Contact lenses have come a long way since their public inception decades ago. Vision correction is no simple thing, and since contact lenses correct your vision in different ways, it’s important to know that there is no single type of contact lens. Depending on your situation, you might need a different type of contact lens. It can be hard lens – also known as rigid, gas permeable lens (RGP) – or a soft lens, which come in different variations.

Hard Lenses

Used ever since their first public inception, hard lenses are made from plastics, silicone, or fluoropolymers. They’re called hard lenses because they keep their shape all the time, but also allow free flow of oxygen to the cornea. They’re the best choice when a person faces astigmatism – when the cornea is shaped like an egg. They’re also recommended when a person has allergies or is prone to protein buildup on their contacts.

Soft Lenses

Over 85% of the people that use lenses wear soft lenses. They’re usually made from soft plastic polymers and water, and allow oxygen to permeate the material just like with hard lenses. Because of the lighter materials, they conform around the shape of the eye, and many of the wearers consider them the most comfortable. They come in many different prescription, depending on your needs, but usually don’t offer the same visual acuity as hard lenses.

Disposable contact lenses

These soft lenses are lenses that are removed daily, weekly, biweekly, or monthly, depending on the prescription. They’re made to be removed so that protein deposits don’t build up, because that can affect your vision, and even the health of your eyes. The disposable contact lenses are available in most prescription as well.

Extended wear lenses

The extended wear lenses can be either soft or hard lenses, with the addition of the wearer being able to wear them up to 30 days safely, even when sleeping. But while they may be safe to wear at night, there are certain risks that have to be taken into account. When sleeping with these lenses there’s a higher risk of infection, corneal ulcers, and abnormal vessel growth in the cornea. With these lenses there’s a higher need of regular checkups with doctors, which is why they’re not as often recommended.

Cosmetic contact lenses

While not recommended for everyday wear, these cosmetic lenses come in unique and fashionable colors and patterns. They can alter the color of your eyes, or bring out their natural colors, and even increase the shine and size of the iris. They’re generally pretty comfortable to wear, but it’s not recommended to wear them before an eye exam. Always consult with a medical professional about wearing these lenses, because they can cause irreversible damage to your eyes if used incautiously.

Understanding the differences between lenses can really save you the trouble of wearing the different type. If you’re unsure on which type is most suitable for you, consulting with a professional is your smartest move, because the eyes are sensitive enough as it is.