“Disposable” soft contact lenses have been used for vision correction by millions of people since they were first introduced in 1987. And for good reason: they offer many advantages. But the term “disposable contact lens” can mean different things to different people. In this pamphlet a “disposable contact lens” means a lens that is worn only once and then thrown away. That can be for a single day, with a fresh lens put in every morning and thrown away before bedtime each night (daily disposable lenses), or can continue day and night for up to a week, with the lens thrown away immediately the first time it is taken out (extended wear disposable lenses). Any other use–especially when the lens is regularly taken out cleaned, disinfected, and put back in the eye–doesn’t qualify as “disposable” as we mean it here.
What Are the Advantages of Disposable Lenses?
Disposable contact lenses have many advantages. Here are the most important:
- They are very convenient. There’s no hassle with cleaning or disinfecting the lenses. But there’s one important safety rule: if you take a lens out, throw it away. Put only clean, fresh, sterile lenses on your eyes.
- Clean, fresh, sterile lenses are simply more comfortable.
- Because they are used just once and just for a limited time, protein and other materials have less chance to build up on these lenses. Fewer deposits on the lens mean fewer problems and more consistent performance. For example, some people have allergic reactions to built-up deposits, while for others, deposits can cause discomfort. Disposable lenses help prevent these problems.
- In general, wearers of disposable lenses have fewer eye health problems than wearers of conventional lenses. However, this is true only when one compares lenses that are worn the same way. No matter whether the lenses are conventional or disposable replacement, wearing contact lenses overnight on a regular basis (called extended wear) increases the risk of problems.
- Disposable contact lenses are problem-solvers. In the past, many of the people who stopped wearing contact lenses did so to avoid the inconvenience of cleaning and disinfecting them. Other patients had to give up contact lens wear because of reactions to their lens care solutions. Still others were forced to stop due to high sensitivity to deposits on lenses. People in all these categories are excellent candidates for disposable contact lenses. For these people, disposable contact lenses may allow a safe and convenient return to contact lens wear.
What Are the Disadvantages of Disposable Lenses?
Though they are an excellent choice for many people, disposable contact lenses are not for everybody.
- Your specific prescription may not be available. However at this time, disposable lenses are available in most, but not all, prescriptions.
- Disposable contact lenses cost more than conventional contact lenses. Since they do not require lens care solutions, though, and usually trigger fewer office visits to the eye care practitioner, the total cost of using disposable contact lenses may be very close to the total cost of conventional contact lenses. Discuss this with your eye care practitioner.
- Because wear and care is so easy, one can get a false sense of security with disposable contact lenses. In spite of their comfort and convenience, remember that all contact lenses are medical devices that require periodic checkups from your eye care practitioner.
- For the patients who have worn conventional contact lenses, it sometimes takes a bit of effort to accept the idea that disposable lenses are meant to be thrown out after just one use. Today’s advanced technologies have allowed manufacturers to bring these lenses to the market. Disposing of these lenses away after a single use is vital for two reasons: first, for maximum safety the lenses must be discarded; and, second, a fresh lens each time ensures that you receive the comfort, clear vision and convenience that are the hallmarks of disposable contact lens wear.
Do Disposable Lenses Correct Reading Problems For People Over 40?
For people who do not want to wear bifocal glasses, there are several disposable contact lens options. One is to wear disposable contact lenses for distance vision and use glasses over them for reading or other close work. For those who don’t want to wear glasses at all, disposable contact lenses can be fit using a technique called monovision. One eye is corrected for distance vision and the other eye for near vision. About eighty percent of patients who try monovision are satisfied with the results. Disposable bifocal contact lenses are now available in many designs. Discuss all these options with your eye care practitioner.
Do Disposable Lenses Correct Astigmatism?
Yes, disposable contact lenses are now available in toric prescriptions that correct for most astigmatic conditions.
Are Tinted Lenses Available?
Yes. Some disposable lenses have a light blue or blue-green “visibility tint” which makes the lens easier to see when handling. A visibility tint does not affect the color of your eyes. There are also tinted lenses that can enhance or change your eye color. Tinted disposable lenses are another option for today’s contact lens wearer.
Can I Get Protection From Ultraviolet Radiation?
Yes, some disposable contact lenses have a blocker additive that absorbs ultraviolet radiation. Exposure to ultraviolet radiation has been implicated in cataracts and retinal damage. While these UV-blocking contact lenses are beneficial, they are not a substitute for UV-absorbing eyewear such as UV-absorbing goggles or sun-glasses. The FDA has not approved any contact lens with a UV-blocker as a substitute for UV protective eyewear. Patients should continue to use their protective UV-absorbing eyewear as directed. The effectiveness of wearing UV-blocking contact lenses in preventing or reducing the incidence of ocular disorders has not yet been established.
How Do I Get Started With Disposable Lenses?
- First, have a comprehensive eye examination by your eye care practitioner. This will determine whether you are a good candidate for disposable contact lenses.
- Have a practitioner fit you with an initial pair of disposable contact lenses. You should be able to wear the lenses for a brief period of time to determine how comfortable they are and how well you are able to see with them.
- Once you have been instructed and know how to apply and remove your lenses, be certain to return for all of your scheduled follow-up examinations. Follow-up is critical in assuring long-term health and safety with lenses.
Disposable Lens Wear Tips
- Do not reuse a disposable lens. Whenever you remove a disposable contact lens, throw it away.
- Regular checkups are vital for safe wear. If you choose to wear contact lenses, you must accept the responsibility for wearing them safely, which includes periodic eye examinations.
- Don’t wear your lenses for longer than you have been instructed to. It may seem economical to do so, but putting your eyes at risk is a poor way to save money.
- If your eyes become red, painful, or sensitive to light, or if your vision becomes blurry , remove your lenses and call your eye care practitioner immediately! Remember the phrase, “When in doubt, take your lenses out!”
The above information is taken from the CLAO Patient Information Pamphlet titled DISPOSABLE SOFT CONTACT LENSES. Pamphlet Advisor was Peter R. Holyk, MD. Copyright 1998-2004 Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists, Inc. Thanks to Contact Lens Docs for content used in the creation of this website. All rights reserved. Reproduction other than for one-time personal use is strictly prohibited.