adjusting to RGP contact lenses
May 21, 2006 7:12 PM   Subscribe

Adjusting to RGP contact lenses

I got RGP (rigid gas permeable) lenses about a week and a half ago after wearing soft contacts for a few years. At first every blink drove me crazy (and I was blinking a lot), but I got used to the overall sensation of hard lenses within two days or so.

Now, though, I have a different problem: there are intermittent periods where one lens or the other feels okay, but a lot (at least 50%) of the time one lens or the other will feel pretty uncomfortable. The sensation is different from what I experienced when I first got the lenses--it feels a bit like having a piece of dirt or sand in my eye (with no contacts). Putting eye drops in doesn't seem to help. Taking the lenses out for a bit and putting them back helps most of the time, but obviously I can't spend all day doing that in the long term.

-What is this? Did this happen to other people and does it go away?

-Is it a piece of dirt trapped under the lens or can RGP lenses give that feeling for other reasons? It seems hard to believe that I could be getting dirt trapped under the lenses so often.

-Is it possible this is only happening because I'm living in a dusty house right now? Do other RGP wearers have this happen only in dusty places? (I'm kind of hoping this is it, but it's hard to believe that something as tiny as a piece of dust could be doing this.)

I'll be seeing my optometrist on Wednesday for a checkup, but I'd like to get a sense beforehand whether this is something that will get better if I can stick with it or if I'll have to look into other options.

I'd really like for these to work--I've worn soft lenses--disposable toric, nondisposable aspheric, disposable aspheric--and none of them has really given me good enough vision. Glasses annoy me because of the distortion and lack of peripheral vision...
posted by needs more cowbell to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Well, I hate to tell you this, but I had gas perms for 20 years or so and switched to disposable lenses about two years ago. Gas perms just aren't anything like as comfortable - any little bit of dust in the air makes them feel as if you have a shard of glass in your eye. I got in the habit of popping one out, sucking on it, and popping it back in, which the ladies found real attractive.

If I had to choose between going back to gas perms and risking LASIK, I'd have the surgery. (In fact, it was while I was being evaluated for LASIK that the doc put me in temporary soft disposables, and they were so comfortable that I cancelled the surgery.)
posted by nicwolff at 8:20 PM on May 21, 2006

I stopped RGPs after three years in the 1990s. I use soft toric lenses now, and while they aren't as sharp as RGP, I would never go back.

My optometrist won't prescribe RGPs, even if you beg for them.
posted by bugmuncher at 8:33 PM on May 21, 2006

I have been wearing RGP lenses since 1986 or 1987, coming straight from glasses.

When I first wore them, it took well over a month to get really acclimated to them. After about six weeks, people told me that I had stopped squinting.

So the good news, sort of, is that some of this might sort itself out as your eyes continue to adapt to the lenses. It's also true that even microscopic specks of dust become absolutely agonizing boulders in your eye. If it's just sort of uncomfortable and not blindingly painful, I'd suspect that you're just not through adapting yet.

The bad news seems to be that RGP lenses are for real and no-shit harder to tolerate than soft. This might be the case with you. If it is, it's important that you (and nicwolff and bugmuncher) recognize that this really is your fault, and that your inability to cope with the rigors of RGP wear actually does imply that you are less virile and manly than I am, and that your genitalia are laughably puny.

Personally, I would not go to soft lenses unless forced to as several opthamologists have told me that RGP lenses are a good prophylactic measure against worsening astigmatism and myopia. This is an anecdote rather than data, but when I started wearing RGP lenses, I immediately shifted from "get a new and noticeably stronger prescription once or twice a year" to "get a slightly altered prescription every 15 years or so."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:51 PM on May 21, 2006 [2 favorites]

I have worn glasses since I was very small, before I could even read. I tried RGP lenses for several months back in the mid 90s and I couldn't stand them. The "having dirt in your eyes constantly" sensation never went away, nor did the "constant blinking because they slipped down a little and got out of alignment." I'm sure that if you stick with it and persevere that you can get used to this form of torture, but I personally find wearing glasses is about a thousand times more pleasant than anything RGP had to offer.

So yes, you aren't alone.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:03 PM on May 21, 2006

I have to wear RGPs for keratoconus-- soft lenses and glasses are not really an option (and definitely not lasik). I hated them at first, and still have my bouts with them from time to time(wind and dust), but generally I don't really think about them anymore (2 years in). I've noticed the most important thing for comfort is just keeping them clean.

I have a pair of soft contacts that I wear sometimes when I think wearing my RGPs might be a pain (think amusement parks and swimming), and I've actually found that wearing them cause me a lot more eyestrain-- there bigger, so my eyes get a lot less air.
posted by cosmonaught at 9:04 PM on May 21, 2006

Response by poster: cosmonaught, have you found that you need to do something beyond using an multi-purpose solution is necessary for keeping them clean? The tech at my optometrist office set me up with a multi-purpose solution and said it wasn't necessary to use anything else when I asked, but I'm always skeptical...
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:11 PM on May 21, 2006

Response by poster: first sentence should be "have you found that you need to do something beyond using a multi-purpose solution to keep them clean." gah.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:12 PM on May 21, 2006

I use separate cleaning and storage solutions, but multi-purpose works just as well. I've just always had a tendency to be a little lazy when it came to scrubbing my contacts, and skipping a day or two with RGPs has a very noticeable effect on comfort, much more then soft lenses.
posted by cosmonaught at 9:55 PM on May 21, 2006

I use separate cleaning and conditioning solutions. I use the B&L, which are cheaper than the Boston or Barnes/Hinds solutions and work at least as well for me. I've had mixed results with store-brand cleaning and soaking solutions. I might use a multipurpose solution if I'm traveling, but I haven't been happy with them over the lifespan of a bottle.

And cleaning isn't just rubrubrub, either, like I see my bride do with her soft lenses. It's 10--25 seconds of scrubbing for each lens, either with the lens in the palm and scrubbing with the thumb or with the lens on the thumb and scrubbing around with the pointy-finger. The idea of skipping a day fills me with dread and horror; at the end of a day, my lenses are grotty.

I also protein-clean with tablets once every week or two as the spirit moves me.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:16 PM on May 21, 2006

I had RGP lenses for awhile a few years ago, and I found them extremely hard to tolerate. My eyes were constantly bloodshot and everyone was always telling me how I looked like I had a hangover. I honestly think that if your eyes are sensitive enough, no amount of time will get you used to them.
The problem was finally solved for me, since as ROU_Xenophobe said, cleaning involves considerable scrubbing and I eventually snapped one of the lenses by pressing too hard. I'm back with glasses now, and while I dislike wearing them, they're better than constantly looking hungover.
posted by nightchrome at 10:47 PM on May 21, 2006

Like cosmonaught, I have keratoconus [I feel your pain, bro] and have worn RGPs for around 15 years. Because of the disease I can't wear eyeglasses or soft lenses and am pretty much legally blind without my RGPS (20:200), so I tend to wear them for, say, 18 hours a day.

Keeping them scrupulously clean is very important. I use a separate cleaner and solution -- I have tried the all in one things and they don't work nearly as well. I use Boston lens original formula cleaner. Clean them well in the palm of your hand, and, VERY GENTLY, turn them upside down in your palm, so they are like little domes, and move them back and forth. This cleans the very rim, which is wear protein tends to build up. Don't put too much pressure on them or they can snap. I use the Boston lens daily protein remover soaking solution, I've experimented a lot and this works for me.

Re: the gravelly sensation, there can be three causes of that in my experience:
1. dust on the lens. You can take the lens out and put a drop of wetting solution on it, this usually chases the dust off. Only dust on the inside will give you a real problem
2. dust in the air can collect in your eye and cause it to exude a bit of mucous ("sleep") and this can then hang up on the contact. Keeping your eyes well lubricated helps with this. before you try to get rid of the mucous just blink a lot and roll your eye around and hopefully it moves below your lower lid.
3. protein deposits on the lenses and/or dirty lenses. You may have high protein tears. Use protein removers a lot. Don't be afraid to take your lenses in and ask for a quick ultrasound cleaning or for a polishing while you wait. I get this done quite often, either free, or for 10 bucks, depending on the clerk -- but money well spent.

A couple of other things-
-- Hold them up to strong light and squint at the very edge. This is where protein tends to accumulate. If it looks like there is a rind, you need to de-protein and clean very thoroughly. If you are just adjusting, this might get better with time.
-- Not everyone needs to use the RGP solutions and their greater viscosity can actually precipitate gunk in the eye. You could experiment with using soft lens solution.
-- keep your eyes well lubricated with artificial tears. Not visine etc, something with real lubricant in it. I use Accu-vue individual capsules with no preservatives -- a wee bit pricey but worth it.
-- If working on a computer, then keep your monitor low, so that as you look down, your eyelids slightly hood over your eyes. This REALLY helps reduce eyestrain.
-- if its windy, or you are riding a bike, or you live in a smoggy place, get used to wearing sunglasses even on cloudy days. Maybe get some with clear lenses too for night. They really reallyhelp with keeping dust out of your eyes. Think of them as safety goggles, not so much as sunglasses.
-- if you get a chance during the day, pop your lenses out and soak them for a few minutes. It rests your eyes and makes the lenses more slippery.
-- if you get into a real discomfort situation, it is usally because something is in the lens, and your eye becomes irritated. Don't push this situation. In my experience a vicious circle sets in whereby the eye becomes slightly swollen or puffy and then the eyelid starts to drag the RGP all over the cornea, making things worse. Put an ice cube in a paper towel, put a couple of drops of water on it, and hold it on your eye. With the reduction in swelling this affords you can break the vicious circle.
-- when you see your optometrist make sure you describe your symptoms in detail. Ask them to check your lenses for cleanilness, and also for fit. Fit is obviously crucial with RGPs.

Having said all this, I routinely wear my RGPs all day and for most of the time I am completely unaware of their presence.

What ROU-X notes about prophylactic help vs. astigmatism is probably true -- keratoconus is basically a degenerative, highly irregular astigamatism and the evidence that RGPs slow the disease is good enough that the medical system here pasy for the lenses on the basis they are a treatment, not just cosmetic. Another huge benefit of RGP is that the cleaners can be much stronger and you are much less likely to develop eye infections than with soft lenses, provided you can keep them comfortable. You can also use pretty much any eyedrop because they do not absorb substances the way soft ones do.

Good luck with it.
posted by Rumple at 12:41 AM on May 22, 2006 [2 favorites]

Mind that you wash your hands and dry them with a LINT-FREE towel. If you have cheap towels that leave fibers all over your hands, and you get them under your lens, that's quite uncomfortable.

I usually don't bother drying my hands before handling my contacts.
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:15 AM on May 22, 2006

Another thing I've found useful is using saline to put them into my eyes instead of tap water. This depends on the water -- some places I've lived, tap water was fine, but in TX and NC saline feels much better.

I routinely wear my RGPs all day and for most of the time I am completely unaware of their presence.

Likewise, except that by 9 or 10 at night they can get a bit of schmutz. Sometimes I just switch to glasses at that point, other times I pop 'em out, scrub for a moment, and put back in.

To reiterate my earlier point: if you've been wearing them for a week and a half, you are almost certainly nowhere remotely near acclimated to them.

if its windy, or you are riding a bike, or you live in a smoggy place, get used to wearing sunglasses even on cloudy days.

Fuckin'-A yes.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:59 AM on May 22, 2006

Did you try "breaking them in"? I mean wearing them an hour the first day, two hours the next, and building up.

Ditto on no lint towels, or just letting your hands air dry (if you have a fan in your bathroom, you'll be amazed at how quickly your hands will dry).
posted by radioamy at 2:34 PM on May 22, 2006

OK, I've never had RGP lenses, but back before I had disposable soft contacts I used to regularly develop a condition similar to what you describe. One lens would become very uncomfortable, every blink hurt. Turns out it was an infection on my eyelid from buildup of protein on the lens. Even using an enzymatic cleaner weekly wasn't sufficient for me. When I switched to (monthly) disposables, the problem went away.

Since others have suggested that cleaning is even more critical with RGPs than soft lenes, and since you seem to have a fairly relaxed schedule with regard to protein cleaning ("every week or two as the spirt moves me"), that could be it. You might try just protein-cleaning more frequently, say once or even twice a week.

Ha! Scratch that. That was ROU_Xenophobe. You don't seem to be using an enzymatic cleaner at all. Perhaps you should.
posted by zanni at 2:59 AM on May 23, 2006

CRAP!!!!!!!!!! F&%$!!!!!! I just dropped my left rgp contact in the sink and I can't get it out!
posted by EasyLover at 9:04 PM on October 21, 2006

I came across this page a week or so ago and I hope that it is not too late for a series of questions. Reading these posts made me realize what a great opportunity this could be to get some answers. I don’t know of anybody else who wears RGP lenses so this has already been quite comforting.

A little about me: I’m 25, I was just diagnosed with keratoconus and prescribed hard contacts. I think this is all due to my years of eye rubbing from allergies. I’ve been wearing them for a couple weeks and things are going so-so.

First of all, getting them in. Whether I get them in easily (usually by luck) rather than after several tries seems to be a huge factor on whether they are going to hurt or not. If I manage to slip them in within the first try, I’m golden. The discomfort and tearing is minor if any. But if I don’t all hell breaks loose. I start to tear. They hurt when they are in. I can’t see all that clearly. I can’t even wear them that long.

Now once they are in. It’s a mixed bag. I can see much clearer, no doubt about that. But there are problems. First the squinting, I look like a mole that just came out of the ground. Then, there is glare everywhere and a ring of light on the edges. Then, I can’t look up, left or right without it hurting like hell or not being so great in terms of focus.

I was driving at night with the contacts in. Just to get a feel. It wasn’t great. It was glare galore. But then as I thought it couldn’t get worse in started raining and I had to let my friend drive because it turned into a Pink Floyd laser show.

I like the contacts to be somewhat dry when I insert them. Adding a wetting drop in them makes insertion really sloppy and painful. Not only that but when the contacts are in those drops come out after some blinking and create a thick annoying tear.

I still use the rubber sticks with a suction on the end to remove the contacts.



posted by EasyLover at 10:29 PM on November 12, 2006

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