Contact lenses: What to know before you buy

Wonder what the best type of contact lens for your vision problem, lifestyle or budget is? Compare the pros and cons of specific types of contact lenses.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Contact lenses are more versatile than ever before. Understand the pros and cons of common types of contact lenses — and the ground rules for preventing eye infections.

Soft contact lenses

Soft contact lenses are the most popular type of contact lens both in the United States and worldwide. Soft contact lenses can be used to correct various vision problems, including:

  • Nearsightedness (myopia)
  • Farsightedness (hyperopia)
  • Blurred vision (astigmatism)
  • Age-related loss of close-up vision (presbyopia)
  • Corneal irregularities

Soft contact lenses are comfortable and easier to adapt to than rigid lenses. Soft contact lenses come in various types, such as:

  • Daily wear lenses. Daily wear soft contact lenses are typically the least expensive option. You wear the lenses during the day, and remove them each night to be cleaned and disinfected. How long you can use a single pair of daily wear lenses varies depending on the manufacturer.
  • Extended wear lenses. You can wear extended wear soft contact lenses while you sleep, but they must be removed for cleaning and disinfecting at least once a week. It's important to be cautious with overnight use, though, since it increases the risk of eye infections.
  • Disposable lenses. These lenses are typically more expensive. You wear the lenses during the day and remove them at night. They don't need to be cleaned or disinfected. You use them for the recommended time frame — such as daily, weekly or monthly — and discard them. You might consider disposable lenses if you wear contacts only occasionally, you can't tolerate disinfecting solution or you place a premium on convenience.

Hard contact lenses

Rigid, gas-permeable lenses, or hard contact lenses, provide clear, crisp vision for most vision problems. Hard contact lenses might be especially appealing if you've tried soft contact lenses and been unsatisfied with the results or if you have "dry eyes."

Hard contact lenses are often more breathable than are soft contact lenses, which reduces the risk of eye infections. Most hard contact lenses must be removed for cleaning and disinfection at night, but some can be worn for a week or even 30 days.

It might take anywhere from a few days up to a few weeks to adjust to hard contact lenses. However, if your prescription doesn't change and you take care of your hard contact lenses, you can use the same pair of lenses for up to two to three years.

Oct. 22, 2015 See more In-depth