What Is Astigmatism?
Two parts of the eye, the cornea and the crystalline lens, are responsible for focusing light onto the retina at the back of the eye so that we may see images clearly. The normal cornea is round like a basketball. A cornea with astigmatism is shaped more like a football. Because of this irregularity in shape, light will not focus perfectly on the retina, and the result is blurred vision. (The crystalline lens may also be responsible for astigmatism, but in most instances corneal astigmatism is responsible.) One way to correct astigmatism is to wear soft toric contact lenses.
What Is a Soft Toric Contact Lens?
Eyes with astigmatism may need a special contact lens that can compensate for the slightly irregular shape of the cornea or the crystalline lens. This special contact lens is called a toric lens. A soft toric contact lens is simply a toric contact lens that is made from a water-based gel material that provides great comfort and good vision when placed on the eye.
Are Soft Toric Contact Lenses as Comfortable as Regular Soft Contact Lenses?
Yes. Soft toric lenses are made of exactly the same comfort-producing gel materials as regular soft contact lenses. As with regular soft lenses, oxygen can pass through toric soft lenses, allowing the surface of the eye to "breathe." Because they are made of the same materials, you care for your toric soft lenses just as you would for regular soft contact lenses.
Can Someone Who Has Astigmatism and Is Nearsighted (or Farsighted) Wear a Toric Lens?
Yes. A toric contact lens can correct either nearsightedness or farsightedness at the same time it corrects astigmatism.
How Do Soft Toric Lenses Differ from Regular Soft Contact Lenses?
Regular soft contact lenses have only one curvature for correcting vision. Toric lenses have two correcting curvatures. Regular soft contact lenses freely rotate while being worn. Soft toric lenses are designed to fit on the eye like a hand-in-glove and therefore should not rotate.
How Well Will I See with Soft Toric Contact Lenses?
Quite well indeed. Studies have found that vision with toric soft contact lenses is comparable to vision with eyeglasses. There are some cases in which vision with toric soft lenses is not quite as good as vision with glasses, but it is still better than vision with non-toric soft lenses.
Can I Go Home with My New Toric Lenses Today?
Possibly, but maybe not. Because they are more complex than regular lenses and are available in so many different power combinations, toric lenses have to be custom fit to your eyes. First, the right fit has to be found. In many cases, new lenses must be ordered to your precise specifications. When the lenses arrive, the fit and quality of vision will be checked on your eyes before the lenses are dispensed to you. The process can usually be completed in a few days. What about Cost?
Because toric soft contact lenses are more difficult to make and take more time to fit, contact lens fitting fees tend to be higher than for single vision contact lenses. The lenses themselves also tend to cost more than single vision lenses. So, toric lenses tend to cost a bit more than regular soft lenses (lenses for nearsightedness alone).
Are there Alternatives to Soft Toric Lenses?
Yes. Sometimes, when the amount of astigmatism is small, a regular soft contact lens will "mask" the astigmatism, and a toric lens won't be needed. Greater amounts of astigmatism can be corrected by toric soft contact lenses, eyeglasses, or rigid contact lenses. The great advantage of toric soft lenses over rigid contact lenses is comfort. First-time wearers get used to toric soft lenses very quickly, whereas several weeks may be required to get used to rigid contact lenses. But rigid contact lenses have advantages, too: they are a bit easier to care for than soft lenses; they last longer; and many people find they provide crisper vision.
Can I Get an Extended Wear Soft Toric Lens?
Yes. Extended wear soft toric lenses are available. You can even get disposable extended wear soft toric lenses and planned replacement daily wear soft toric lenses.
What About Different Colors?
Toric lenses come in a variety of colors. However, the choice of colors may be more limited than with regular lenses.
The above information is taken, with some revision, from the CLAO Patient Information Pamphlet titled SOFT TORIC CONTACT LENSES FOR ASTIGMATISM. Pamphlet Advisor was Barry A. Maltzman, MD. Copyright 1994-2004 Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists, Inc. The above information was produced for Contact Lens Docs.Com. Advisors were William H. Ehlers, MD, Srilata Naidu , MD and Thomas L. Steinemann, MD Copyright 2006, 2009 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.