Misconceptions About Contact Lenses

Young lady inserting a 1-day disposable contact lens onto a blue green eye

There are a number of common contact lens misconceptions that we run into on a daily basis in our clinic. As optometrists, our goal is to provide our patients with sharp, clear, comfortable vision, while preserving the eye health of our patients. We do this by ensuring that our patients are well educated on things that can directly affect their eye health or jeopardize their vision.

So here are 5 common contact lens misconceptions.

Myth #1 - All contact lenses are the same.

The myth that all contact lenses are the same has become an enormous problem over the past few years and appears only to be getting worse. Patients, the general public and politicians are being led to believe that all contact lenses are essentially the same, and should be treated as a commodity, rather than a controlled medical device, which they are. Of course, this myth is being spread by large businesses that feel that health care rules should not apply to them.

To exploit this myth, many online retailers have started directly marketing in-house contact lens products directly to consumers. They are trying to circumvent the practice of patients being correctly fit and receiving a contact lens prescription from a licensed eye care provider such as an optometrist, ophthalmologist or optician. They lead consumers to believe that the only difference in their product compared to national brand named products is the price.

It's mind-boggling that they can get away with it, and that the Government of Canada and the Provincial Governments fail to regulate the sale and distribution of a medical device properly. It's the equivalent of randomly choosing your medication online to treat your heart disease.

Contact lenses are anything but created equal. Each contact lens brand, lens manufacturer, lens style and lens modality offers different benefits and feature. Every contact lens fits differently based on the lenses base curve, diameter, material, modulus, edge design, and prescription. Plus, the most significant variable is your eye structure and shape, the two should be compatible.

Myth #2 - It's ok to sleep in your contact lenses

It's true that some contact lenses are approved to be slept in, and some people may be able to do this short or long-term. Currently, the only overnight supported contact lens modalities are monthly and two-week disposable lenses manufactured out of silicone hydrogel materials. This type of contact lens material offers exceptionally high oxygen transmissibility, which helps to reduce corneal hypoxia and the related corneal swelling which can cause a lens to adhere to the eye.

You can tell the oxygen transmissibility of a lens by looking at its Dk/t value. The higher the Dk/t value, the higher the oxygen transmissibility. This measurement is standardized around a -3.00 nearsighted lens, so depending on your prescription, the amount of oxygen transmissibility may vary. But like all things, there is a trade-off. Increased oxygen transmissibility comes with increased silicone content within the contact lens which increase the rigidity of the contact, resulting in more eyelid interaction and a heavier feeling lens.

Examples of high Dk/t silicione hydrogel contact lenses:

  • Night & Day = 175

  • Air Optix Aqua Comfort Plus = 108

  • Biofinity = 160

  • PureVision 2 = 130

  • Acuvue Oasys = 147

Examples of some popular low Dk/t contact lenses of the past

  • Acuvue 2 = 25.5

  • Biomedic 38 = 21

  • Biomedic 55 = 28.1

It's crucial to note that not everyone is capable of sleeping in a contact lens and that each contact lens brand has been approved for different durations of times based on outcomes from clinical research studies. So please talk to your eye doctor before sleeping in any contact lens. It's a much easier conversation to have than talking to them about how to treat the resultant eye infection.

Myth #3 - I'm too old or too young for contact lenses.

Do you think you're too old or too young to try contact lenses for the first time? If so, think again.

We routinely fit contact lenses on patients of every age. The youngest that we typically initially fit contact lenses in children is about age 8, as an option for sports like hockey, gymnastics and dance. While the oldest person to date that we've ever fit was 72 because they wanted them for a class reunion.

Typically when we get to the extreme edge ranges like these in age, contact lenses are not the primary mode of correction but are instead used as a part-time alternative to eyeglasses. Recreation and social activities are usually the person's primary motivation.

So if you've ever been interested in contact lenses, and wonder if you are a candidate, please talk to us during your next eye exam.

Myth #4 - Contact lenses are expensive.

Marketing ads by laser eye surgery clinics trying to sell you LASIK and PRK procedures would have you believe that contact lenses are far out of reach for most consumers. The truth though is anything but, contact lenses can be a very affordable vision correction tool, with some of the leading brand named contact lenses costing less than $200 for a years supply. When compared to the average cost of laser eye surgery, it would take about 15 years just to break even.

Sure there some premium 1-day disposable brands like Dailies Total-1, Acuvue Oasys 1-Day, and MyDay that command a higher price, but these are more the exception than the norm.

Plus here is the hidden gem!

Contact lens manufacturers provide patients with highly lucrative rebates when they purchase their contact lenses directly from their optometrists office. Annual supply discounts on the most popular brands can range from $50-$200, which can add up to thousands of dollars in savings over time. So don't assume your eye doctor is more expensive, you might be shocked at what you find out.

Myth #5 - Contact lenses are dangerous and uncomfortable.

Contact lenses are in fact a safe alternative to eyeglasses when patients follow the appropriate precautions and when they are fitted correctly. This involves receiving annual eye exams, cleaning and caring for your contact lenses correctly, and disposing of them as recommended by the lens manufacturer or your eye doctor.

Most contact lens comfort related problems we see in the clinic are self-induced and are usually the result of abuse over time. Wearing dirty contact lenses is by far the biggest culprit which is why we've seen a shift towards the 1-day disposable modality. Frequently replacing your contact lenses prevents bacterial based surface irritation and reduces the likelihood of an eye infection. Stretching a 2-week lens into a monthly, and a monthly into a quarterly disposable product is just a disaster waiting to happen.

Most contact lens-related problems can be solved by simply purchasing an annual supply of lenses. Issues occur as people get to their last few lenses, and they try to stretch a couple of extra wears out of them.