Soft contact lenses are certainly the most common lenses used for visual correction, but many more options exist that can provide equally comfortable and consistent vision. Specialty contact lenses such as scleral lenses or rigid gas permeable lenses can be excellent choices for those who have tried soft contact lenses unsuccessfully in the past, or even for those who simply want to try something new. They can be particularly useful for people who suffer from dry eye disease, who have high amounts of astigmatism, or who require special visual demands. Below is a guide to a few specialty contact lens options.
Gas Permeable Specialty Contact Lenses
Gas permeable (GP) lenses are small rigid lenses that rest on the center of the cornea and are commonly thought of as “traditional” lenses, as they have been around for quite a long time. GP lenses are still around today and have undergone several upgrades to make them healthier and more comfortable than when they were initially introduced many years ago. GP lenses are made of a firm plastic that efficiently transmits oxygen and water to the front surface of the eye, while also providing stable and consistent vision. They are very effective lenses for those with high amounts of astigmatism. They are even useful in the treatment of a degenerative corneal condition known as keratoconus, which results in irregular astigmatism that is difficult to correct with regular soft contact lenses. Gas permeable lenses are durable; one pair can last up to a year with proper care and cleaning, making them a great financial decision.
Hybrid Contact Lenses
Hybrid contact lenses are a combination of soft contact lenses and gas permeable lenses. The center of hybrid lenses is rigid, like a GP or scleral lens. This rigid center is surrounded by a soft “skirt” that is made of the same material as some of the most common soft contact lenses. They are specially designed to provide excellent optics and great stability, with the added comfort of a soft contact lens. Like gas permeable lenses, hybrid lenses can be used for keratoconus or high amounts of astigmatism.
Multifocal Contact Lenses
Multifocal contact lenses, which can be used to provide clear vision both up close and far away, can come in many different designs. Soft contact lenses and gas permeable lenses can both incorporate a multifocal design, and even multifocal scleral lenses are becoming more easily accessible. Both soft and GP contact lenses have different types of multifocal designs to properly meet visual demands. Some soft lenses have the distance portion in the middle of the lens with a surrounding near prescription, while others overlay both prescriptions in a unique optical design. Gas permeable lenses also provide several different options for multifocal designs, all allowing clear vision at many distances so all visual needs can be met. While these multifocal lenses may require several appointments and a few tweaks, they are an excellent option for those who want clear vision at all distances without have to rely on reading glasses or bifocal lenses.