Hard vs. soft

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Updated: 1/14/2003 1:31 pm Published: 1/14/2003 1:31 pm

Contact lens technology has come a long way since the days when old-style hard lenses were your only option. Today you can choose from a variety of different types of contacts, each with advantages and disadvantages, depending on the type of correction your eyes need, as well as your lifestyle requirements. The most common type, worn by half of all contact wearers, is the ""daily-wear soft lens."" These lenses are made of soft, flexible plastic and require a short period of time to get used to. You take them out at night before you go to bed. They're available in tints and bifocals and are great for active lifestyles. They don't correct all vision problems, especially astigmatism (uh-STIG-muh-tiz-um), and they must eventually be replaced. ""Planned replacement"" lenses are soft lenses that are replaced on a planned schedule set by an eye doctor. The ""rigid, gas-permeable"" (PURR-me-uh-bul) lens, also known as the ""RGP"" (R-G-P), is a semi-hard lens. It provides excellent vision correction, but it's not quite as easy to insert or comfortable to wear as a soft lens. It can also slip off-center on your eyeball, and dirt can get under the lens while you're wearing it. Sometimes it's the only option for adequately correcting certain types of eye disorders, if you want to wear contacts. ""Extended-wear"" lenses can be soft lenses or RGP's. You can wear them 24 hours a day for up to seven days without removing them. They don't correct all vision problems, have some risks of complications, and require regular monitoring and professional care. ""Extended-wear disposables"" are soft lenses worn from one to seven days, after which time you throw them away. They require little or no cleaning, and there's minimal risk of infection if you follow the instructions. They don't correct all vision problems, and they're more difficult to handle than other types of soft lenses. Even though they're individually less expensive, the overall cost can be greater.

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