A contact lens is a curved lens worn on the eye to correct vision due to refractive errors and for cosmetic or therapeutic reasons. There are two types of lenses: soft and hard, with most people wearing soft contacts. 

Contact lenses work by bending the light that enters the eye, allowing the light to focus on the retina, the light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eye. The contact lens is placed on the cornea, the clear, round dome at the front of the eye. The cornea bends or refracts light that enters the eye and focuses it on the retina.

History of Contact Lenses

The idea of wearing something on the eye to correct vision has been around for a while.  Leonardo da Vinci is credited with the first contact lens design. He suggested that a person could wear a half-sphere of water on their eye. 

  • The first contact lenses were made of glass and were developed in the late 1800s. 
  • In the early 1900s, contact lenses were made of blown glass, but these early lenses were uncomfortable and sometimes caused corneal ulcers. 
  • In 1948 lenses made of plastic were developed. These lenses were much more comfortable to wear than the glass ones and did not cause as many corneal ulcers. 
  • In the early 1960s lenses that could be worn for extended periods of time were developed and have slowly evolved into the silicone hydrogel contacts worn today.

Types of Contact Lenses

Contacts can be grouped into hard or soft lenses and have evolved into a very good option for fixing many vision problems.  Depending on your needs, your optometrist can help you find the one perfect for you.

Some options include:

Hard Contacts

Hard contact lenses, also called rigid gas permeable lenses (RGP), are made of a hard, inflexible material that lets oxygen pass through to the eye. Hard contact lenses are less comfortable than soft lenses and may take some time to get used to wearing. Hard contact lenses are less likely to cause eye infections than soft lenses. Hard contact lenses can also be used to treat Keratoconus. Keratoconus is a condition in which the cornea becomes thin and cone-shaped. 

Soft Contacts

Soft contact lenses are made of a soft, pliable hydrogel and silicone that also lets oxygen pass through to the eye. Soft contact lenses are more comfortable than hard contact lenses and are easier to wear. They are available in daily,  weekly, and monthly disposable options. 

  • Daily disposable lenses are worn during the day and removed and discarded at night, and they are not meant to be slept in and are only for daily wear. Having a fresh pair to use daily can mean less proteinbuild-up and infection.
  • Bi-weekly and monthly replacement contact lenses are worn during the day and removed at night. They are stored in solution and discarded after the suggested time period.
  • Extended or overnight wear lenses can be worn up to 30 days, 24 hours a day, before being removed and discarded.

Monovision and Bifocal Contacts

Multifocal contact lenses are designed for people who have presbyopia, a condition that causes the eye to lose its ability to focus on close objects. Multifocal lenses have two or more contact lens powers in one lens. 

The most common type of multifocal contact lens is the bifocal lens, which has a reading power in the bottom half of the contact lens and a distance power in the top half. Monovision lenses are also an option for presbyopes. Monovision lenses correct one eye for distance vision and the other eye for near vision.

Scleral Contact Lenses 

A large-diameter contact lenses that rest on the white part of your eye (sclera) and vault over the cornea, filling in any irregular corneal surface. This design creates a tear-filled reservoir between the lens and your cornea. Scleral contact lenses are used to treat a variety of eye conditions, including keratoconus a condition in which your cornea becomes thin and cone-shaped. 

Toric Contacts

Toric contact lenses are designed for people with astigmatism, a condition where the front surface of the eye is not perfectly round. Toric lenses are made with two different powers in one lens to correct astigmatism.

Colored Contact Lenses

Colored lenses are worn for cosmetic or therapeutic purposes. Cosmetic contact lenses can change the color of your eyes and are available in a wide range of colors, such as blue, green, hazel, violet, and gray. Therapeutic lenses are worn to treat conditions such as aniridia and albinism.

Caring for Contacts

Wearing contacts requires good hygiene and cleaning habits. Some tips for caring for your contacts are:

  • Always wash your hands with soap and water before handling your lenses.
  • Be sure to follow the contact lens replacement schedule prescribed by your doctor.
  • Disposable contact lenses should be thrown away after the recommended wearing period, even if they are not being worn every day.
  • Reusable lenses should be cleaned and disinfected as directed with contact lens solution.
  • Never rinse lenses or lens cases with water.
  • Do not expose contact lenses or contact lens cases to any type of water, such as tap water, lake water, ocean water, or hot tub water. This will increase risk of eye infection.
  • Store contact lenses in the contact lens case with a multipurpose solution when they are not worn.
  • Never put lenses in your mouth or use saliva to wet them.
  • Do not use lenses that are expired, damaged, or do not belong to you. 
  • Do not sleep in lenses unless they are approved for continuous wear.

Contacts vs. Eyeglasses

There are many factors to consider when deciding if contact lenses or eyeglasses are right for you. 

  • Some people prefer the cosmetic look of contact lenses, while others find lenses to be uncomfortable and prefer the feel of eyeglasses on their face. 
  • Some may simply have a better vision correction with eyeglasses. 
  • Some work environments, such as dusty workplaces, may not be contact lens friendly.

Ultimately, the decision of whether to wear contact lenses or eyeglasses is a personal one and should be made after consulting with your eye care professional.

Are Contact Lenses Safe?

Yes, contact lenses are safe when worn as directed by your eye care professional and manufacturer’s instructions. It is important to remember to clean and disinfect your lenses and case to help prevent eye infections. 

What are the Risks of Contact Lenses?

The most common complication of contact lens wear is a corneal ulcer, an open sore on the surface of the eye. Corneal ulcers can be painful and may lead to vision loss if not treated promptly. Other complications of contact lens wear include allergic reactions, conjunctivitis, and contact lens-related keratitis. 

(Note: If you experience any redness, pain, discharge, or blurry vision when wearing contact lenses, remove the lenses and consult your eye care professional immediately.)

Can Children Wear Contacts?

Typically, children around 8-10 years old can start wearing contact lenses as long as they are old enough to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and properly care for them. Children should be supervised by an adult when handling their lenses to ensure that they are cleaned and disinfected properly. 

Contact Lenses Denver

Contact lenses can be safe and comfortable for many people with the right care. There are many different types of lenses, each with unique benefits. If you’re unsure which type is right for you, our staff would be more than happy to help you find the perfect pair. If you’re looking for contact lenses in Denver, we can answer any questions you or your child might have.

Call Youth Dental and Vision at (303) 953-8801 to book an appointment with our optometrists at any one of our 4 locations. We offer vision appointments at our two locations in Denver: Grove St and Hampden Ave, as well as in Aurora and Thornton. For more information on our locations or the services we offer, email [email protected].