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How Do Contact Lenses Work?

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A woman putting a contact lens on her right eye using her right hand with her left hand holding her eyelid.

A popular alternative to eyeglasses, contact lenses offer a convenient and comfortable solution for vision correction, made possible through contact lens exams and fittings.

By redirecting light to focus correctly on the retina, contact lenses can offer clear vision without the necessity of frames, creating a smooth visual experience.

What Contact Lenses Do

Contact lenses are designed to address many vision problems, making them a versatile and appealing option for many.

Contact lenses help correct various vision problems, including nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), and astigmatism. These lenses improve visual clarity and focus by altering how light enters the eye.

How the Shape of the Lens Affects Light Refraction

The shape of a contact lens determines how it refracts light, which in turn influences its ability to increase or decrease the focusing potential of the eye. Contact lenses refocus light onto the retina and aid in correcting refractive errors.

For example, a lens designed to correct myopia will be thinner at the center than at the edges, while a lens for hyperopia will be thicker in the centre. This precise manipulation of light refraction allows contact lenses to address various vision issues effectively.

Myopia (Nearsightedness)

Myopia is a common vision problem where close objects appear clear, but distant objects are blurry. Contact lenses for myopia have a concave shape, which helps focus light more accurately on the retina.

Hyperopia (Farsightedness)

Hyperopia is the opposite of myopia—distant objects are clear, but close objects appear blurry. Contact lenses for hyperopia have a convex shape, which converges light rays to focus on the retina.


Astigmatism occurs when the cornea or lens has an irregular shape, causing blurred vision at all distances. Toric contact lenses correct astigmatism by compensating for the eye’s irregular shape and refocusing light on the retina.

Benefits of Wearing Contact Lenses

Contact lenses offer numerous advantages over traditional eyeglasses, making them popular for those seeking vision correction.

Unobstructed Field of View

Contact lenses cover the entire surface of the eye, providing an unobstructed field of view.
They allow wearers to enjoy wider peripheral vision, which can be especially helpful during activities such as sports or driving.

No Fogging or Sliding

Unlike eyeglasses, contact lenses do not fog up in cold or humid conditions, allowing you to maintain clear vision despite the weather. They don’t slide down your nose or require constant adjustment, offering a better daily experience for many.

Aesthetic Appeal

Contact lenses can offer a more aesthetically pleasing option for people who don’t like the look of eyeglasses. They allow wearers to maintain a natural appearance without the need for frames, making them an alternative for those who prefer a subtle approach to vision correction.

Compatibility with Sports & Activities

Contact lenses are ideal for athletes and those involved in physical activities, as they tend to remain securely in place without the risk of falling off or getting damaged. 

Increased Comfort

Modern contact lenses, such as the widely used soft contacts, are designed with comfort in mind. Soft contacts are made of a very flexible polymer material that provides comfortable and clear vision, making them the most common day-to-day lenses. 

These materials allow the eye to breathe and retain moisture, resulting in many users finding contact lenses more comfortable than eyeglasses.

Versatility in Coloured Lenses

Apart from correcting vision problems, contact lenses also offer the option of changing one’s eye colour through coloured lenses. It adds an element of fun and versatility to the wearer’s appearance, allowing them to experiment with different looks.

Factors to Consider when Selecting Contact Lenses

Selecting the right contact lens style is important for achieving vision correction and comfort. With the help of your eye doctor, you can make an informed decision and select the ideal contact lenses for your unique vision requirements and lifestyle.

Prescription & Vision Needs

The first and foremost consideration in choosing contact lenses is your prescription and specific vision needs. Your optometrist can assess your eyes and recommend the appropriate lens type.

Lens Material

Contact lenses come in various materials, such as soft hydrogel, silicone hydrogel, and rigid gas-permeable (RGP) lenses.

Each material offers different levels of oxygen permeability, durability, and comfort. Soft lenses, made from hydrogel or silicone hydrogel, are known for their flexibility and comfort, while RGP lenses provide sharper vision and increased durability.

Wearing Schedule

Different contact lenses have different wearing schedules, ranging from daily disposables to extended wear options that can be worn overnight.

Your lifestyle, personal preferences, and eye health can help determine the most suitable wearing schedule.

Comfort & Eye Sensitivity

Individuals with sensitive eyes or specific ocular conditions, such as dry eye syndrome or allergies, may require specialized contact lenses designed for enhanced comfort and reduced irritation.

There are lenses with higher moisture content or specialized coatings to minimize discomfort and promote overall eye health.

A man looking into a piece of optometry equipment as his female optometrist performs an eye exam.

Embracing the World of Contact Lenses

Contact lenses are a solution for individuals seeking clear vision without the inconvenience of eyeglasses. Understanding how contact lenses work and the various options available allows you to decide what would work well for you.

At West Coast Optical, we have a team of experienced professionals to help you choose the right lens for your unique needs. If you’ve ever wanted to try contacts, book your appointment today for a contact lens exam and experience the difference that quality eye care can make in your life.

Written by West Coast Optical

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