Hard vs. Soft Lenses: Comparing Contact Lens Choices



Contact lenses can be a great solution for individuals who need vision correction but can’t or don’t want to wear glasses—they are virtually invisible and easy to use and replace. But it can be hard to decide which contacts are right for you, especially if you’ve never had a pair before. Here are the pros and cons of the two main types of contact lenses: hard and soft.



Hard Lenses

Hard contacts, also known as rigid gas permeable lenses (RGPs), are made out of durable, rigid plastic. Usually RGP lenses are made from a combination of silicone and other plastics. These contacts are smaller in diameter than their soft counterparts.




Can Correct a Wide Range of Eyesight Problems: Because RGP lenses are fitted to your cornea, they can be better adapted to correct difficult vision problems.


Offer Clearer Vision: Originally, hard lenses were made from glass and required high levels of blinking to aerate the eye. The silicone currently used in rigid lenses transmits more oxygen to the eye than soft lenses or previous types of hard lenses.


Additionally, because the lens holds its shape each time you blink, it offers vision that is consistently sharper and clearer than soft lenses.


Durable: Hard lenses can last for a year or more with proper care. Because of their sturdy material, they cannot be torn (though they may be shattered if stepped on). And, because hard lenses don’t include any water, they aren’t susceptible to the buildup that can decommission soft lenses.





Uncomfortable: Rigid contacts don’t have as much give as soft contacts, which can make them uncomfortable. It may take up to a week to get used the feeling of having the contacts in and users will likely always be aware they have the contacts in.


Require Constant Use: Many contact wearers switch back and forth between contacts and glasses, depending on their activities and comfort level with each. However, this may not be possible with hard contact lenses. Hard lenses must be worn daily, or wearers will have to readjust their eyes.


May Shift or Fall Out: While you’re getting used to hard contact lenses, there is a high likelihood of them shifting or even falling out. This problem may continue after you get used to the contacts, as they don’t change shape to reflect the natural movement of your eye.



Soft Lenses

Soft contact lenses are also made out of plastics, but they have the consistency of cling wrap rather than stiffness of RGP lenses. These lenses mold to the shape of your eye and come in a several different longevities—from single-use lenses to six month contacts.





Low-Maintenance: Because soft contacts come in short-term or disposable types, they are made to be as low-maintenance as possible. You will only need to perform basic cleanings and storage.


Comfortable: Soft contacts mold to the shape of your eye, moving with it. This makes them instantly comfortable for most wearers, even those who have never used contacts before.


Provide Flexible Wear Options: These contacts can be worn in circumstances when rigid lenses would be impractical or uncomfortable, such as while swimming. Wearers can switch between contacts and glasses as often as they like. You may even be able to fall asleep with soft contact lenses in without realizing.





May Cause Irritation: Soft lenses can pick up irritants from soap, hand lotion, and makeup. When these substances adhere to the surface of your contact, they can cause irritation, discomfort, pain, or vision limitations. The lenses will need to be cleaned or replaced.


Are Easily Damaged: Because soft contact lenses are extremely flexible, they are also susceptible to ripping or warping.


Wear Out Quickly: Even soft contact lenses that are intended to last for several months may not last that long because they become dirty or damaged easily.


If you are considering switching to contact lenses, or adding contact lenses to your corrective vision procedures, talk to your optometrist. Most of the time you can pick up everything you will need—contacts, saline solution, and optical health vitamins—right in your optometrist’s office (source: Dr. Bishops & Associates, who provide contact lenses in Calgary). Contact lenses can be more convenient, flexible, and simple than glasses alone.


Knowing the benefits and disadvantages of each choice can help you decide which avenue you’d like to pursue.


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