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Contact lens Myths versus Reality

Posted on 28 November 2013

Few people realise that contact lenses were invented over one hundred years ago. Needless to say, enormous progress has been made since the very early trials which involved wearing large, thick lenses made of glass. In an article written in 1889, one of the great contact lens pioneers, August Miiller, described attempts at correcting his own short-sightedness with such lenses. He could only wear the lenses for 30 minutes because of violent pain and blurred vision!

Today, contact lenses are made from a wide variety of sophisticated materials (known as biopolymers) and virtually any type of optical defect of the eye can be corrected. Contact lenses generally fall into two categories soft (hydrogel) and rigid (gas permeable). In addition, there is a wide variety of care systems for cleaning and storing lenses when they are not being worn. Advances in contact lens technology have occurred so rapidly in recent times that public awareness has slipped somewhat behind. There are numerous myths and misconceptions that are still held in widespread belief.

To improve public awareness and understanding of the marvel of the contact lens, the International Committee on Contact Lenses (ICCL) has considered some of the more common misconceptions. If you have an eye problem that possibly can be corrected with contact lenses but have not tried them because of unfounded fears then maybe it is time for a re-think. If you feel, after reading this article, that contact lenses may be for you, then go to your local eye care practitioner who will be happy to advise you on your suitability to wear lenses, and if so, the best lens type to correct your eye problem.

Myth: It is difficult to get used to wearing contact lenses

Reality: If a potential contact lens wearer is genuinely motivated to wear lenses, the insertion of lenses into the eye poses little problem. Most eye care practitioners will be happy to insert a pair of contact lenses prior to any commitment by the patient. After a few minutes a soft lens causes very little sensation in the eye. Rigid gas permeable (RGP) lenses, on the other hand, take a little longer to get used to. However, RGP lenses are now manufactured from sophisticated materials and formed using intricate designs that will result in maximum comfort.

Myth: Contact lenses are less convenient than spectacles

Reality: First time contact lens wearers, who typically handle their lenses more slowly and deliberately, may initially feel that lenses are inconvenient. Putting spectacles on the face is certainly an easier process.

The comparison between contact lenses and spectacles in terms of convenience should be addressed in a broader perspective. Any inconvenience involved in the additional time necessary for lens maintenance must be weighed up against the conveniences derived from wearing contact lenses. It is true to say that contact lenses require time for their maintenance. However, if wearing contact lenses can be considered as part of the normal routine of the maintenance of personal hygiene such as brushing teeth, washing hands, showering, shaving, make up etc, then the time devoted to contact lens maintenance is indeed relatively small. Contact lens wearers enjoy all the conveniences of normal vision and are relieved of spectacle wear and accompanying problems such as fogging and the difficulties of wearing spectacles in rain and snow.

Myth: Contact lenses cannot correct certain forms of vision defect

Reality: Correction of long-sightedness (hyperopia) and short-sightedness (myopia) with contact lenses is a straight forward procedure. Astigmatism is a condition of blurred or distorted vision at all distances. It occurs primarily because the front surface of the eye is irregular, so instead of the shape being spherical it is oval or egg shaped. The front surface is called the cornea which is the clear window of the eye. Astigmatism is not a disease but a very common condition. Many people believe that astigmatism cannot be corrected with contact lenses; however, this is simply not true. There are various options to treat astigmatism with contact lenses. Your optometrist will provide the best advise for your eye care needs.