How Dry I Am!
August 21, 2009 12:37 PM   Subscribe

VisionFilter: Should I switch from rigid gas permeable lenses to soft?

I've been wearing gas permeable contact lenses since i was ELEVEN-- about twenty years-- and I've had almost no problem. Yes, there's the stabbing sensation that accompanies any small piece of grit in the eye, and there was the time I accidentally put one contact on top of the other, but overall, it's been okay.

Then, SUDDENLY, in the last month or so, my eyes have become really dry and uncomfortable while wearing my RGPs-- so much so that I find myself wearing glasses about half of the time.

1. Is there something I can do to get back to the comfort-of-old? (I used the protein deposit remover when I think of it.)
2. Did Boston change its cleaning or conditioner formula when it merged with Bausch and Lomb?
3. Is it time to bite the bullet and switch to soft? (My vision is about -4 in each eye, and I've been told I won't have as crisp vision with soft, but perhaps lens technology has changed...?)

Thanks, fellow sufferers.
posted by airguitar2 to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My vision is -10, I have only worn soft lenses, but I don't believe I have an issue with crispness. Then again, like I said... -10. I'm pretty blind to start with.
posted by kellyblah at 12:43 PM on August 21, 2009

I wore RGPs for a long time (maybe 15 years?) because I have astigmatism, and I was always told RGPs were the best option for that, blah blah blah. Also, I was very squeamish about touching my eyeball - I loved that RGPs could be easily popped out. Of course, sometimes they popped out when I didn't want them to.

About five years ago, I switched to soft toric lenses, and it was the best thing I ever did . I love them. They're monthly lenses (you remove them at night, but dispose of them after a month) and maybe my vision isn't as crisp, but honestly, I can't tell. Inserting and removing them is fine, not nearly as gross as I thought.

The comfort factor (and the price, esp of solutions) is so much better in these.

Good luck!
posted by pyjammy at 12:46 PM on August 21, 2009

My vision's pretty bad (-6.5) and I currently wear soft contacts. Crispness doesn't seem to be a problem for me.

The difference in comfort, though, is obscene. You'll notice it instantly, and you'll never go back.
posted by SAC at 12:47 PM on August 21, 2009

i am about a -7 and have soft and they feel fine with me. Anecdotally my wife has gas permeable and she seems to spend orders of magnitude more time in maintenance than I do.
posted by mmascolino at 12:54 PM on August 21, 2009

Oh man...I'll never go back to hard lenses. The comfort level of soft contacts is just such a huge difference. I did notice a slight vision change when I switched, but it was so minimal, it never fazed me, not one little bit. I started on monthly lenses and eventually was switched to two-week lenses (although I sometimes wear them a little longer), and now...well, now I usually just wear my glasses, truthfully, but I do wear my contacts sometimes, and when I made the switch to soft, I was wearing my contacts almost exclusively.
posted by Diagonalize at 12:56 PM on August 21, 2009

I haven't worn contacts since about 2001, but when I did, I used Acuvue disposables, removing them every night and replacing them once a week, and I didn't have any problems. My prescription then and now was around -4, and I had no complaints at all about the clarity. However, I've never worn RGPs, so I can't give you any direct comparisons on that point.

Perhaps you could get just one set of lenses for a test drive, and then buy a longer-term supply if you end up liking them? I have no idea what the cost is, but I imagine it wouldn't be all that expensive even without insurance. You could also ask your eye doctors if they have any samples around.
posted by tellumo at 1:45 PM on August 21, 2009

I switched about 6 years ago and will never go back! (another -10 here) Disposables rock. I replace mine about every 2 weeks.

RGPs worked vision-wise for me but they were horribly uncomfortable. Soft are SO much better.
posted by mdiskin at 2:23 PM on August 21, 2009

My eyes measure -14, and I wear both soft and gas permeable lenses. I wear soft lenses for exercise because I don't actually have to read anything. In fact, nobody makes soft contact lenses strong enough for me to use full time.

When I wear hard lenses, my eyes tend to dry out, which can make my contacts, well, a bit caked with material that can be hard to clean. Even the edges of my contacts have to be beveled so they can fit in my eyes.

My eye doctor suggested I use eye drops morning and night. She gave me coupons for Blink and for Systane. I've tried Systane drops so far and they seem to help. Rather pricey, though.

I also wear my glasses more, even though they resemble glass coke bottle bottoms.
posted by rw at 3:10 PM on August 21, 2009

I personally have -7 in one eye and -7.5 in the other and my soft contacts give me vision so crisp that I can see the outlines of contact lenses in other people's eyes.

The only way to tell is to try them and see if they work for you. Soft lenses are inexpensive and your optometrist could probably fit them very quickly.
posted by twblalock at 5:54 PM on August 21, 2009

Okay, looks like my experience is different than everyone's above.

First, though, the Boston question -- they've got three different kinds of solution for hard contacts now -- Original, Simplus and (I think) Multiaction. Are you sure you didn't just pick up the wrong type? I definitely think Original is far more moisture-inducing than the other two, although I do like Simplus because I don't have to deal with a separate cleaner. Multiaction is AWFUL, it makes my eyes feel like a desert. ALSO, one other thing: if you aren't using the cleaner (white fluid), you should give it a go -- even though Simplus and Multiaction supposedly don't require it, I notice a huge difference in comfort if I give my lenses a clean with them once a week.

As to the contact switch -- like you, I was initially told soft contacts wouldn't correct for my level of astigmatism. Also like you, I've worn RGPs for a long time -- eighteen years now. Oh man they hurt like a bitch when I first started wearing them. And since I work in some dusty places, they also still hurt like a bitch on regular occasions, whenever dust flies into my eye. Or just because.

And like you, my eyes can get crankily dry.

So when the opthalmologist suggested to me that I try soft lenses, I was blown away and went for it quicker than you can blink. And people who say soft contacts are more comfortable ARE right in one regard: no painful episodes with dust, and no mild steady day-long discomfort.


My eyes had never felt so dry in my life. I seriously could not handle it. I felt like my lids were getting stuck when I blinked. I rubbed my eyes every ten seconds. We tried a whole bunch of different types, to no avail. Turns out, RGPs let far more oxygen get to your eyeball than soft contacts do, not least because they cover so much less of your cornea. (Also, and this has nothing to do with your question but I found it interesting, they're much healthier for your eyes -- far lower incidence of eye infections with them.)

So. I'm wearing RGPs right now, in case you hadn't guessed.
posted by artemisia at 7:39 PM on August 21, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks all-- as soon as my health insurance kicks in, I'm making an eye appt., first thing. :) Obscene comfort-- now that's something I can get behind. Soft lenses, I've been waiting so long for you... In the meantime, I'll also try switching to Boston "Original" formula (I think I have "Advanced"-- which isn't), and see if that makes a difference.
posted by airguitar2 at 8:51 PM on August 21, 2009

Oh man, I do not miss RGP's at all. I started wearing them at age 9. Then around age 12 my dad had some extra disposable soft lenses and he let me wear them to some outdoor event and I was hooked.

I am nearsighted with astigmatism and I see great in my soft contacts. It took a few tries to find a brand that worked for me. If you don't have astigmatism it will be much easier and cheaper. I wore soft contacts for about 10 years straight every day.

However, now that I'm older my eyes get so dry that it can be hard for me to wear them all day, so I pretty much stick to glasses.
posted by radioamy at 9:34 PM on August 21, 2009

From Ms. Vegetable:

One big thing I noticed (besides the BIG comfort difference) is that my eyes got worse when I switched to soft. With RGP, my eyes got better the longer I wore them. When I switched to soft, my eyes have steadily gotten worse. Not huge overall, but enough that I notice.

I also have to wear my glasses more now - when I wore RGP, I had to take them out in the afternoon because my eyes were so dry. When I switched to soft, I wore them ~16 hours a day, and after about a year, my eye doctor told me I couldn't do that anymore, and I had to wear my glasses more often.

My eyesight is not as crisp with soft as it was with RGP, but I can deal with that because they're so much more comfortable. And I get a bit more glare at night with soft than I did with RGP.

Just anecdotes, but maybe they'll help anyway.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:32 AM on August 22, 2009

I wore RGPs for years, 18 hours a day regularly. I had great vision with them and only the occasional problem - you mentioned the grit pain, and there was a horrible thing happened once when the lens moved off my eye and, through suction, got stuck to my eyeball. No amount of eye drops could shift it and it was extremely painful. We were on our way to the hospital when I finally managed to shift it. It hurt like hell.

Eventually I over-wore the lenses so much that I ulcerated an eyeball and had to stop wearing them. The ulceration healed, but I couldn't be fitted for new lenses or have a new test for glasses for two months, so I had to wear my embarrassing 1980s rainbow-coloured frames for several weeks until then. The mockery that ensued from family, friends and co-workers was enough to teach me a big lesson about contact lens abuse.

I wore glasses for a while after that, and then changed to one-day Acuvue, but I found I couldn't see quite as sharply as I wanted to at a computer. It turns out that that is more to do with my eyes changing (I now need varifocal lenses with a reading prescription) and when I wear contacts I also have reading glasses. I still wear the Acuvue, but that's because I'm cheap, I bought a ton of them online and want to use them all up before the expiry date.

But my lens prescription is five or six years old (-7 in one eye and -6.5 in the other), so I'm having a new examination in a couple of weeks to see about some new contacts, as I'm sure there's been a change. I did find that the Acuvue got a little dry, but my optician says that they now allow more oxygen through and so are more comfortable, particularly for people like me who don't make a lot of tear fluid.

You may find, going from RGPs to soft, that your optician may need to get you to wear glasses for a month or so. The reason for this is that the hard lenses, being rigid, distort the shape of the eyeball and your eye needs to go back into its natural shape before you can be fitted for soft lenses.
posted by essexjan at 12:27 AM on August 23, 2009

I've not been able to get many deals as far as soft contacts + health insurance. I used to get them through my eye doctor with a bit of health insurance discount. I've found its only a few dollars less a package than 1800-contacts. I like Acuvue Oasys, I have -7s.
On the solution front, the target house brand package of 2 big bottles for soft lenses runs about $6.
posted by ijoyner at 7:34 AM on August 23, 2009

Regarding dryness, lens material makes a big difference. I was first put on Acuvue 2 lenses, and my eyes got extremely dry in the presence of air conditioning and after computer use or reading. I switched to Acuvue Oasys lenses and the vision is the same but they don't dry out nearly as easily (and when they do dry out, they aren't nearly as uncomfortable and my vision doesn't become blurry.)

Expect to try a few different kinds of lenses before you find what you like. A good eye doctor will give you free sample pairs.
posted by twblalock at 10:01 PM on August 23, 2009

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