Welcome to Eyecare Insights with Dr. Kyle Tate, your Sapulpa Eye Doctor. We are spending the next few articles answering common questions we hear at the clinic to give all of our readers a better understanding of their eyes and what to expect during an eye exam. Today’s we will focus on contact lenses. If you would like more detailed info about contact lenses, please see our previous articles about myopia control, how to take care of contacts, and the many others we’ve written about contact lenses. Please also note that we have on our website an entire section dedicated to contacts information and how to wear contacts safely. At Insight Eyecare we want to be your Sapulpa eye doctor any time your eyes need checked, or if you feel like there’s been a change in your eyesight.
The first question is one we get from patients all the time. They never mean it with any type of malicious intent or lack of effort, but this day and age so many things are being created to make our lives more convenient. It makes sense to ask why contacts haven’t changed very much. In reality they have, but America has been kind of slow to adapt this change. America has also been slow to change patients’ perspectives on contact lenses. The big question is this: Can I have contacts I don’t have to take out at night? Another version of the same question would be this: Can I just sleep in these contacts until they bother me? At Insight Eyecare we hold to the most strict medical standard to protect our patients. This means that we do not allow or encourage sleeping in contacts unless that specific model of contact has been well-fit to the eye and has been studied and approved to be safe to sleep in. Currently there are only two contacts that you are approved asleep in and replace once a month. That would be the Air Optics Night and Day and the PureVision 2. These are lenses I would still discourage using; it’s always better to take your contacts out at night than to sleep with them in. However, when we have a healthy patient with good vision and zero signs of the eyes being hurt from sleeping in a contact, I will allow it. We only allow it here at Insight Eyecare with certain restrictions. That would include taking the contacts out at least once a week. Let’s explore what sleeping in a contact does to the surface of the eye. When you are awake without any contact lens on the outer surface of your eye, the cornea gets oxygen from the atmosphere. When you close your eyes at night that same way, your eye only gets about 30% as much oxygen as when the eyes open. When the eye is closed, the cornea receives oxygen from the blood vessels inside the eye. They have to transfer oxygen molecules across multiple layers. This means that when you RDF 30% less and you put a contact lens in, that contact is another barrier. It has to do an extremely proficient job of transferring oxygen. If the surface of the eye does not get enough oxygen, then the surface starts taking damage. The surface of the cornea is called the epithelium and its job is to prevent infections.
Any Sapulpa eye doctor will tell you that contact lens infections are very dangerous and can permanently damage vision. When patients ask if there a contact lens they can sleep in or they don’t have to take out at night, it’s quite a hesitation moment for the doctor. Some people’s eyes can do that; wear them and remain healthy without any bad changes. Some people’s eyes cannot stay asleep in a contact and even one night will cause infection. The problem is there’s no test to know who will get damage and who will not. This means we’re just running the risk of trial and error. In some parts of life trial and error is a okay thing. However, when you’re at the eye doctor there are many things we cannot risk. If an error happens, vision will be lost. Someone could even go blind. The contacts that are proved to be slept in successfully come only in non-astigmatism and non-multifocal strengths. So they have limitations.
Another common question we get at Insight Eyecare: Can I switch to a less expensive generic contact solution? Some patients can do this without any problem. Now when I say “without any problem” I mean they have perfectly comfortable eyes that never get red or irritated. Very few patients are able to use generic solutions. That may make you think, “Why are generic contact solutions different?” Generic contact solutions are different because they are not always the same chemical from time to time. The companies who bottled the generics for Walmart, Walgreens, and other places like that will buy whatever is the cheapest bid that meets the minimum standard. I don’t know about you, but I do not like things that meet only minimum standards in life. Minimum standards in happiness, comfort, and health are not acceptable to many of us. The newer brand-name contacts solutions are more expensive because those companies are pouring millions of dollars into developing chemicals that will clean the contacts better than generics and will do it, and all without irritating the eyes as much. Here at Insight Eyecare we always recommend very specific contact solutions to clean and soak the lenses.
Another question we get commonly at Insight Eyecare, your Sapulpa eye doctor, is, “How old does my child need to be before they can get contacts?” There is not a magic or minimum age. Some babies will actually be prescribed contacts that the parents insert and remove daily. I have had patients who were 6 years old successfully insert and remove their contacts maintaining good eye health. Unfortunately we have also had adult patients who are unsuccessful at attempting to care for their contacts. With children I say it’s a balance between the children themselves wanting to put contacts on a daily basis and when the parents are also in agreement. It is up to the parent to determine whether their kids are responsible or not. Generally, if a child cannot keep up with a pair of glasses, keeping contacts won’t work either, and the parents will have to step in and help. If the parents are willing to do so, then almost any age can wear a contact. But if the parents are insistent on the kids taking care of them, maturity level must be considered. Luckily, with advancements in contacts that get replaced every day, kids contacts have become much safer. Children can wear contacts all day long and then just remove and throw them away without worrying about cleaning solutions, cases, contamination, or other risks to the eye. Sometimes we see difficulty in patients who have worn contacts for years. They were trained and accustomed to protecting that contact for a month switch. Now they need to switch to the method of just throwing them away. As your Sapulpa eye doctor this is the safest healthiest way to wear contacts.
We want you to have freedom from glasses so you can better enjoy the activities of your life. Patients commonly will come to us being told they’re not a candidate for contacts. This is simply not true if your eyes are healthy enough and you want to try. We can get almost any patient successfully into contacts with the proper effort. If you ever have any questions about how to take care of your contacts, or which contact lenses are right for you, a family member, or a friend, please reach out to us at Insight Eyecare. We’re here to be your Sapulpa eye doctor for all your eyecare and eyewear needs. Thank you guys, God bless, and have a great day.