Contact lenses are thin, round lenses that rest on the surface of your eyes to improve vision. Some are worn during the day and discarded before bed. Others you clean overnight and reuse. Each type of contact lens has a specific work schedule, type, and cost. Read on to find out what you’ll likely pay when buying different contact lenses and how they work.
What are Contact Lenses?
Like glasses, contact lenses are designed to correct refractive errors and maintain ocular health. They are thin, round lenses that rest on the surface of your eyes to help you see more clearly. These are changes to the shape of your eye that prevent light from landing correctly on your retina.
Wearing contact lenses has many benefits. They help to correct many vision problems, such as:
- Near-sightedness (myopia): blurred vision far away
- Farsightedness (hyperopia): blurred vision close up
- Astigmatism: blurred vision both far away and close up
- Presbyopia: blurred vision close up in aging adults.
It is estimated that there are over 140 million contact lens wearers worldwide. Additionally, most people prefer the look of contacts vs. glasses. They also move easily and naturally to your eyes and do not affect your daily activities.
Types of Contact Lenses
There are several types of contact lenses. An eye care specialist can help you determine which type of contacts will work best for you according to your eye requirements. The leading nine types of contact lenses are:
- Soft Contact Lenses
These contacts are made from a soft, flexible plastic material. They are comfortable to wear and can correct various vision problems, including nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism.
- Rigid Gas Permeable (RGP)
RGP lenses are made from a more rigid plastic material that allows oxygen to pass through to the cornea. They provide excellent vision correction and are often prescribed for astigmatism and certain eye conditions. RGP lenses typically require a more extended adjustment period compared to soft lenses.
- Extended Wear
These are designed for continuous wear, meaning you can leave them overnight. Some extended-wear lenses can be worn for up to a month, while others are designed for several days of continuous use.
- Daily Disposable
These are soft contact lenses that are discarded at the end of each day. They require no cleaning or maintenance and are an excellent option for people with allergies or those who want the convenience of not cleaning their lenses.
- Toric Contact Lenses
Toric lenses are specifically designed for individuals with astigmatism. They have different powers in different lens meridians to address the irregular curvature of the cornea in myopic eyes.
- Multifocal Contact Lenses
Multifocal lenses are designed for individuals with presbyopia, which affects near vision as people age. They have multiple prescription powers in one lens to provide clear vision for near and far distances.
- Cosmetic (Decorative) Contact Lenses
Cosmetics, also known as colored lenses, are used to change or enhance the color of the eyes. They are available with or without vision correction.
- Scleral Contact Lenses
Scleral lenses are more significant, gas-permeable lenses that vault over the entire cornea and rest on the white part of the eye (sclera). They are often prescribed for individuals with irregular corneas, such as keratoconus.
- Orthokeratology (Ortho-K) Lenses
Ortho-K lenses are gas-permeable lenses designed to reshape the cornea temporarily, correcting nearsightedness. They are worn overnight and can provide clear vision during the day without needing glasses or traditional contact lenses.
Cost of Contact Lenses
The cost of contact lenses can vary significantly depending on several factors, including the type of lenses, your prescription, the brand, and where you purchase them. Here’s an overview of the approximate cost for different types of contact lenses:
- Soft Contact Lenses:
- Daily Disposable Lenses: These can cost anywhere from $0.50 to $2 or more per lens. The total cost depends on how many lenses you need for a month or year.
- Monthly or Biweekly Lenses: These lenses typically range from $20 to $60 per box, and each box contains several lenses. You’ll need to purchase multiple boxes throughout the year.
- Extended Wear Lenses: These can cost between $30 and $60 per box and require regular replacement.
- Rigid Gas Permeable (RGP) Contact Lenses: RGP lenses may cost between $50 and $200 per lens, depending on the brand and complexity of your prescription. They are more durable and can last longer than soft lenses, offsetting the higher individual lens cost.
- Toric Contact Lenses: The cost of toric lenses is similar to soft contact lenses, with prices ranging from $0.50 to $2 or more per lens.
- Multifocal Contact Lenses: Multifocal lenses have a price similar to toric lenses and other soft lenses, typically between $0.50 and $2 per lens.
- Cosmetic Contact Lenses: Cosmetic lenses may cost around $10 to $20 per lens. Some specialty or custom-colored lenses may be more expensive.
- Scleral Contact Lenses: Scleral lenses are often more expensive, with individual lens prices ranging from $100 to $250 or more.
- Orthokeratology (Ortho-K) Lenses: Ortho-K lenses can be more costly than regular contact lenses. They may range from $1,000 to $2,000 for the initial fitting and lenses.
How do Contact Lenses Work?
Contacts work for vision treatment by sitting on your eyes and adjusting the refraction of light as it enters your eye. In the case of refractive errors like myopia (nearsightedness) or hyperopia (farsightedness), contact lenses help to focus light correctly onto the retina, which results in clearer vision. Additionally, they can also be used to correct astigmatism by providing a consistent shape to the cornea. Contact lenses float on a thin layer of tears on the eye’s surface, making them a comfortable and convenient alternative to eyeglasses for many people.