What are hard contact lenses and are they for you?
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The first contact lenses were made from a material called polymethylmethacrylate.
Yes, it’s a mouthful.
Let’s use PMMA for short.
PMMA was used to create hard contact lenses until the late 1970s when chemists discovered that hard contact lenses could be made air permeable.
Soft contact lenses are made from a soft plastic called, hydrogel.
Due to their material, soft contact lenses are less durable.
But what they lose in durability, they make up for in variety and convenience.
Soft contacts can be disposed of daily, bi-weekly, or monthly.
Daily soft contact lenses are ideal for travel and for people who live an active lifestyle.
But even with all of these benefits, some people grow unhappy with soft contact lenses and wish to find an alternative.
That’s where hard RGP contact lenses can step in.
Rigid Gas Permeable (RGP) contact lenses combine features of hard and soft contact lenses.
RGP lenses are made from a durable and firm plastic that make them the harder of the two kinds of contact lenses available today.
For the rest of this article, we’ll discuss the benefits of using hard contact lenses, the drawbacks, and what else you need to consider before choosing hard RGP over soft contacts.
The Firm and Rigid Material Has Its Benefits
Soft lenses are known to be more comfortable due to their material.
But the firm plastic that make up hard contact lenses has plenty of benefits too.
Benefit 1: Improves Vision: The firm plastic allows hard contact lenses to maintain their shape when you blink.
This feature helps provide sharper vision than soft lenses.
Benefit 2: More Durable: They’ll still break if you apply a large amount of pressure on them, but RGP contact lenses won’t tear as easily as soft lenses.
Benefit 3: Retains Less Residue: Hard contact lenses do not contain water. Proteins and lipids from your tears won’t accumulate as easily as they do on soft lenses.
RGP Contact Lenses Can Help With Your Condition
Although RGP contact lenses are less popular than soft contacts, these contacts are more effective for individuals diagnosed with specific conditions.
Astigmatism: A common condition, astigmatism can cause blurred vision, eye discomfort, and headaches. RGP contact lenses don’t conform to the irregular shape of the cornea. The lens can act as the primary refracting surface of the eye correcting the astigmatism.
Presbyopia: This condition is marked by a difficulty reading small print and blurry vision.
It affects 1.7 billion people worldwide and begins to occur around the age of 40. Since hard contact lenses come in a number of bifocal and multifocal designs, people can find the best combination of near and distance acuity using RGP lenses.
Keratoconus: The visual distortion in this condition is caused when the round cornea begins to take the shape of a cone. A hard contact lens’ rigid material helps the cornea overcome its irregular shape and provides a uniform refracting surface that improves vision.
Corneal Irregularities: In addition to treating keratoconus, hard contact lenses can treat other corneal irregularities too. RGP lenses are permeable so they allow oxygen to reach the eye. In orthokeratology, specially fitted RGP lenses are worn while the patient sleeps to help reshape the cornea. This can help improve refractive errors and it can also slow down the advancement of childhood myopia.
What are the Drawbacks to Wearing RGP Contact Lenses?
You can benefit a lot from wearing hard contact lenses.
Especially if you’ve been diagnosed with a condition that’s treated best with RGP lenses.
But with benefits also come a few drawbacks.
Drawback 1: Dry Eyes: Your eyes will have more of a tendency to dry out at the end of the day. Some people have naturally occurring dry eyes. Other factors like smoking or time in front of a computer screen can also contribute to dry eyes.
Drawback 2: Adjusting to Contact Lenses: People find it easier to adjust to soft lenses because of their material. You can get instantly comfortable with soft contact lenses. It takes more time to adjust to hard contact lenses. Wearing the contacts every day helps the wearer achieve maximum comfort.
Drawback 3: Greater Risk of Dislodging: Hard contact lenses come in smaller sizes than their soft counterparts. This presents a greater risk of dislodging during vigorous activities. Their small size also make them more difficult to find if you lose them.
Drawback 4: Risk of Abrasions: RGP contact lenses present a higher risk of dust and debris getting under the lenses. This type of contact lens moves on the eye when the wearer blinks. This produces a higher risk of dust or debris breaching the area underneath the lens. This leads to discomfort for the wearer and possibly abrasions to the cornea.
Are Hard Contact Lenses For Me?
Consider the benefits and drawbacks if you’re thinking of switching to hard contact lenses.
Think about the experience with your current contact lenses.
What’s your main motivation for wearing hard contact lenses?
Can you tolerate the initial discomfort during the adjustment period?
Do you have a condition that would be helped with hard contact lenses?
Talk to an optometrist at one of our 17 Image Optometry locations.
Please book an appointment if you want to see an optometrist in Kitsilano about your prescription and your situation to see if RGP contact lenses are right for you.
In the meantime, we hope you’re more informed and feel confident about moving ahead with the process.