Hard Contact Lenses
The first mass produced contact lenses were made from a rigid material called PMMA. The stiff material was able to effectively correct vision problems, but it was uncomfortable to wear and did not allow oxygen to pass through the lens to the eye. Without a healthy supply of oxygen, PMMA lens wearers often suffered from swollen corneas that resulted in clouded vision and painful scratching. To combat these negative side effects, researchers created rigid gas-permeable lenses (RGP), also known as oxygen permeable lenses. RGP lenses provide the durability and crisp vision of a rigid lens, while still allowing plenty of oxygen to pass through and nourish the eye. With the advent of soft contact lenses and RGP lenses, few people wear PMMA lenses anymore.
The Benefits of Rigid Contact Lenses
While many contact lens wearers report the highest comfort levels from soft contacts, RGP lenses offer a host of benefits that make them a more suitable choice for some people.
- Durability. Rigid lenses are notoriously durable, which means they are long-lasting and can save you money in the long run. Although they can break if you step on them, they aren’t susceptible to the same kinds of tears that can occur frequently with softer water-based contact lenses.
- Resist buildup and deposits. Soft contact lenses are made partly from water, so it’s easier for them to pick up protein deposits and buildups from your tears. Unlike soft lenses, RGP lenses are not made from a water-based material. This means that they resist protein and lipid buildups, making them easier to clean and wear.
- Clear, sharp vision. Because RGP lenses are rigid, they do a good job of maintaining their shape – even when you are blinking. A rigid lens allows for clear, crisp, and consistently sharp vision at all times. However, because RGP lenses do not mold to your eye, they can be uncomfortable at first. Once your eye adapts to the shape of the lens, you can enjoy long-term comfort as long as they are worn on a consistent basis.
How Long Does It Take To Get Used to Hard Contact Lenses?
One of the main reasons that so many people choose soft over RGP lenses is because of the initial period of discomfort associated with hard contacts. Soft lenses are pliable, water-based lenses that can mold to your eye instantly. RGP lenses, on the other hand, do not share this characteristic flexibility. When they are first worn, you may experience a slight annoyance similar to having an eyelash caught in your eye. As time passes, your eye gets used to the sensation of the RGP lens and discomfort disappears entirely.
The amount of time it takes to get used to the RGP lens tickling your eyelid varies from eye to eye and lens to lens. Your certified eye care specialist may recommend a wearing schedule that only calls for a few hours per day initially. As you adapt to your new RGP lenses, you can leave them in for longer and longer until you don’t notice them at all. Your optometrist or ophthalmologist can give you plenty of tips and tricks to get past the first few days of a new RGP lens regimen. If you aren’t sure if RGP lenses are right for you, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor to go over the pros and cons of each solution.
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