Am I suitable for contact lenses?
This is something we get asked very often!
The answer, however, is not so clear cut; there are many considerations when someone first presents for a contact lens consultation. Not only whether they are suitable for contact lenses per se, but which type, which material, which disinfecting system, which modality. The list goes on, not forgetting which price range is appropriate.
From a prescription point of view, it’s a shame that some spectacle wearers or previously lapsed contact lens wearers presume contact lenses are not suitable for them because of outdated information. Contact lens materials in particular have improved tremendously over the last few years and computer-aided software has meant that prescriptions and designs that had previously been impossible are now in regular use including lenses for high astigmatism, multifocal designs for those of us needing reading glasses and complex custom made designs. It is worth noting however that unlike us, not all optical practices have access to all lens designs as some have a limited range of contact lens suppliers.
So your prescription is no barrier to wearing contact lenses but there are other considerations…
Age and dexterity?
All age ranges wear contact lenses at our practice from young children (sometimes just for sport) to the elderly, as long as the eyes are healthy and lens handling is possible. Parents can be involved and taught to safely apply and remove contact lenses for the very young, if this is deemed necessary.
Responsible and compliant?
This is not always a given; contact lens wear, however minimal, does carry an increased risk of infection, so a responsible approach is required.
Requirements and motives?
Most new wearers have regular prescriptions with healthy eyes and the process of fitting contact lenses is straightforward. However, occasionally a new wearer’s requests and expectations need to be managed with care. For example, someone attending that has had a history of recurrent eye infections with already poor vision is at high risk of further complications and therefore would be fitted with far more caution, if at all.
Of course, there are many varied scenarios. Contact lens wear and which type is to be considered carefully and advice is given accordingly. Occasionally, one type of lens is advised for regular wear and alternative design for sport.
Some health conditions such as diabetes also need to be addressed so that the risks are minimised. Any other general health concerns discussed in addition to their likely impact on the contact lens wear. Some medications can have an effect on your vision and on the tear film which can lead to dry eyes and associated complications.
Allergies or skin complaints?
Allergic responses can cause some issues as can skin complaints such as eczema. Contact lenses can still be fitted in most cases but extra care with hygiene, use of lubricants, daily disposable designs where available and wearing times managed.
Ocular health/family history of eye problems/previous contact lens wear
Along with all the above a full history is essential so good management of contact lens wear is maintained and risks evaluated.
At the assessment, a special microscope called a slit-lamp is used to examine the front of the eye where a contact lens sits to check the surface is healthy and there are no contraindications. Fluorescein (an orange dye) is often instilled to check tear quality and quantity. Measurements are taken and sometimes a detailed map of the front surface using an instrument called a topographer to rule out any issues regarding the curvature of the eye.
Once all the aforementioned areas have been considered and discussed, contact lens options can be recommended with the relevant pros and cons of each approach. The contact lens trial would then follow on from this and lenses placed on the eye so fitting can continue. A new wearer’s initial response to a lens being placed on the eye is usually favorable, but again needs to be factored in to suitability.
Regular aftercare for a contact lens wearer is paramount to success as is compliance to any instructions given regarding safe wear and handling. A full eye examination usually every two years is still necessary.