Types of Contact Lenses

Are you considering changing to contact lenses from glasses or do you just want to wear contact lenses occasionally? Maybe you’ve worn lenses in the past but are considering them again? If so, you might just have a few questions about what's available.

To help you go to your optician with a better understanding of what contact lenses are available and what type might work best for you, the team at Vision Direct have put together this guide. If you’ve got any questions, just reach out to our super-friendly team of optical experts. Also remember that you’ll need to speak to your optician about booking a contact lens eye test and fitting if you want to find out what lenses will match your prescription.

Different types of contact lenses

Contact lenses can be separated into 3 defining types:

Standard/spherical contact lenses

The most commonly used contact lens module that replicates the spherical surface of the eye, these lenses can correct myopia (short-sightedness) and hyperopia (long-sightedness). Unlike other types, spherical lenses have the same optical power throughout each lens. Myopia, a common eye condition, causes objects in the distance to look blurred, while anything else up close can be seen clearly. Hyperopia is a condition that results in the opposite, meaning nearby objects appear blurry, and your eyes are able to focus on distant objects, with ease.

Symptoms of myopia:

  • Eye fatigue/eye strain
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision when trying to focus on distant objects
  • Difficulty when driving, particularly in the dark
  • Having to squint or partly close your eyes to see clearly

Symptoms of hyperopia:

  • Headaches
  • Needing to squint to see close-up objects properly
  • Blurred vision of objects nearby
  • Eye strain or tired dry eyes after activities like writing, reading or working on the computer
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Toric contact lenses

Specifically designed to correct the common refractive error, astigmatism, toric contact lenses ensure a comfortable fit and crystal-clear vision. Having astigmatism means that either one or both of your eyes feature an incorrectly shaped lens or cornea, and as a result prevent the light from entering your eye properly, causing blurred vision. Standard spherical lenses won’t work effectively, however, toric lenses, with different levels of correction, and a secure, stable design, guide the light accurately and correct your visual acuity, regardless of the distance.

Symptoms of astigmatism:

  • Eye strain or discomfort
  • Blurred or distorted vision
  • Squinting
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty with night vision

Multifocal contact lenses

Wearers with presbyopia can benefit from multifocal contact lenses, which are made with multiple prescriptions, built into a single lens. The eye condition presbyopia is often caused by aging, resulting in your eye’s natural lens becoming more flexible and struggling to focus on things close-up. With the help of multifocal lenses, you can experience uninterrupted vision of objects up close, at intermediate distance, or further away. These lenses are alternatively known as bifocal, varifocal or progressive, and are a convenient, fuss-free way to experience seamless transitions while not needing reading glasses.

Symptoms of presbyopia:

  • Blurry print
  • Headaches
  • Eye strain
  • Near-vision problems
  • Age – people in their 40s typically are at higher risk for developing presbyopia

Different wearing patterns

As everyone leads different lifestyles, soft contact lenses are supplied in a variation of different wearing patterns, including:

Daily disposable

Daily disposable contact lenses, also known as dailies, are designed to be worn for 1 day and then thrown away. They require no additional products, such as contact lens solution, although wearers sometimes find it handy to have some eye drops available if their eyes start to dry out.

Dailies are great for the following people:

  • Busy professionals or people that don’t want to be tied into additional cleaning and maintenance routines
  • People that only want to wear lenses occasionally, especially sport enthusiasts
  • Allergy sufferers - due to the short frequency of wear, there’s less time for dirt and allergens to build up on the surface and cause irritation

Two-weekly disposable

Two-weekly disposable lenses are sometimes referred to as weekly wear lenses. As the name suggests they’re worn daily for a period of two weeks then replaced with a new pair.

Two-weekly contact lenses require daily cleaning and storage overnight. For this, you'll need a compatible contact lens solution. There are many types of contact lens solutions and your optician will recommend one that works best, but nowadays most multi-purpose solutions are safe to use with soft contact lenses. If you’re wearing silicone hydrogel lenses it’s worth double checking these are compatible if buying your own lens solution.

Two-weekly lenses are great for the following people:

  • First time wearers - they’re often recommended for teenagers who want to wear their lenses frequently, as they don’t require as much care as monthly lenses
  • For dry eye sufferers who are struggling with monthly lenses and want a lower cost alternatively to daily disposables

Monthly disposables

Monthly disposables are often called monthlies, and similar to two-weekly lenses they’re worn daily, cleaned and stored overnight. As you’ve probably guessed already, you wear these lenses for a month and then change them for a new pair.

Monthlies are great for the following people:

  • People who want to wear their lenses 5 or more days a week
  • For the cost conscious, buying monthly lenses is much more cost effective than dailies

Extended wear contact lenses

Extended wear contact lenses are made from silicone hydrogel, one of the latest advancements in lens technology. The silicone hydrogel material allows up to five times more oxygen to reach the eyes surface than that of a traditional soft lens, making these contact lenses exceptionally breathable.

These lenses are also a popular choice because they can be worn continuously for a period of time, usually no longer than 30 days. This means you don’t need to take them out when you sleep or shower, making them extremely low maintenance.

Extended wear lenses are perfect for the following people:

  • People that are constantly on the go
  • Anyone seeking a contact lens that requires little time and care

Other types of contact lenses

Gas permeable contact lenses

Gas permeable contact lenses are another option for potential lens wearers. They’re sometimes referred to as hard lenses, GP or RGP (rigid gas permeable lenses). However, you shouldn’t be put off by the name - unlike soft lenses they don’t contain water but they still provide high levels of comfort.

Gas permeable contact lenses have been on the market for a lot longer than soft lenses, and although they’ve fallen in popularity, they still have many benefits for specific types of contact lens wearers. They can be created to match many different prescriptions and eye types, making them perfect for those who are harder to fit with soft lenses.

Unlike soft lenses, they’re a lot more durable and can be worn for longer periods of time, often they’re worn daily and replaced every six to twelve months.

Gas permeable lenses are perfect for the following people:

  • Those who have an astigmatism, as they offer a more rigid fitted lens
  • People with eye conditions that cause irregularity to the shape
  • Soft lens wearers who don’t find their vision is sharp enough

If you’re not happy with gas permeable lenses and are unsure of soft lenses then there’s an alternative where the optician can fit what is known as hybrid lenses. These types of lenses are fitted with both gas permeable and soft lens tissue for additional comfort for the eye.

Coloured contact lenses

Coloured contact lenses are soft lenses made to wear as daily or monthly disposables that can change a person’s eye colour. They’re often available in a range of colours and shades. Coloured or cosmetic lenses can be purchased to match an existing prescription for long or short-sightedness; some of the most popular include the FreshLook range made by Alcon. If you have a more severe eye condition, such as astigmatism or presbyopia, you’ll find it difficult to come across any mainstream coloured lenses that are compatible. If you really want to wear coloured lenses, we would advise speaking to your optician to see what options are available.

They can also be worn by people who don't normally require contact lenses; this is called ‘no prescription’ or ‘plano’. If you want to buy coloured prescriptions for cosmetic use only, you’ll need to select ‘0.00’ under the power/sphere in the prescription details. It’s very important that you see an optician for a contact lens fitting, even if you want to buy lenses with no prescription.

Got questions? We're here to help

For personalised advice on anything to do with contact lenses and eye health use our live chat, call our friendly customer support team on 020 7768 5000 in the UK or on 1 800 870 0741 in the US or email help@visiondirect.co.uk. They're available Monday - Friday 8:00 - 21:00, and Saturday - Sunday 8:00 - 18:00.