Contact lenses are one of the many options people use to improve their vision. Made of flexible, breathable plastics, contact lenses move with the eye, allow a natural field of view, and reduce distortions.
Given the many benefits of contacts, it’s no wonder that more and more people are choosing to wear contacts every year. Experts estimate that about 125 million people worldwide wear contacts, including 28 to 38 million in the United States.
But with so many options available, finding the right contact lens for you can be difficult. That’s why we put together this handy guide. In this guide, we’ll discuss the various factors all contact lens wearers should consider when choosing a lens.
Armed with this information, you should be able to discuss any concerns you may have about contact lenses when you consult your eye care professional (ECP).
6 Factors to Consider When Choosing Contact Lenses
One of the best contact lenses for beginners is a daily disposable lens. This helps minimize the need for daily cleaning and is less likely to accumulate irritating surface deposits.
However, there are many factors to consider.
If you want to try contact lenses, your ECP will conduct a comprehensive eye exam and contact lens fitting and consider:
1. Lens Material
Lens material can make a big difference in vision, comfort, and eye health, so it’s essential to know the advantages and disadvantages of different lens materials.
- Hydrogel – Hydrogels are flexible, gel-like polymers that easily adhere to the surface of the eye. Hydrogels allow optimal levels of oxygen to reach the eye, and they can hold a large percentage of water.
- Silicone hydrogel – Silicone hydrogel is a hybrid material composed of silicone and hydrogel. Contacts made of silicone hydrogel offer high oxygen permeability, making them suitable for overnight or extended wear.
- Rigid gas-permeable – Modern rigid gas-permeable (RGP) lenses are made of firm, durable plastics that transmit oxygen. Unlike hydrogel and silicone hydrogel lenses, RGP lenses don’t contain water, so they’re less likely to collect deposits and harbor bacteria.
The best lens material for you will depend on your eye health needs and lifestyle.
For example, if you don’t mind going through a period of adaptation to contact lens wear, RGP lenses may be a good choice for you. Popular brands of RGP lenses include Boston by Bausch + Lomb and Optimum by Contamac.
Your ECP may charge more to fit you with RGP contacts than hydrogel and silicone hydrogel contacts. The fee is higher because an RGP lens fitting typically requires more work and follow-up appointments.
Alternatively, opt for either hydrogel or silicone hydrogel lenses if you prioritize comfort in a contact lens. For a comfortable lens-wearing experience, try Bausch + Lomb ULTRA or Biofinity by CooperVision.
2. Wearing Schedule
Contacts can either be daily wear or extended wear lenses. The best one for you will largely depend on your lifestyle and how willing you are to commit to a lens care routine.
- Daily Wear
Daily-wear contacts are intended for use during the day only. They should be removed, cleaned, and stored properly before.
Some daily wear contacts are discarded at the end of the day (daily disposables), while others are discarded after two to four weeks (weeklies and monthlies, respectively).
Some of the most popular brands of daily-wear contact lenses on the market include 1-DAY ACUVUE MOIST, Biotrue ONEday, and AIR OPTIX AQUA.
- Extended Wear
Extended wear contacts are FDA-approved for overnight wear ranging from one to six nights or up to 30 days.
However, the length of continuous wear depends on the contact lens type and your ECP’s evaluation of your tolerance for extended lens wear.
Popular brands of extended-wear contacts include ACUVUE 2, AIR OPTIX NIGHT & DAY AQUA, and PureVision.
Contacts correct vision problems caused by refractive errors, including:
- nearsightedness (blurry distance vision),
- farsightedness (blurry near vision),
- astigmatism (blurry vision at all distances), and
- presbyopia (blurry near vision in aging adults)
Contacts come in many different lens designs to correct refractive errors, such as:
- Spherical – Standard spherical lenses correct nearsightedness and farsightedness. Both refractive errors can occur alongside astigmatism and presbyopia.
- Toric – Toric lenses correct astigmatism. These lenses are usually thicker at the top than the bottom, so they don’t move in the eye.
- Multifocal – Multifocal lenses correct presbyopia. These lenses have multiple prescriptions, so the wearer can see clearly at any distance.
Most toric and multifocal contacts are made of soft lens materials. But RGP lenses can be made to correct astigmatism and presbyopia as well. RGP toric and multifocal lenses may be better for people with high prescriptions or whose soft toric or multifocal lenses don’t produce the desired visual acuity.
4. Replacement Schedule
Contact lenses may be replaced daily, monthly, or bi-weekly.
In the case of RGP lenses, contacts may be replaced yearly with proper handling.
When you go in for a contact lens fitting, your ECP will ask you about your lifestyle, so they can figure out which replacement schedule works best for you.
Daily disposable contact lenses are used once and then thrown away. With a true daily disposable schedule, a fresh pair of contact lenses is used every day.
As such, daily disposable contacts require minimal cleaning, making them the ideal choice for frequent travelers and lens wearers with busy schedules or active lifestyles.
Popular brands of daily disposable contacts include DAILIES TOTAL1, Proclear 1 Day, and Focus Dailies.
Monthly disposable contact lenses are worn daily or continuously for up to 30 days and then thrown away.
Unlike dailies, monthly lenses need daily cleaning, so they’re more suitable for people who can commit to a lens care routine.
Some of the most popular monthlies on the market are ACUVUE VITA, Biofinity Energys, and Proclear Compatibles.
Bi-weekly contacts are contacts you replace every other week. Also known as 2-week lenses, bi-weekly contacts offer a balance between lower maintenance and comfort.
Most bi-weekly contacts still need to be removed and cleaned nightly, but they’re designed to last longer before you need to throw them away. In other words, bi-weekly contact lenses offer a good compromise between dailies and monthlies.
Popular brands of bi-weekly replacement lenses include ACUVUE OASYS, Avaira Vitality, and SofLens 38.
Annually disposable contacts are worn daily for at least a year and then thrown away. These contacts are usually RGP lenses, which are more durable than soft lenses.
Annually disposable contacts typically need to be removed and cleaned nightly.
When you get fitted for contacts, your ECP will recommend a specific brand based on several factors, including:
- Diameter – This is the distance across the lens’s surface. It determines how the lens sits on the eye. If a contact lens doesn’t have the right diameter for your eye, it will feel uncomfortable.
- Base Curve – This is the depth of the contact lens’s curve. If a contact lens doesn’t have the right base curve for your eye, it may not adhere correctly to your eye, causing blurry vision and/or discomfort.
- Lens Material – Contact lens brands differ in terms of the materials they use. For example, contacts in the ACUVUE OASYS product family are made of silicone hydrogel, while contacts in the Biotrue ONEday family are made of hydrogel.
When browsing for contact lenses online, you may notice that their prices vary.
That’s because many different factors affect the cost of contact lenses, including lens type, brand, and replacement schedule.
Check out the table below for general contact lens prices.
Editor’s Note: All prices mentioned below were from our research conducted in March 2023.
|RGP||≥$100 per lens|
|Soft toric||$45-$65 per box of 6 lenses|
|Soft multifocal||$50-$70 per box of 6 lenses|
|Daily disposable||$40-$60 per box of 30 lenses|
|Monthly disposable||$40-$60 per box of 6 lenses|
|Bi-weekly disposable||$20-$50 per box of 6 lenses|
Your health insurance affects how much you pay out-of-pocket for your contact lenses. Contact your insurance provider to find out how you’re covered.
Some online retailers, such as Lens.com, accept Health Savings Account (HSA) and Flexible Spending Account (FSA) payments. Depending on how much your employer offers for your HSA/FSA every year, you may be able to cover the full annual cost of your contacts. Otherwise, you can split your payment between your FSA/HSA card and debit or credit card.
There is no one-size-fits-all contact lens for beginners. Ultimately, the best contact lens for you is the one that will sufficiently meet your eye health needs. It should also be compatible with your lifestyle and budget.
If you’re interested in wearing contact lenses for the first time, consider the various factors discussed in this guide so your ECP can recommend contacts that meet your needs best.
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