CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe for £25 today CLICK HERE

Broaden Your Contacts

PUBLISHED: 14:29 21 January 2008 | UPDATED: 15:00 20 February 2013

Hard or soft contact lenses - what's the difference?

Hard or soft contact lenses - what's the difference?

At its basic level, it is much easier to wear contact lenses in the drizzle than to have to keep cleaning and drying your specs. And, of course, contact lenses are frequently seen as the ideal way of correcting vision while playing sport, where un...

There are a wide variety of lenses, from single-use lenses (use once and throw away) to lenses that last for a week, a fortnight or a month. These are all examples of lenses that are 'disposable', which are types of 'soft' lenses. They can be made in clear material so that they are all but invisible on the eye, or they can be made coloured to enhance or change your eye colour. They can even have crazy patterns on them for fun in the party season.


While wearing contact lenses is very safe, there are some common-sense rules to keep the lenses clean and undamaged so as to avoid the risk of infection or injury to the eye. Apart from daily disposable lenses, all other types must be kept in a contact lens case in the right cleaning solution when not being worn. Lenses should never be shared with anyone else and they must be fitted and checked regularly by a qualified contact lens practitioner. There is no shortage of places to go to be fitted, where they will take care of your eyes and contacts. A trip along any high street will reveal any number of practices supplying and fitting lenses.


You would be forgiven for thinking that all contact lenses are 'soft', and it is true that of the 3 million plus contact lens wearers in the UK, the majority do wear soft lenses. However, there is still a sizeable minority of people wearing the modern (or gas-permeable) version of the 'hard' lens, first generally introduced in the 1950s.


For some higher prescriptions, such as people with moderate to high short-sightedness, or with an irregular cornea causing astigmatism, a rigid, gas-permeable lens can give much better vision than a soft lens.



Of the 3 million plus contact lens wearers in the UK, the majority wear 'soft' lenses



Whilst they take longer to fit and adapt to, the advantages of these gas-permeable lenses are considerable in some cases. They still need to be carefully looked after and to be kept in proper cleaning solutions overnight, but they can last up to a year, making them an economic alternative to soft lenses.


It is the gas-permeable type of lens that is used in a process called OrthoK, in which normal vision is achieved during the day by the overnight wearing of a lens that moulds the eye into the correct shape for normal vision. The lens is removed in the morning to leave a 'normal' eye for all waking hours - a bit like orthodontics for the eye.


There are now many people who started wearing lenses in their twenties and who have reached the age where reading glasses are needed as well. Typically this happens in the mid-forties, and there are a number of ways in which contact lenses can be used to correct both long-distance vision and near vision at the same time.


So don't be put off trying contact lenses. Go and find out what can be done with the enormous range of products available today and see how they can enhance your lifestyle. BY RICHARD LLEWELLYN


Richard Llewellyn is an optometrist and Senior Partner in Turners Optometrists Aspen House, 67 Wembdon Road, Bridgwater, TA6 7DR. Tel 01278 422978

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Somerset Life