Have You Been Told You Couldn’t Wear Contacts? Contact Lens Myths

I estimate at least 4 times a week I am told by a patient that some doctor from their past told them they couldn’t wear contact lenses. The typical patient with this story likely has astigmatism, dry eyes and/or in need of bifocal correction (seeing near and far after age 40).   The reality is that as time marches forward, so does technology. In the last 10 or so years, contact lens technologies have advanced significantly in all of the potential areas that make people “problem contact lens patients”.

ASTIGMATISM

For a detailed explanation of what astigmatism is, click the above link. For most people with astigmatism, the front surface of their eye is elongated, so that if one were to travel across the surface in the horizontal or vertical direction, the curvature would be steeper one way than the other. This creates a challenge for contact lenses in that the contacts need to balance on the uneven surface and remain oriented, stably, while the eyelids blink over the lens. This presents a significant mechanical challenge. While correcting astigmatism with contact lenses used to be a major challenge, modern rigid and soft contact lenses do the job quite well and are incredibly comfortable when fit by a contact lens specialist. Even people with problems post surgically or with corneal disease such as Keratoconus can now wear lenses comfortbaly. If you enquire about wearing contact lenses at your eye doctors office and are told you don’t qualify because of your astigmatism, get a second opinion by a doctor-member of the contact lens section of the American Academy of Optometry. It is likely the right option for you exists.

DRY EYES

The best approach to fitting contact lenses for patients with dry eyes is to first try and correct the dryness. This can be attempted in many ways, so be sure you work diligently with your eye doctor to improve the tear layer of your eyes by using one or more of the following technologies as they apply to you (1) Restasis (2) Punctal Occlusion (3) the proper moisturizing therapies and (4) eliminate any environmental stimulus that might be adding to your discomfort. When the eyes are feeling better, the best option to try first is usually what is known as a single-use contact lens. Also known as “daily disposables” and “1-days”, these lenses are sterile and fresh as the first day every time you put them in your eye. Using one days also eliminates exposure of a sensitive, dry eye to the preservatives in cleaning solutions that can irritate the eye. If one day lenses aren’t comfortable, using a low-water soft lens made of silicon may provide comfort. If comfort is achieved in a lens with a longer life cycle than a one-day, such as a lower water lens or gas permeable contact lens, consider replacing the lens more frequently than recommended – this may increase your overall comfort and wearability.

BIFOCAL NEEDS

This is the area that has undergone the greatest transformation. Rigid and soft lenses exist that provide excellent near and far vision for the users. A few things to know about these lenses – of course best success is obtained by fitting through an eye doctor with specific experience fitting a wide variety of these lenses over many years. Fitting these lenses requires many follow ups, educated trial and error and, during the first fitting, patience on your part. They can be very time consuming. I can usually fit a patient successfully, but the biggest barrier to success is often frustration with the follow-up process. If you have a busy schedule and may have trouble performing follow up visits you may want to wait to undergo the fitting until your schedule lightens up.

The odds are there is a contact lens out there that will meet your needs. Be sure to find the right doctor with the right experience who has time and patience to fit you, and follow through with the process.

Copyright 2010 – Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care; Optometrists, Ophthalmologists and Opticians serving Rockville, Potomac and Gaithersburg, Maryland suburbs of Washington DC for over 40 years- all rights reserved

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2 Responses

  1. wow, i didn’t know there were contacts for astigmatism, i always believed there weren’t.
    Thanks, that is a lot of help (going to my eye doctor this week to get them now:)

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