Many Canadians opt to wear contact lenses instead of glasses. Contacts offer many benefits: they don't slide down your nose or fog up in winter, they don't bounce up and down while you play sports, and they're less obvious than glasses. Just remember to remove your contacts and wear glasses if you suffer from any eye irritations or suspected infections. While your eye specialist can best recommend which types are suitable for you, here's a look at what's available, and what you should keep in mind.
Soft contact lenses: These are the choice of most contact lens wearers. Soft contacts are made of a type of plastic that contains a high amount of water, which allows oxygen to pass through to the eye. However, as they are so porous, these lenses are also more prone to infection than hard lenses. Soft contact lenses need to be taken out at night and disinfected.
Hard contact lenses: These are made of a more rigid type of plastic than soft lenses, and therefore many people find them less comfortable. Nevertheless, due to their "hard" nature, they are not as fragile as soft lenses and are easier to keep clean. Hard lenses reduce the amount of oxygen that would otherwise reach your eyes, and so they must be taken out at night (and cleaned) to keep your eyes happy and healthy.
Rigid gas-permeable lenses: This is a type of hard contact lens that allows more oxygen to the eye than regular hard lenses. If you have astigmatism (a condition where the front surface of the eye [cornea] is irregularly shaped, making it difficult to focus), your eye specialist may recommend this option.
Extended-wear lenses: These are special lenses (either soft or rigid gas permeable) that have been designed to be worn for many consecutive days without having to take them out at night. Do not attempt to wear your regular contact lenses in this fashion. While these extended-wear lenses offer certain conveniences (e.g., less cleaning), they have been associated with an increase in eye problems such as infections of the cornea, so be sure to discuss the benefits and risks with your eye doctor.
Disposable lenses: Disposable lenses are lenses that are designed to be thrown away after a certain amount of wear. This might be on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, depending on the type your eye doctor recommends for you. These lenses are made of a thinner material than regular soft contact lenses and have a higher water content. Because they are thrown away and replaced regularly, they offer a lower risk of eye problems that can otherwise develop from a build-up of protein and lipid deposits on lenses. Unless you use the daily disposable lenses, these contacts still need to be taken out at night and cleaned.
Cosmetic lenses: Also known as "tinted" lenses, these contact lenses alter the appearance of the eye colour. These can look very natural and can make light-coloured eyes look darker or dark-coloured eyes look lighter. Several other interesting effects are also available. If you buy lenses that are made purely for cosmetic reasons and do not correct your vision, you do not need a prescription to purchase them in Canada. Prescription contact lenses with tints are also available. Consult your local optical store for more details.
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