C O N T A C T . L E N S E S
What are Contact Lenses?
Contact lenses are small, transparent eye- shaped lenses which float in the tear film on top of the cornea, tucking under the eyelids when we blink.
There are two main types of contact lenses: ‘rigid’ lenses are made of more ‘gas permeable’ materials, and ‘soft’ lenses which can best be described as being made of a jelly- like material.
As the cornea does not have a blood supply, it relies on oxygen from the atmosphere dissolving in the tears, which is then absorbed into the cornea to keep it transparent and healthy. Any contact lens must ensure this process continues uninterrupted to maintain clear and healthy eyes. Rigid Lenses are made in a variety of materials which allow oxygen from the atmosphere to pass through the lens to the cornea underneath.
Some people with high prescriptions, and those with keratoconus (a condition of the cornea which makes it steepen unevenly) may find rigid lenses give sharper vision overall. Rigid lenses are also used in orthokeratology, where contact lenses are worn during sleep to gently re- shape the cornea and give clear, spectacle and contact lens free vision during the next day! This can be useful for some sportsmen and women who are distracted by contact lenses while playing, or for those who work in very dusty atmospheres and who cannot tolerate contact lenses in the workplace.
Soft contact lenses fall into two main categories: conventional hydrogel, and silicon hydrogel materials. Technology has constantly improved meaning that lenses have become thinner and healthier for the eyes. Conventional soft lenses are now thin and very safe, made in materials which resist drying out and greasy deposits, and can correct even high degrees of astigmatism, as well as incorporating a reading prescription for the over 50’s.
Silicon hydrogel materials were developed in the last decade using new polymers that allow far more oxygen to the cornea. The aim is to keep the cornea as healthy as possible, increasing the wearing time – and allowing day and night
The whole team at Keith Holland & Associates are enthusiastic about contact lenses and are experienced in advising potential patients, with several members wearing lenses themselves. All our optometrists are experienced with children and nervous patients, and those with dry eyes or high prescriptions, and love to solve complex fitting problems!
Our contact lens teaching team of four are headed up by Julie Craig, who has literally taught patients from 5 to 85 to handle lenses! Julie, Matthew and Julie Rudd will take as much time as is required to ensure each person is well informed about hygiene and confident about handling their lenses before they are issued. As an independent practice, we source the best contact lenses for your needs from anywhere in the world, and are not ‘tied’ to any single lens manufacturer.
Contact lenses are ideal for almost all sports, as they do not fog up in the heat, get splashed with rain and mud, or give a distorted view of the field of play, as can happen with spectacles. Even if contacts are not desired for wear every day, they can be worn on an occasional basis when you play – children and young people find this particularly valuable at school and college.
Skiers find contacts under regular ski goggles open up their visual field compared to wearing spectacles, and can easily switch to fashionable sun specs when off the slopes.
Golfers (especially those over a certain age!) who need reading glasses to mark their score card may find multifocal contacts much more convenient and youthful! For younger golfers, that awkward lie in the rough is easier to see with contact.
Walkers and Mountaineers feel more confident knowing their vision will not suddenly blur after a downpour of rain or snow, nor fog up on exhausting uphill trudges.
Cyclists and Mountain Bikers have improved peripheral awareness in contacts compared to specs – but remember to still protect your eyes against impact and mud – they become your windscreen, and think how dirty your car windscreen gets! (see our section on sports eyewear for more information)
Swimming is the only sporting environment not recommended for contact lenses is swimming, because of the risk of infection from water born bugs, but if it is essential to wear them in the pool or at sea, then daily disposable lenses removed and thrown away straight afterwards are the best option. Contact lenses are a good option however for sailors.
Keith Holland & Associates have been at the forefront of child contact lens fitting for years and have both written articles for, and lectured to, other optometrists on fitting the child patient. Our motivation comes from understanding that contact lenses can often give a better chance of good visual development than can some higher prescriptions made in spectacles.
A child with a high prescription may be able to see with spectacles, but the lenses may cause undue magnification, which affects how the brain makes sense of what it is seeing. If there is a big difference in strength between the two eyes, then the brain may not be able to ‘fuse’ the two images successfully – this is known as anisometropia. Whilst this is a problem in glasses, contact lenses do not cause this problem, and can allow the two eyes to learn to work together again. Once fitted, they may become less clumsy, enjoy sport more and become more confident. Contact lenses can be worn on a part time basis if required, with spectacles at other times .
Clare and Agnes are all experienced in the fitting of children and young people from the age of 5 upwards (although 7 to 8 would be the norm). We try to use disposable lenses where we can, as this takes away the need for lens cleaning, and makes hygienic lens wear easier. Another advantage of daily lenses is that should one be damaged, they are far cheaper to replace!
Our teaching team are as equally committed, giving children as much time as is required and “going the extra mile” for our young patients. They often find that children rise to the occasion of tackling a grown up task like putting contact lenses in and out and looking after them, and report that they follow instructions better than many an adult!
So, if you have children or grandchildren you think we could help, please give the practice a ring!
Astigmatism is a word many have heard of, but often do not understand. It simply means that the front surface of the eye is not spherical in shape, but is shaped more like a rugby ball – more curved in some directions than others. This is easy to correct in spectacles, but used to be difficult to fit with contact lenses –
Modern designs have developed so that most levels of astigmatism can be fitted easily, and lenses are now often available for daily wear (making this great for sportsmen or occasional wearers). In more complex cases of astigmatism, we are able to have lenses tailor-
Contact lenses for presbyopia (the natural reduction in focusing that comes with maturity and leads to the use of reading glasses) are really the last frontier of contact lens fitting. Multi-
C A R E
Looking after your Contact Lenses
It is really important when being fitted with contact lenses to learn how to handle the lenses safely and easily. We take great care over teaching our patients before they are given lenses, and are always available afterwards if there are ever any questions or concerns.
You will be given detailed written instructions when being fitted, but some general advice includes:
First, always wash your hands thoroughly before starting to touch your eyes or lenses, and dry on a lint free towel (or preferably a paper towel).
Use the appropriate solutions recommended by your optometrist, never letting tap water near your contact lenses or case. Replace with fresh solution after each wear.
Replace the contact lens case regularly –
Wear as recommended by your optometrist –
If your eyes feel sore, or appear red, remove the contact lenses even if only part way through the day.
Always have up-
Ensure that you have regular contact lens checks –