How to Buy Contact Lenses: A Guide for Beginners

hands holding how to buy contact lenses booklet

Wearing contacts is a convenient way to correct your vision without having to wear glasses or go for LASIK surgery. But with so many options available, there are some things you should know about buying contact lenses.

Choosing the right contacts can be difficult. It's hard to decide which lenses may be the most comfortable for you or which is best brand for your eyes. Even the price is a consideration. And that's why you're here!

Whether you're a new or experienced contact lens wearer, you’re sure to learn a thing or two from this guide on how to buy contact lenses. We’ll discuss some of the basics about contact lenses so you can make an educated decision about what will work best for your situation.

Types of Contact Lenses

white contacts case with contact on top

The first thing you need to think about when buying contact lenses is the type of material used. This matters for both comfort and ease of wear.

PMMA

Polymethyl methacrylate, or PMMA lenses, are otherwise known as hard contact lenses. PMMA is a rigid plastic that is also used in the construction of shatterproof glass or Plexiglas.

PMMA contact lenses are less popular now because they do not transmit oxygen to the eye. This makes it more difficult to get used to and can dry out the eyes more easily.

Gas Permeable

Gas permeable lenses resemble PMMA lenses but allow more oxygen into the eye. They are also easier to fit than PMMA lenses and provide sharper vision than their silicone hydrogel counterparts.

It may take a little time to adjust to these lenses, but most people report that they are just as comfortable as soft contacts in the long-run.

Soft Lenses

Soft contact lenses generally feel comfortable immediately. They consist of gel-like plastics that contain water, or hydrogels. The lenses conform to the eye easily with a thin and pliable material.

Silicone Hydrogel

These advanced soft lenses have recently become the most popular lens in America. In fact, 68% of contact lens fittings in 2014 were for silicone hydrogel lenses!

They allow for more oxygen to reach the cornea than other types of soft contact lenses and can be more comfortable to wear. With more oxygen flow, this type of contact lens reduces the risks of hypoxia or oxygen deficiency. As a result, this lessens your chance of eye infections and irritation as well.

Hybrid

Hybrid lenses are gas permeable at the center with a hydrogel or silicone hydrogel outer edge. They are not as popular with contact lens wearers because they are more difficult to fit and slightly more expensive than soft lenses. However, they are just as comfortable as their silicone hydrogel rivals.

Length of Wear for Contacts

white contacts case with blue lid off, solution dripping in

The next thing you need to consider when deciding which type of contact lens to choose is how much time you want to dedicate to care and cleaning. Different types of contact lenses call for different care routines. Depending on your personal preferences, this will affect the levels of convenience as well.

Daily Disposables

Daily disposable contacts are worn only once for a day and then thrown away. Some people may think of this as wasteful, but it can be a convenient way to avoid getting bacteria on your lenses from improper care.

If you think you’ll have trouble cleaning your contacts after each use, daily disposable lenses may suit your lifestyle.

Weekly Wear

Weekly wear contacts are for regular daily use and cleaned nightly for a week before disposal. Many people prefer weekly wear lenses because the risks of bacterial deposits forming on the lenses are minimal.

Monthly Wear

Monthly wear lenses are often an economical choice for people who wear contacts. These lenses are worn daily for one month before disposal.

You should clean them proficiently and store them away each night. Although monthly wear contacts may be easier on your wallet, you might have to devote more time to them. Cleaning them each night reduces your chances of infection and discomfort.

Things to Consider When Buying Contacts

blonde woman in white blouse with black glasses on in a thoughtful pose

Once you’ve decided on the type of contacts you want, the purchase process goes beyond searching for the best brand. There are other features available that could make a difference in how you buy your contacts.

Fitting

Your contact lens prescription may have a few different symbols or abbreviations that indicate how and why they will fit your eye. This is important for your order no matter where you purchase your lenses.

Custom Lenses

If you're having a difficult time finding contact lenses that fit you correctly, you may be a candidate for custom contact lenses. As lenses made to order for your specific visual needs, they will not only give you better comfort, but also sharper visual acuity.

UV-Blocking Lenses

Your eyes are just as susceptible to the sun's ultraviolet rays as your skin. That's why you should wear UV-blocking lenses if you'll be in the sun for extended periods of time.

These contacts can block out up to 97% of UVB and 81% of UVA rays. But you should always wear sunglasses in addition to UV-blocking lenses for maximum protection. Contact lenses cannot protect the entire eye surface or the surrounding areas.

Color Lenses

Even if you don't need contacts to correct your vision, you can order color contact lenses to enhance or even change your natural eye color. You will need a prescription from a licensed eye doctor.

You may also find these lenses in your medical prescription to correct your vision and have a little fun at the same time.

Relief for Dry Eyes

Some people experience overwhelming dry eyes due to allergies or other health conditions. There are contacts specifically designed to reduce the risk of lens-related dry eye issues.

woman rubbing dry eyes

Prosthetic Lenses

Patients who have sustained injury or disease to the eye use prosthetic lenses. These special lenses mask disfigurements and improve remaining functionality in the eye. This type of lens comes in either gas permeable or soft lenses.

Final Thoughts

Buying contacts and shopping for contacts are very different things. So now that you know how to buy contact lenses, you can start shopping.

Don't hesitate to ask your ophthalmologist for a 30-day trial pair while you compare prices and find the best deal. You'll probably save money by shopping online in lieu of ordering contacts from your doctor. Not to mention, you’ll also get the added convenience of having your contact lenses shipped directly to your doorstep.

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