Contact lens Q&A with our optician

At Vision Direct, we understand that having a proper understanding of contact lenses and your eyes is essential for keeping your eyes healthy. For this reason, our head optician, Benjamin Dumaine, recently participated in a Q&A session with customers who had questions about contact lenses and eye health in general.

The questions revolved around the following topics:

Contact Lens Care

  • I’m an active, healthy nineteen year old girl who wears contacts I like to wear my lenses day and night for up to a couple of months. I’ve been told by my optician that this could cause permanent damage to my eyes. Is this true?

    L.P. Fodalming, UK

  • Yes! You would be taking a huge risk to wear your contact lenses, of any type, longer than the recommended schedule. Exceeding the specified timeframe for wearing your contact lenses results in a highly restricted flow of oxygen to your eyes. Bottom line: your eyes need to rest and they need to breathe. Your commitment to the schedule recommended by your optician helps you avoid eye infections, inflammations, allergies, and distortions to the cornea and eyelid. This damage may be irreversible.

    Unfortunately, you are risking severe eye problems if you wear contact lenses longer than recommended. Your eyes are far too valuable!

  • If contact lens solution is as safe as we’re led to believe, what is the problem with changing the type we use?

    D.M. Edinburgh, UK

  • Each type of contact lens solution has specific ingredients and properties that make it compatible with specific types of contact lenses. Using the wrong solution with your contact lenses risks lens discoloration to the contact lens and an allergic reaction. Some solutions also have preservatives that may be too harsh for your lenses. The best option is to use the contact lens solution recommended by your optician.

  • My daughter suffers from nearsightedness and wears spectacles. She now wants contact lenses and, while I don’t mind in theory, I don’t think she is responsible enough to handle lenses and care for them correctly. Although I have stressed the dangers of wearing contact lenses that have been prescribed for others, I have caught her wearing her friend’s lenses on two separate occasions. Is there any way I can get her to take the dangers of sharing contact lenses on board?

    S.B. Birmingham, UK

  • You are certainly correct! Nobody should ever wear another person’s contact lenses! Not only can wearing the wrong prescription and improper lens fitting cause severe damage, but sharing something as personal as contact lenses can also cause bacteria and other harmful substances to be transferred between people.

    It may be helpful if you show your daughter this Q&A so she can get an idea of what wearing contact lenses safely entails. It may also be helpful to arrange for her to see her optometrist or optician who can explain to her in detail the risks of sharing contact lenses.

  • I’m thinking of soft contact lenses. Advantages and disadvantages?

    B.D. Wigan, UK

  • Soft contact lenses are quite popular and not without reason. They are conveniently available in a variety of formats that can correct various vision conditions like nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, and even presbyopia (where you wear bifocals). They are also available in a disposable format making them convenient, easy to use, and safe as long as you follow a proper cleaning regime. Above all, soft contact lenses are comfortable!

    On the other hand, soft contact lenses have the potential to change slightly over time. For instance, they can absorb tears and even some of the debris that builds up on its surface. Essentially, this can causes the surface of the lens to show signs of disintegration and eventually reduce the acuity of vision, often resulting in a very limited supply of oxygen to the cornea.

  • Can my contact lens roll up, and become lodged behind my eyes?

    N.D. Cambridge, UK

  • No

  • Some time ago, I purchased some contact lenses but after four months I stopped wearing them as I found that my eyes became irritated. I’m thinking of giving them another go but as it’s around fifteen months since I last used them and though I’ve stored them in the correct solution I’d like to check whether they’ll be okay. Or will I need to get new contact lenses?

  • After all this time, it is very likely that the lenses are now coated with bacteria that has been swimming in the solution. In fact, by now, the lenses may have disintegrated. Also, after over a year, it is very likely that your lens prescription has also changed and you need to schedule a new eye test. If you wish to try wearing contact lenses again, it is best to consult your optometrist would may explain why your eyes felt irritated the first time and possibly recommended different lenses. In short, yes! You definitely should get new lenses!

Your Lifestyle and Contact Lenses

  • Can I sleep in my contact lenses?

    T.W. Leicester, UK

  • Some contact lenses, called extended wear or continuous wear lenses, are specifically engineered to be safe to sleep in. However, extended wear contact lenses are not for everyone. Whether or not they would be suitable for you depends on your specific eye conditions and ultimately the recommendation of your optician. Also, wearing dailies alongside extended wear contact lenses must be avoided so that you do not damage your cornea, which need to stay hydrated in order to function properly. Keep in mind that your eyes need to rest and breathe in oxygen. If you wish to wear contact lenses while sleeping, it is best to speak to your optician or optometrist who will advise you of the possibilities and your options.

  • Can I wear my contact lenses when I’m sunbathing, or will the heat cause problems?

    I.M. London, UK

  • Generally, heat should cause problems. Your body will generally heat up in hot environments and your cornea may swell slightly. This, coupled with your contact lenses, can cause mild redness and irritation. However, the solution is easy - simply use eye drops before sunbathing and wear high quality sunglasses that block UV rays. Doing this will help you prevent conditions like macular degeneration and cataracts.

  • Can I wear my soft contact lenses for swimming or will they be affected by chlorine in the water?

    K.C. Dagenham, UK

  • While you can swim in your daily disposable soft contact lenses, it is highly recommended that you wear swimming goggles. The chlorine in itself will not harm your dailies, but there are other potential hazards. Pools, jacuzzis, and hot tubs attract plenty of bacteria, like acanthamoeba, which can cause painful infections and potentially permanent eye damage.

    Another possible threat is water pressure which can cause distortions and changes to the proper fit of your contact lenses, which in turn may harm the cornea, resulting in other eye problems.

    Due to these reasons, the safest option is to remove your contact lenses before swimming. Alternatively, consider shopping for prescription goggles if you swim regularly.

  • I’ve worn my daily contacts in the past for scuba diving and it’s been fine. Is it alright to keep doing this?

    B.D. Portsmouth, UK

  • Yes! You can keep wearing your dailies while scuba diving. While you may feel that your lenses are tighter due to changing pressures, it may be helpful to use eye drops before and after your dive.

  • I have a prescription for -5.75 in the right eye and -5.50 in the left. I would like to know what brand of soft contact lenses will give me the best protection from UVA and UVB rays. Which can you suggest?

    S-J.K. Chester, UK

  • I recommend Acuvue contact lenses as they feature high quality UV protection on all their lenses. For the maximum protection, try Acuvue Oasys or 1-Day Acuvue Trueye. However, to find the lenses most suitable for your unique conditions, it is recommended that you consult your optometrist.

  • I am 20 and have now been wearing my soft contact lenses for six years. My vision seems to be worsening. Furthermore, I’ve just discovered that blood vessels are growing towards my corneas as a result of wearing my lenses too much. My doctor gave me some eye drops and they made my eyes dry. Even when wearing glasses my sight seems worse than before and my eyes now I look quite bloodshot. Can you tell me what could be causing this? PS. I hate my glasses and once I have this problem fixed, is there any possibility that I could have LASIK treatment? I really don’t want to be stuck wearing glasses forever.

    V.L. Swindon, UK

  • From what you have said, it appears that your eye problems are in fact caused by overwearing your contact lenses. Wearing contact lenses for a prolonged period of time potentially limits the amount of oxygen that reaches the cornea, which need to breathe in order to function properly. A lack of oxygen supply to the cornea can lead to corneal micro-trauma, where blood vessels grow on the cornea. Based on the details you have provided, it is absolutely imperative that you contact your optometrist as soon as possible if you have not already done so.

    Although you have experienced problems with your contact lenses, LASIK treatment may still be an option. However, that will depend on your current eye conditions and how you have been caring for your eyes over the years. The best thing to do is to consult your optometrist who is best able to determine how suitable LASIK treatment could be for your specific situation and the potential risks, pros, and cons.

  • I’m a 22 year old woman who has been wearing glasses for 10 years. I sometimes wear contact lenses and though my sight has been pretty stable for a long time, one eye has changed recently. Can I stop any further change and perhaps improve my vision?

    S.P. Rochester, UK

  • What you are currently experiencing may be just be a natural change in your eyesight. Rigid gas permeable (RGP) and soft contact lenses can sometimes change the curvature of the cornea slightly, which would require a change in your lens prescription. If any action is to be taken at this point, your optician is the best person to advise you.

  • My optician recommends that I try Acuvue Oasys contact lenses. How will I know that they are fitted in the right place? Will they move if I blink?

    G.P. Thornton Heath, UK

  • All soft contact lenses, Acuvue Oasys included, are designed to fit smoothly and well on your iris. Once you place the lens on your eye as instructed in our guide to inserting your contact lenses, blink a couple of times and they will fit right into place. Contact lenses are in the right place if they cover the iris, the colored area of your eye. Most importantly, your contact lenses will fit in the right place if you get your eyes tested by your optometrist before buying your contact lenses.

  • Because blood vessels are growing on to my cornea, my practitioner has advised me to change to hard contact lenses. Are there any alternatives to hard lenses that would allow more oxygen on to my eyes?

    J.W. Manchester, UK

  • Your practitioner is right. At this point, soft contact lenses may cause more blood vessels to grow, but rigid gas permeable (RGP) and hard contact lenses will stop this.

    If you are interested in soft contact lenses, ask your practitioner about the newer silicone hydrogel soft contact lenses which are engineered to deliver an abundance of oxygen to the cornea.

Dry Eyes and Contact Lenses

  • I would very much like to keep wearing contact lenses but have been diagnosed with eye dryness. Would a contact lens with a lower water rate help?

    J.C. Bristol, UK

  • Patients who are diagnosed with eye dryness may benefit from contact lenses with a lower water content. Nevertheless, more and more practitioners are opting to prescribe contact lenses with higher water content. Thicker lenses can also help alleviate dry eye symptoms.

  • Why do some contact lenses feel drier than others? Is it better for me to choose a higher or lower water content when selecting lenses?

    D.R. Jedburgh

  • Contact lenses come in a variety of formats and are made from a wide range of materials, the most popular being plastics and silicones. When you wear contact lenses, the environment around you absorbs moisture off the surface of your lens. How your contact lenses feel on your eye also depends on the surrounding temperature and humidity, the flow of tears to your eyes, your health conditions and weather you take medications, and even the cleaning solutions you use.

    While some opticians prefer to prescribe contact lenses with a high water content for people with dry eyes, others prefer to prescribe contact lenses with a low water content. Some contact lenses are even made from material that resists evaporation and locks in moisture like CooperVision’s Proclear and Ciba Vision’s Air Optix. Using silicone hydrogel contact lenses like Bausch and Lomb’s PureVision and Johnson and Johnson’s Acuvue may also alleviate dry eye symptoms.

Eyesight and Your Eyes

  • My optometrist informed me that as a result of over-wearing my contact lenses, blood vessels had grown into the back of the iris. I was told that I couldn’t be fitted with new contact lenses. What eye condition is this, and what can I do in the future?

    K.T. Bridgend, UK

  • Based on the information you have provided, it appears that your cornea has been deprived of oxygen as a result of over-wearing your contact lenses. This triggers ‘neovascularization’, which is the growth of blood vessels where they would not normally be present. Unfortunately, serious eye problems can arise if blood vessels continue to grow on the cornea.

    Essentially, the blood vessel growth will stop once you stop wearing contact lenses. In that case, it is possible that the blood vessel itself remains while the blood inside it disappears, which could make it impossible for you to wear contact lenses again. Depending on your particular condition, you may opt for contact lens which high oxygen permeability if you wish to continue wearing contact lenses.

  • I’ve now been wearing soft contact lenses for about fifteen years. Unfortunately, I seem to constantly have red, bloodshot eyes and sometimes this can get really bad. I’ve tried wearing glasses for long periods instead, but I actually seem to be better when wearing contact lenses. What can I do, and might this be an indication of another, underlying condition?

    H.L. Edinburgh, UK

  • I recommend you consult your optician to investigate your condition fully. It is likely that you are suffering from dry eye syndrome or some type of allergy. It is risky to wear your contact lenses in the presence of inflammation as they may cause the condition to worsen. It is best to wait until the condition is investigated and the main cause of this is understood before wearing contact lenses again.

  • I had to stop wearing contact lenses because small bumps were discovered inside my eyelids. Prior to this, there was some discharge. Can you tell me what may have caused it?

    M.B. Newcastle, UK

  • Small bumps on the eyelid preceded by discharge is often a symptom of allergies like giant papillary conjunctivitis (GPC). This condition arises as a result of the build-up of protein on the surface of your contact lenses and are made worse with a reaction to contact lens solution.

    I recommend visiting your optician and undergoing a full eye exam. Once your optician diagnoses your condition, you may need to use anti-inflammatory eye drops and perhaps stop wearing contact lenses for some time.

  • I was advised by my contact lens practitioner to change to a soft lens as my pupils were enlarged in the evenings and my vision was blurry. The problem is that I find it difficult to read letters because the soft contact lenses, particular the left, don’t completely correct my astigmatism. Is there any solution?

    G.M. Devon, UK

  • The best thing to do is discuss the situation with your optician. You may opt for rigid gas permeable (RGP) contact lenses as have a larger fit and can reduce glare for patients with larger pupils. You may alternatively opt for soft contact lenses that can correct astigmatism.

  • Can strabismus be corrected with contact lenses, or will they make it more noticeable? Also, is surgery an option when a child is older, and what are the alternatives to glasses?

    B.M. Hampstead, UK

  • Strabismus is usually referred to as ‘cross eyes’ or a squint. Normally, contact lenses can treat this condition. If just one of the child’s eyes is affected, an eye patch is used to cover the stronger eye to make the ‘lazy’ eye work harder and ultimately correct it. Contact lenses can be used in the same way.

    I recommend you consult your Orthoptist, who will help reduce squinting by asking your child to do some eye exercises, which may correct the condition. If this remains until your child grows older, corrective surgery is available as an option. It is highly advised that you talk to a specialist for advice that best suits the child.

  • Twelve years ago, I had a corneal ulcer. At the time, I wore contact lenses. Are there any modern lenses that I could wear now?

    M.P. Ayr, UK

  • If you have had corneal problems in the past, you may be able to return to wearing contact lenses now. However, it is recommended that you consult your optician for the most personalized and accurate advice.

  • I’ve worn contact lenses every day for about 10 years. Now, when I go back to glasses I find that my eyes water far more than they previously did. I’m also more light sensitive. Is it possible that I’ve worn my contact lenses too much? The contact lenses I have now are -2.50D and they are 6 months old.

    C.J. Rhyl, UK

  • This is quite a common problem! Your eyes may have simply become accustomed to contact lenses. There is a possibility that you may need your glasses prescription updated. The reason you may be seeing better with your contact lenses than with your glasses because, with your glasses, the greater distance between your eye and the lens may be allowing more air to pass through, therefore making your eyes more watery. Try to wear your glasses for a few day and your eyes may settle and stop becoming more watery.

  • I had a conjunctival haemorrhage 3 days ago? How long should I wait before I can wear my contact lenses again?

    G.F. Scarborough, UK

  • Your optician is the best person to examine your condition and advise on when you can start resume wearing your contact lenses. It is important to resist the temptation of wearing them before consulting your optician as it could potentially damage your eyes if you wear them before your eyes completely heal.

Lens Prescriptions

  • Is a prescription for glasses always higher than the one for contact lenses? If yes, does it matter whether the contact lenses are soft or gas permeable?

    W.D. Aberdeen, UK

  • The vertex distance refers to the distance between the back surface of the lens and the front surface of the eye. Since contact lenses sit directly on the eye, the vertex distance is quite small. This means that, in order for light to focus on the retina, it required less lens strength. This applies to any type or lens.

Eye Color and Colored Lenses

  • I have recently been told that it is possible to have a surgical procedure to change the color of the eye. At present, I wear various colored contacts, but because I have astigmatism and have problems with my sight, I wondered whether surgery might be a solution.

    B.K. Poole, UK

  • No, your eye color cannot be changed by surgery. In fact, eye color is determined by the color pigment that is naturally present in your iris, which is one of the most important and delicate parts of the eye.

    However, there is a wide range of colored contact lenses available in the market that allow you to experiment with your eye color, whether you wish to simply enhance your natural color or change the appearance of your eye color completely. Not only are colored contact lenses available to correct near- and farsightedness, but there are also ones that correct astigmatism.

  • Can I change my eye color or accentuate the natural color using contact lenses? My natural eye color is predominantly green with a ring of brown around the pupil. I’d like to enhance the green and perhaps cover the brown but I don’t really want to rely on colored contact lenses. Can you help?

    L.V. Dundee, UK

  • Unfortunately, no. The best solution to change or enhance your eye color is in fact colored contact lenses. They are safe, easy to use, and available in a wide variety of colors, so why not give them a try?