Constant wearers of conventional eyeglasses-especially bifocals-may find contact lenses nothing short of miraculous in terms of quality of vision, convenience, cost, and appearance. But there is an annoying, at times painful, break-in period.
They're not for everybody Those with mild myopia (nearsightedness), who wear glasses only occasionally or at theaters, sporting events, or to watch TV, probably shouldn't bother. And people who have good distance vision but wear glasses only for reading because they have developed presbyopia (far-sightedness) won't benefit from them, either.
But the lifelong, all-day glasses wearer should consider the investment in money, time, and discomfort, because the payoff, as one person put it, "is like getting brand new eyes."
Where to get them? Most likely, where you get your present glasses. Ophthalmologists (MD eye specialists) may do it all: Refract, prescribe, and dispense the lenses on their own or through a lab. Optometrists (lens and glass specialists) work the same way or with their own or other optical stores. These arrangements vary with local law and custom.
Don't get caught up in local and professional differences. The ophthalmologists obviously can perform many functions that optometrists can't, so everybody ought to visit one occasionally regardless of where glasses and lenses are bought. But optometrists usually are more experienced at fitting glasses and lenses than opthalmologists, and are involved with eye diseases, medication, and surgery as well as with the prescribing of glasses and lenses.
Which kind-hard or soft? Hard lenses are cheaper. Also, hard last longer, usually give somewhat sharper distance vision, can give correction for a higher degree of astigmatism than soft ones, and are easier to handle, clean, and use.
Soft lenses are much easier to get used to, but trickier to learn to handle, more easily damaged, require sterilization, and must be replaced more often.
Best bet: Try a pair of hard ones first. Give them more than the recommended time adjustment-at least three months. By then the wearer knows the benefits and problems. You'll probably find them far superior to glasses.
Then, if the discomforts persist, along with the benefits, try a pair of soft ones. For anyone who requires good vision for work and play (sailing, tennis, etc.), the cost and the bother of getting the right kind are well worth it.
Bifocal wearers usually can replace their complicated spectacles with a pair of contact lenses and a simple pair of magnifying reading glasses.
Important: Don't use sprays (deodorant, hair, food) after inserting lenses. Also: Make sure there's no soap or shampoo on fingertips. Wear lenses while shaving to avoid contaminating them with after-shave products applied with the hands.
Don't wear the soft contact lenses in a chlorinated pool. The chemicals can be harmful to the lenses. Hard lenses may be lost in the water.
Ocean water also increases deterioration. Lake water is easier than saltwater on the lenses.
Waterskiing: Easy to lose a contact if you take a spill.
Sailing: Perfect sport for contact lenses. Reason: Unlike glasses, contacts don't get fogged up or splashed.
Tennis, riding, baseball: No problem. If the lenses pop out or give you problems during these activities, it means that they are poorly fitted.
The birth-control pill can affect the comfort and fit of contact lenses. It causes a shift in hormonal balance. This sometimes changes the shape of the eye's cornea. Result: Contact lenses no longer fit. Instead, they cause discomfort, tearing, and redness. This condition is also experienced by women coming off the pill. They experience cornea change from cessation of the hormonal influence. Have your lenses adjusted by an ophthalmologist.
Exercises That Relax Your Eyes: The eyes have it. Sometimes, the eyes have had it. The controlled eye movements necessary for reading are strenuous and demanding. Artificial light is stressful to the eyes. The eyes often get tired, overworked, and overstimulated. Tense facial or neck muscles and poor head/neck alignment are often responsible for poor eyesight and eye fatigue.
Exercises to do during the day to take advantage of natural lighting: If you wear contact lenses or glasses, remove them.
Starting in the constructive rest position, lie on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet flat on the floor. Your arms can either be crossed over your chest or open above your head. Close your eyes. For a moment or two, just breathe. Let your thoughts go. Breathe naturally. Gradually, let your breathing get slower and deeper. Take your time. Then, as you inhale through your nose, imagine that the air fills your whole head. As you exhale through your mouth, imagine that the air leaves through the back of your neck. Attempt five minutes with this visualization.
While your eyes are still closed, slowly cover them with your hands. Return your concentration to your breathing. Then uncover your eyes. Repeat five to 10 times. Allow yourself several breaths between covering and uncovering your eyes.
Return to the visualization and the eye covering sequence. Then rest.
When you are ready, slowly open your eyes.
Don't move. Relax. Ask yourself: How am I feeling? How is my vision? My body? My mind? After a moment or two, as slowly as possible, turn your head to the right. Do not try to see. Instead, passively look at each molecule of space that passes by. When you have turned your head as far to the right as you comfortably can, pause and take a slow, deep breath. Now, turn your head 25 slowly as you can and as far to the left as is comfortable. Pause again for a complete slow, deep breath. Repeat this sequence five times. After the first sequence, you need not pause, just continue at a tortoise-like pace. Slowly bring your head back to center. Rest.
Both the eye-covering and head-turning exercises can be performed from a sitting or standing position.
Buying Sunglasses: To test for lens irregularities, hold glasses at arm's length toward a surface with both horizontal and vertical lines, such as a paned window. If lines waver when glasses are moved up and down, or side to side, the glasses are imperfect. Lens colors that offer the best protection: Medium-dark gray or green.
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