Contact Lens Choices

Contact lenses: What to know before you buy

Wonder the best type of contact lens for your vision problem, lifestyle or budget? Compare the pros and cons of specific types of contact lenses.

By Mayo Clinic staff

Thinking about trading your glasses for contact lenses? Contact lenses are more versatile than ever before. Specialized contact lenses can even treat certain eye conditions beyond impaired vision. Whatever your reason for choosing contact lenses, proper selection and maintenance can keep you seeing clearly. Start by understanding the pros and cons of common types of contact lenses — and the ground rules for preventing eye infections.

Soft contact lenses

Soft contact lenses conform to the shape of your eye. These thin, gel-like lenses are comfortable and tend to stay in place well, so they're a good choice if you participate in sports or lead an active lifestyle. Soft contact lenses can be used to correct various vision problems, including myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism.

Soft contact lenses come in single use, daily wear and extended wear varieties.

Single use
Single use soft contact lenses are individually packaged for one-day use. You put in a new pair in the morning, then remove and discard them before you go to sleep at night.

  • Pros. Single use soft contact lenses are convenient. They don't need to be cleaned and can be used intermittently.
  • Cons. Single use soft contact lenses are more expensive than other types of soft contact lenses.

Daily wear
Daily wear soft contact lenses are designed to be worn daily and may be reused for a certain number of weeks, depending on the manufacturer. Typically, you insert these lenses every morning and remove them every night.

  • Pros. Daily wear soft contact lenses are more economical than single use contact lenses.
  • Cons. Daily wear soft contact lenses must be cleaned every day and replaced regularly to avoid protein buildup in the eye and other complications.

Extended wear
Extended wear soft contact lenses are designed to be worn continuously — both day and night — for a certain number of weeks, depending on the manufacturer.

  • Pros. Extended wear contact lenses allow a certain amount of oxygen to reach your cornea even while you're sleeping, so the lenses can be worn overnight — although your eye specialist may recommend only occasional overnight use.
  • Cons. Continuous use promotes the buildup of micro-organisms on the lenses and increases the risk of infection and other complications.

Hard contact lenses

Rigid gas-permeable (RGP) lenses, or hard contact lenses, are smaller and more rigid than are soft contact lenses. This makes them less comfortable than soft contact lenses, at least at first. However, gas-permeable lenses allow oxygen to pass through to the eyes, which makes them less likely to cause corneal irritation. Gas-permeable lenses also can correct certain vision problems, such as refractive errors that require high spherical or cylindrical powers, more accurately than can soft contact lenses.

  • Pros. Hard contact lenses are durable and easy to care for. They also provide greater breathability than do soft contact lenses, which reduces the risk of infection. If your prescription doesn't change and you take care of your hard contact lenses, you can use the same pair for two to three years.
  • Cons. Hard contact lenses are initially less comfortable than are soft contact lenses. You may need up to a week to readjust to the lenses if you stop wearing them for an extended period. Hard contact lenses are more likely to slip off the center of your eye than are soft contact lenses, which could lead to discomfort and blurred vision.