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Contact lenses

Contact lenses offer an alternative to glasses for correcting vision problems, and are used by around 4 million people in the UK.

The thin plastic lenses are fitted over the cornea of the eye to correct vision problems such as short-sightedness, long-sightedness, and  astigmatism. You can wear contact lenses even if you have presbyopia and need bifocals.

close-up of eye

As well as helping with eyesight problems, coloured contact lenses can be a fashion accessory for some people.

People who wear contact lenses have an increased risk of eye infections, and following instructions on caring for contacts, how long to wear them, and how to clean them is important.

Contact lenses are divided into two main categories: soft or rigid gas permeable.

Daily wear soft contact lenses

Soft contact lenses are made of a soft polymer-plastic material combined with a percentage of water. Water allows oxygen to pass through the contact lens material and increases comfort. Many soft contact lenses also provide UV protection. Soft contact lenses are more comfortable than rigid gas permeable contact lenses when first inserted into the eye.

Many soft contact lenses are disposable and can be thrown away after a short period of use - for example, a day or a month. Being able to have a fresh pair of soft contact lenses means less chance of infection, less cleaning, and more comfort, especially for people whose eyes naturally produce more protein, which leaves deposits on the contact lenses. Other soft contact lenses are worn on a yearly basis and cleaned daily, and are not disposable.

While most people choose soft contact lenses because of their benefits, there are also some disadvantages. Soft contact lenses easily absorb pollutants like lotion or soap from your hands, which can irritate your eyes. Soft contact lenses are also more fragile than hard contact lenses and can rip or tear easily.

The most recent types of soft contact lenses on the market include:

  • Daily disposables. These soft contact lenses are worn only for one day and then thrown away. The benefits include not having to clean your contact lenses on a regular basis, convenient replacement schedule, and reduction of dry eye and irritation related to contact solutions. If you are an allergy sufferer, these are the contact lenses for you.
  • Silicone extended wear disposables. These soft contact lenses are made with a new silicone hydro-gel material that can be worn for up to 30 days and nights. The new material also prevents deposit build-up and reduces dry eye irritation.

Coloured soft contact lenses

They're stylish and fun, but coloured contact lenses can also be quite practical. There are four types of coloured contact lenses, each offering a slightly different benefit:

  • Visibility tint. These coloured contact lenses are lightly tinted so that you can find your lens if you drop it. Visibility tints don't affect the colour of your eyes.
  • Enhancement tint. These coloured contact lenses have a translucent tint that's meant to enhance your natural eye colour. Enhancement tints are slightly darker than a visibility tint.
  • Colour tint. Darker, opaque tints that change the colour of your eyes. Colour tints come in a wide array of specialty colours, including amethyst, violet, and green.
  • Light-filtering tint. These coloured contact lenses are designed for athletes and sports fans. They enhance certain colours and mute other colours. For instance, contact lenses for tennis players would enhance optic yellow, the colour of tennis balls.

Remember, coloured contact lenses are a medical device just like clear contact lenses. Never share coloured contacts lenses with anyone. Clean and care for them just as you would any prescription contact lens.

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