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6 Tips to Choose the Best Contact Lenses for Your Needs
The best contact lenses for you will depend on factors such as your prescription and the type of contacts that best suit your lifestyle. Here's what to know.
Hedy PhillipsCNET Contributor
Hedy Phillips is a freelance lifestyle writer based in New York. While she's not writing on topics like living on a budget and tips for city dwelling, she can usually be found at a concert or sightseeing in a new city. Over the past 10 years, her bylines have appeared in a number of publications, including POPSUGAR, Hunker, and more.
Contact lenses are one of those things that many people have, but you'd never know it -- because no one else can see them. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 45 million Americans wear contact lenses.
With how common contact lenses are, it's important to understand how to go about selecting what's right for you, because they're not all the same. There are different lens types, different colors and even different uses. Some contact lenses are thrown out after a day, while some you can wear for a week -- without ever taking them out.
If you suspect you might need some sort of assistance with your vision, your first step should always be paying a visit to your optometrist. Your doctor can perform an eye test to gauge exactly what you need and help you decide what kind of contact lenses are right for you, your vision and your lifestyle. Contact lenses aren't the right answer for everyone, and an optometrist can let you know if they aren't something you should try.
Consider the different types of contact lenses
Not all contact lenses are created equal. There are a handful of different styles to choose from that are for different needs and purposes.
Soft contact lenses: These are flexible and often disposable. They're great for people who have dry eyes as they help keep the eyeball hydrated. These do tend to be fragile, though, and can tear easily, which will irritate your eyes.
Disposable lenses: Exactly as they sound, disposable lenses are designed to be used for short periods of time, often for just a day or perhaps a week. These lenses are rotated often and are great for people who have a hard time keeping track of things -- you don't have to worry about losing these because you throw them out at the end of the day.
Gas-permeable lenses: These are more rigid than soft lenses and tend to be much more durable. Because they're a little thicker, they're a better option for people who have astigmatism, because they have a bit more scope to improve your vision.
Bifocal lenses: Just like you can have bifocal glasses, you can also get bifocal contact lenses. These are designed for people who are both near- and far-sighted.
Extended-wear lenses: The opposite of disposable lenses, extended-wear contact lenses are designed to last. However, the biggest difference with these is that you can also sleep in them (which is usually a big no-no). With most contact lenses, you'd take them out at night, but extended-wear lenses can be left in 24/7, usually for up to a week. These are perfect for anyone who doesn't want to bother with their contacts any more than they have to.
Get your prescription and a proper fitting
First thing to do is get your vision checked by a medical professional. Go for an eye exam to find out what prescription you need before you dive into buying contact lenses. Though you can order lenses on the internet, you shouldn't do that until you've consulted your eye doctor to find out what your prescription is and what exact lenses will work for you. This also includes an exam of your actual eyeball to understand your corneal curvature and pupil size.
All of these factor into what contact lenses will be the most comfortable and suitable for your lifestyle. And while you might be tempted to move forward with purchasing lenses without seeing an optician, just know that your eyes are very delicate, and putting the wrong lenses (that aren't properly fitted or don't suit your vision) into your eyes can cause lasting damage.
Research different brands
Most likely, your eye doctor will offer a variety of contact lens brands for you to choose from. While taking a recommendation from your eye doctor is best practice (they're the professionals, after all), you can also do your own independent research to decide which brand you're most comfortable with. Choosing high-quality lenses from trusted companies is advisable, as these are the most likely to provide safe lenses that fit comfortably in your eyes. When in doubt, ask your eye doctor for their recommendations.
Check your insurance coverage
For many people, insurance coverage will be a large factor in eye care. Check your insurance coverage to see what you can get covered when it comes to eye exams and contact lenses. If your health insurance covers eye care, you may get a yearly eye exam included in your plan. Your eye doctor can then help you understand what coverage you're entitled to with contact lenses -- this can vary from brands to lens type. If you have a health savings account, this can also help you save money on your eye care, because you're paying for more than just the lenses. You'll also need to get a contact lens solution and an extra case or two. Many people who have contact lenses also have a pair of glasses as well -- for emergencies or lazy days when contact lenses are too much to bother with -- so that's another cost to factor in.
Tips for finding affordable yet quality contact lenses
Even if you don't have health insurance, it's important to still get a prescription from an optometrist before getting contact lenses. Once you have the prescription in hand (along with a contact lens recommendation), you can search online for contact lens retailers that may be more cost-efficient than shopping directly through your eye doctor. Plenty of online retailers will offer contact lenses without needing insurance at affordable costs, specifically for people who live a budget-conscious lifestyle. They will require a prescription from your optometrist, though, which is why that should always be the first step in this process.
Consider the maintenance and care required for your contact lenses
Your eyes are delicate, so it's important that you're doing everything you can to keep them clean and healthy. That means taking care of your contact lenses. Even if you're wearing daily disposable lenses, you'll want to have contact lens solution on hand if you need to rinse your lenses or take them out at any point during the day.
There are three types of contact lens solution on the market, and you'll need to use what's best for you and your lenses.
Multipurpose solution: This is the most common and is a catch-all for most lenses. This is good for all soft lenses.
Hydrogen peroxide-based solution: For anyone who has a sensitivity to multipurpose solution, a hydrogen peroxide-based solution is the next best thing. These solutions are used with a special case that turns it into saline (so it won't damage your eyes).
Rigid gas permeable solution: This is for rigid gas permeable lenses only. Because those lenses are made differently from soft lenses, they need to be cared for differently.
Tips for cleaning, storing and handling contact lenses
Here's what you should keep in mind when handling your contact lenses:
Always make sure your hands are clean.
After you take a lens out, clean it in your hand with contact lens solution before putting it into the case with more solution to soak.
Don't clean your lenses or cases with tap water -- use solution only.
Replace your cases every three months.
Don't transfer contact lens solution to smaller bottles for travel, as this can negate its sterility.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.