Next time, solicit advice before making major purchase...
May 18, 2012 11:59 PM   Subscribe

I decided to try gas permeable contacts today, but now I've read previous questions on mefi, I am having serious concerns over my choice. Does anyone like their RGP contacts, especially after years of soft contact lens wear?

I've worn soft contacts since I was 12 (almost 34 now), and disposables as long as they've been around (probably 20 years or so). About a year ago, I started having increasing dry eyes at the computer. Wearing contacts on a Monday after being away from the computer all weekend was hellish. Turns out I've developed the slightest astigmatism in my right eye. (no idea why, no injury or disease)

The doctor changed me to Biofinity disposables 6 months ago. (I was wearing Acuvue Oasys when the problems started and tried Air Optix for two weeks which created an even worse hell over the Acuvues). At first the Biofinity's weren't that awesome, but over the past 6 months, I've learned to like them. But now I have much clearer vision with my glasses, and it sort of drives me crazy -the slight unfocus with my right eye.

Today the doctor gave me the option of switching to a toric disposable for my right eye, or giving RGP's a try. He explained the breaking in time, but said my vision would be awesome. I would have less eye strain, my eyes would get more oxygen, etc. (BTW, my eyes have slowly gotten better over the years. 6 years ago both eyes were -5.5, now I'm L-4.25, R-3.75.)

I ordered some RGP's, but then I searched on mefi, and everyone is saying that they suck. One person posted that their optometrist wouldn't even prescribe RGP's! I feel like I might have made a mistake here... The money isn't really much of an issue to me, I just want the best for my eyes. Does anyone like RGP's? Did anyone transition easily?
posted by Kronur to Health & Fitness (21 answers total)
Best answer: I have 20/800 vision and RGPs give me the best visual acuity, hands down. I tried the disposables and the soft lenses, but sharpness of vision is everything to me.
posted by flowerofhighrank at 1:17 AM on May 19, 2012

Best answer: I love, love, loved my RGPs - so much that I ended up wearing them too much (18 hours a day) and ended up causing an ulcer on one retina which took a while to heal and meant I couldn't wear the RGPs again. I have daily disposables for astigmatism now, which are okay, but nowhere near as great as the RGPs. I got great, clear vision with them and they were really comfortable. The only pain was the protein removal - I'd always forget to take them out of the solution and then would need to wait another day while the RGPs soaked.

If I could, I'd change back to RGPs tomorrow, but I can't have them again now because I abused them so much in the past.
posted by essexjan at 1:40 AM on May 19, 2012

Best answer: Oh, and be aware that the first time you get a speck of dust in your eye, you'll feel like you're going to die - it's really painful. The worst experience I had with them was once when somehow an air bubble got under them and the suction meant I couldn't get the lens out - I moved it off my eye but it got stuck on the white of my eye. I poured loads of drops in my eyes to loosen it, and just before I was about to go to the hospital, I was able to get it out. But that was one bad experience in probably 20 years of wearing RGPs.
posted by essexjan at 1:44 AM on May 19, 2012

Best answer: I've got -10 in both eyes and have been wearing RGPs for 20+ years with no serious problems and very few complaints.

The worst two things are:
1. Getting dust or an eyelash in your eye. AGONY.
2. When the lens decides to run away and hide round the edges of your eyeball.

All of my opticians have approved of RGPs for me and my eyesight. I think they're meant to be the healthiest option for long term use.

Just limit your wear to 12ish hours a day and be scrupulous about cleaning.
posted by ZipRibbons at 1:48 AM on May 19, 2012

Best answer: (BTW, my eyes have slowly gotten better over the years. 6 years ago both eyes were -5.5, now I'm L-4.25, R-3.75.)

No, they really haven't. (I'm about the same BTW). A rigid lens works by creating a suction above the cornea that changes the contour of the lens, correcting the focus on the retina. A rigid or hard lens is not a lens at all, it physically distorts your eye's own lens to correct its focus. What you perceive as an improvement to your vision is just the fact that your lens isn't as flexible as it used to be and when you remove your rigid "lenses" your eye retains the corrected shape for a while. If you stop wearing your rigid lenses for 30 days, your vision will be as bad as it ever was. Sorry.

Soft lenses, on the other hand, are actually lenses in that they add thickness to lens of your eye to correct the focus. Because they don't distort the lens and your uncorrected vision is your real, true crummy vision, it's a bit harder to get used to them because the difference between having them in and not having them in is bigger than it would be with rigid lenses.

In general, you will get sharper correction with rigid lenses than with soft lenses. This is sort of a hard limit to any choice. If you demand super sharp vision sometimes the only choice is a rigid lens, but the soft ones are getting quite good.

I've been wearing contact lenses for longer than I would like to admit, but let's say well over 30 years. I've tried them all and for me I use soft, toric, one-day lenses which I think is the greatest invention made by man. The vision correction is very nearly as good as with rigid lenses (which is to say more or less perfect) and I throw them away every day and begin the next day with a new pair. They are of course a bit more expensive, but when it comes to comfort and the health of my eyes, the cost-benefit analysis is simple.

They are comfortable and dust/pollen is not a problem and now the only time my eyes are red is when I have been drinking.

posted by three blind mice at 2:13 AM on May 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I have no personal experience with RGP lenses, but my wife has worn them for over twenty years. She likes them a lot, though it is important to clean them every day and take them out at night. They can be buggers to get out; she uses a little lens remover (a rubber stick with a suction cup on one end) for the purpose. They can wander around in the eye; it seems to be more likely if they haven't been cleaned carefully.
posted by brianogilvie at 4:16 AM on May 19, 2012

Response by poster: three blind mice, I haven't worn the RGP's yet. I won't even have them for 2 weeks or so, so actually yes, my vision has improved over the past 6 years. (through wearing disposable soft contacts & taking much better care of my eyes post university days)

But the fact that RGP's change the shape of your eye is disconcerting. Can I even go back and forth between those and glasses?
posted by Kronur at 4:34 AM on May 19, 2012

Best answer: I haven't worn RGP lenses, but I'll second three blind mice's comment about toric disposables which I think are absolutely brilliant. I don't even notice the difference in visual sharpness between them and my glasses and would say that if you can try toric disposables first, do.
posted by Scottie_Bob at 4:59 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: One person posted that their optometrist wouldn't even prescribe RGP's!

I'm surprised at this. My last optometrist had a creepy poster on the office wall that included close-up shots of various eye-related nastiness caused by soft lenses. He encouraged clients to switch to gas perms.

I've worn contacts for 45 years (20/400 uncorrected vision), beginning with old-school hard lenses, eventually switching to RGPs. Re disadvantages, since a rigid lens temporarily changes the shape of your eye, your eyeglasses won't correct to the prescribed level for several hours after you remove the lenses.

Seconding ZipRibbons re the worst 2 things. To help keep dust out of my eyes when I'm outside, I wear sunglasses all the time. Yes, even at night. Ridicule is a small price to pay to avoid the pain and the scene that goes with getting dust out of my eye.

Seconding essexjan re the issues associated with wearing the lenses too long. In my case, the result was a scratched eye, which I've done a handful of times over the years. One particularly bad injury caused the worst pain I have ever experienced—easily trumped labor and delivery of my 10lb 5oz son.

Following that, I switched to soft lenses for the extended wear advantage. I hated them. I didn't get the same level of correction, despite trying several options. Switched back to gas perms within 6 months. Just couldn't deal with not being able to see.
posted by she's not there at 5:09 AM on May 19, 2012

Best answer: I've had them for 20+ years and love them! You can switch between glasses and contacts, but because the correction is so good wih rgps, glasses have always seemed second best. And the few times I tried soft lenses, I definitely noticed that my eyes dried out.

Pro tip - you can get rgp solution cheap in bulk at Costco.
posted by yarly at 5:47 AM on May 19, 2012

Best answer: I wore them for nearly 20 years & was perfectly happy with them. (I even tried to switch back to soft lenses once because the optometrist was going to give me some for free, but I only lasted one day with the soft lenses before I switched back to RGPs.)

I only stopped wearing them when I scratched my eye (while wearing glasses!) and just got out of the habit of wearing contacts at all.
posted by belladonna at 7:01 AM on May 19, 2012

Best answer: I love my rgps and have never had a problem with them. I've been wearing them since I was nine and I am in my mid-30s now.
posted by mbidi at 7:06 AM on May 19, 2012

Best answer: I am bitter that I had to switch to soft contacts.

I wore RGPs for about twenty years (starting when I was in middle school!). Yes, it hurts like a bitch when you get ANYTHING in your eye, be it the minutest speck of dust -- meaning, in my experience you are in sudden brief crippling pain about twice or three times a day. But the advantages are... amazing eyesight. Complete ease of care. Ease of insertion. Ease of removal. Ease, ease, ease. Oh, and price! With good care, I've worn a pair for a couple of years, no problem.

Downsides: they are not going to feel comfortable to you at all when you first insert them. They are not like soft contacts: you CAN feel them in your eye at all times. You just...get used to the feeling.

I ended up having to switch (to Oasys astigmatism - which is great, unimaginably comfortable, but still can't rival an RGP for moisture and visual correction) because I started reacting badly (after twenty years! sob!) to my hard contacts. If I could go back to RGPs, I would.

To answer your question - yes, RGPs distort the shape of your eye, but this is not a problem for glasses wearing. It's only a problem if you switch from RGPs *to* soft contacts, because it takes up to three months for the natural curvature of your eye to be fully restored, which might change the prescription you need in soft contacts.
posted by artemisia at 7:39 AM on May 19, 2012

Best answer: Also been wearing RGPs for about twenty years, as soft lenses were no longer correcting my severe myopia (which is currently about 20/1200...). Nthing what everyone else has said. I've found them much more comfortable than soft lenses, aside from the occasional errant eyelash (OW OW OW) or minor scratch. Moreover, unlike with soft lenses, I've had no trouble with eye infections. You'll definitely feel RGPs the first few days, especially when you blink, but eventually that will go away; that being said, once properly fitted, they won't roll up and wander off in a daze to the corner of your eye. (It will probably take more time to get the fit right than with soft lenses.) In my case, the one definite downside has been that I just can't wear glasses at all: the spectacle blur takes hours to correct itself, and in the meantime I can't see. Anything. But your vision problems are less severe, so that may not be as much of an issue for you.
posted by thomas j wise at 7:53 AM on May 19, 2012

Best answer: My vision is bad enough that soft lenses won't correct as much as RGPs, so I've only worn the one kind of lens- but maybe I can add to the anecdata. I've had them for over 20 years, and I'd say it's not hard to get used to the downsides. You will learn to hate leafblowers (always accompanied by a painful cloud of dust- I actually cross to the other side of the street if I can without being weird), but aside from that and dusty windy days, I wouldn't say I suffer from crippling eye pain on a daily basis. However, when it does happen, it is painful and distracting to get something in your eye- so you might want to carry eyedrops, or sunglasses so people don't look at you funny and wonder why your eye is all red and weepy. Usually it's a short-lived pain and I can sort of blink the speck of dust to somewhere where it isn't painful and carry on- for example, I rarely have to stop walking or driving or even mention anything about it to people around me.

I agree with the upside of crisp vision, and I actually think the lenses have given me onion-resistant super powers- so I'm in charge of cutting up onions in my house (but maybe any contacts would do that?). The downside is daily care, expensive lenses, and (at least for me) a feeling of relying on a less popular techology- I live in Oregon, but the closest place that can make my lenses is California. When I started wearing them that wasn't the case.

So, to directly answer your question, yes, I love my RGPs! But I'm biased because I feel like they're the only thing between me and blindness.
posted by Secretariat at 9:47 AM on May 19, 2012

Best answer: You might want to ask your eye doctor about Duettes. They are hybrid lenses with a RGP center and a soft skirt. They are very comfortable (until something gets under a lens) and give me much better vision correction than I could get with soft lenses. Not all eye doctors are trained to fit and prescribe them, though.
posted by Joleta at 10:08 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have to add to the chorus of loving my RGP contacts. I've been wearing them for more than 15 years and can't imagine switching. My parents both wore RGP, so it just seemed natural that when it was time for me to get contacts in high school that I would get them too. And now my vision is so terrible that I don't think I could switch.

The biggest problem (like everyone has said) is that when you get something in your eye, you just want to rip your whole eyeball out. But for me that's definitely not a daily occurrence. Monthly at the most, I would say (although I also wear sunglasses all the time when I'm outside during the day).

But I love the fact that, unlike my friends with soft contacts, I never have to worry about my contacts rolling up or tearing.

I remember it being a little bit of an adjustment at first and being really conscious that I could feel them and then see my vision change a little bit every time I blinked. But I got used to that within a week and don't even notice or feel them now.

Just make sure that you clean them every day and take good care of them and you'll be fine. In fact, I usually replace mine every two years, but my sister has been wearing hers for ten years and they're still good. So if you're good to them, they can last for a really long time.

But since they last so long, fit is REALLY important, so make sure you're going to a good eye doctor who knows what he or she is doing. I tried once going to a cheaper place and it took months to get it sorted out. So to me it's worth the extra money to go to a really good eye doctor.
posted by McPuppington the Third at 1:34 PM on May 19, 2012

Best answer: I went to RGPs when i was having some major trouble finding any contacts that would actually work for my eyes. They were definitely the best vision I have ever had, everything was super clear. However, it did take me a long time to get used to them, and the sensation of having something in my eyes never fully went away, so they were never as comfortable as soft contacts. Additionally, they fell out easier than soft contacts when my eyes were rubbed, which was a major problem as I was grappling and doing martial arts at the time, and I was paniced about losing them because of the cost. Finally I did lose one and I ended up switching back to soft contacts because the little bit of pain and the stress over them just wasn't worth it. But they were great for seeing clearly and for dry eye issues!
posted by katers890 at 1:35 PM on May 19, 2012

Best answer: I've had them for about 18+ years. Over the years I've had different optometrists and every time I've switched I've always asked the new dr. if I should switch to soft lenses and have always gotten the same answer - they are a tough sell for consumers, but they are better for most folks eyes. I've also had a couple different prescriptions for disposable soft contacts to use when doing water sports, and I've never felt like my vision is very good with them on.

The dust thing does suck, but I don't have it happen very frequently, it's certainly not daily or even weekly, but it can be awful when you're driving.

I remember the break in period being excruciating, but something I endured as 12 year old whose other option was bifocals.
posted by snowymorninblues at 4:34 PM on May 19, 2012

Response by poster: I marked way too many best answers, but I really appreciate everyone's responses. I am going to follow a two-pronged attack to battle my doubt on the RGP's:

1) Give them a chance (instead of calling off the whole thing). Your answers have given me hope!, and

2) Ask my doctor for the toric disposable option in the meantime. Just to try.
posted by Kronur at 2:15 PM on May 22, 2012

If you do end up going down the toric disposable route I can heartily recommend the Oasys astigmatism ones. They're not as clear as glasses, but all of the other torics that I've tried are miserably uncomfortable. Those Duettes look interesting...
posted by togdon at 2:25 PM on May 24, 2012

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