When first developed, contact lenses were only available as hard lenses. Today’s hard lenses, called gas permeable, are much improved. They can be worn for up to a year without needing to be replaced as long as they are properly cared for.
“Typically, the people who choose hard lenses have eye conditions that don’t allow them to wear a soft lens,” says Dr. Immler. “They might have an irregularly shaped eye or a condition called keratoconus, which causes thinning of the cornea.”
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The vast majority of Dr. Immler’s patients (around 90 to 95%) choose soft lenses. Soft contact lenses are typically thinner, lighter and more comfortable than hard lenses. Lens manufacturers now use a silicone hydrogel material that allows more oxygen to reach the eye. Soft contact lenses come in three varieties:
- Monthly disposables: Remove the lenses and store them in a disinfectant solution overnight. Repeat for 30 days then discard.
- Bi-weekly disposables: Same as monthly but throw them away after two weeks.
- Daily disposables: Pop in a fresh pair of lenses each day.
“Everything is heading toward daily disposable soft contact lenses — 40 to 50% of the people I see are wearing daily disposables, and that number is growing every year,” says Dr. Immler. “The advantage of a fresh pair daily is the reduced likelihood of dryness and allergies, damage and infection.”