Joan Gewirtz, MD - Ophthalmologist

What are the differences between the types of contact lenses?

There are two general categories of contact lenses – soft and rigid gas permeable (RGP). All contact lenses require a valid prescription.
Can I wear contact lenses while playing sports?
  • Soft Contact Lenses
    Soft contact lenses are made of soft, flexible plastics that allow oxygen to pass through to the cornea. Soft contact lenses may be easier to adjust to and are more comfortable than rigid gas permeable lenses. Newer soft lens materials include silicone-hydrogels to provide more oxygen to your eye while you wear your lenses.
  • Rigid Gas Permeable (RGP) Hard Contact Lenses
    This type of contact lenses are very easy to take care of and more durable than soft contact lenses. Rigid gas permeable lenses are made with silicone polymers that allow oxygen to circulate to the cornea of the eye. Compared to soft contact lenses, rigid gas permeable contacts maintain their shape and offer clearer, crispier vision for some types of eye problems corrections. The time required to adjust to rigid gas permeable contact lenses is longer than with soft contact lenses. These contacts tend to be less expensive over the life of the lens since they last longer than soft contact lenses. They are easier to handle and less likely to tear. However, they are not as comfortable initially as soft contacts and it may take a few weeks to get used to wearing RGPs, compared to several days for soft contacts.
  • Extended Wear Contact Lenses
    Extended wear contact lenses are available for overnight or continuous wear ranging from one to six nights or up to 30 days. Extended wear contact lenses are usually soft contact lenses. They are made of flexible plastics that allow oxygen to pass through to the cornea. There are also a very few rigid gas permeable lenses that are designed and approved for overnight wear. Length of continuous wear depends on lens type and your eye care professional's evaluation of your tolerance for overnight wear. It's important for the eyes to have a rest without lenses for at least one night following each scheduled removal.
  • Disposable (Replacement Schedule) Contact Lenses
    The majority of soft contact lens wearers are prescribed some type of frequent replacement schedule. “Disposable,” as defined by the FDA, means used once and discarded. With a true daily wear disposable schedule, a brand new pair of lenses is used each day.

    Some soft contact lenses are referred to as “disposable” by contact lens sellers, but actually, they are for frequent/planned replacement. With extended wear lenses, the lenses may be worn continuously for the prescribed wearing period (for example, 7 days to 30 days) and then thrown away. When you remove your lenses, make sure to clean and disinfect them properly before reinserting.
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