging to wear contact lenses successfully," he says. "The lenses have to float on the tear layer over the cornea of the eye." And it's difficult for a lens to float on your eye if it is unusually dry.
Contact Lens Fitting
If you decide to give contact lenses a try, your eye-care professional can help fit your contacts and educate you on wearing and maintaining them properly. That person can also diagnose and treat any eye conditions that might make it difficult for you to wear contact lenses. Fitting someone for contacts "is like measuring for a pair of shoes," says Steinemann. "You have to measure carefully, and the lens has to fit right on the cornea."
When you're ready to get your contact lenses, be sure to visit an eye-care professional who is experienced in fitting people for contact lenses. If the contacts aren't fitted correctly, Steinemann says, there is an increased risk of vision problems, discomfort, inability to tolerate the lenses, eye abrasions, and infection.
Adjusting to Contact Lenses
There are two types of contact lenses available today. If you getsoft lenses, which are made from a soft plastic material, the adjustment period is usually very brief. "Within a few minutes of putting the lens on the eye, many people stop noticing that the lens is even there," notes Steinemann.
Withhard or gas-permeable contact lenses, which are usually made from more rigid materials, there may be a slightly longer period of adjustment. During this time, your eye- care professional may advise you to wear the contacts only for a few hours at a time, gradually building up your tolerance each day until your eyes adjust.
Problems to Watch For
When you are wearing contact lenses, it is important to work closely with your eye-care professional to make sure that the lenses aren't causing any problems for your eyes.
This means that if you experience any pain, redness, light sensitivity, achiness, tearing, or any other worrisome symptoms, you should see your eye-care provider immediately.
Video: Switching From Glasses To Contacts
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