Have you been wearing the same contact lens brand for years? If you have, chances are that there are many new brands of contact lenses that could be suitable for your prescription. Indeed, your eye doctor probably reminds you of that fact every time you go for you eye check-up. But when do you really need to change contact lens brands?
As with everything in life, newer products tend to cost more. So the question that arises is, are newer contact lens brands better than old ones? And is it worth your money to switch to the newest contact lens brands?
Breathability is Important…
The breathability of contact lenses is something that has improved a lot over the years. If you have been wearing a contact lens design based on older technology, your cornea may not be receiving an adequate amount of oxygen.
The cornea is the part of the eye that the contact lenses cover. It is a clear, transparent tissue that requires a certain amount of oxygen for proper functioning and heath.
The cornea does not have a blood supply. That means is contains no blood vessels (arteries and veins). This is important because blood vessels in the cornea would get in the way of your vision and cause you to see blurry.
Since oxygen is normally delivered to the different tissues of the body through the blood supply, and since the cornea does not have a blood supply, yet still requires oxygen to function, it must receive oxygen a different way.
The way the cornea obtains oxygen is through a process called direct diffusion from the oxygen in the atmosphere. That means that oxygen directly enters the cornea from the air. When there are no barriers between the cornea and the air, enough oxygen will penetrate in the cornea for it to remain healthy.
However, if there is a barrier between the cornea and the air, such as a contact lens, this will reduce the amount of oxygen reaching the cornea. If the contact lenses reduce the level of oxygen to your cornea beyond the level which it needs to stay healthy, your cornea will slowly develop health complications. Over time, these complications could be serious.
Over the years, contact lens manufacturers have been getting better and better at developing contact lenses that allow more and more oxygen through them in order not to starve the cornea.
If you wear a very old brand of contact lenses, and you’re someone who tends to wear them all day, every day, it would be a good idea for you to speak with your eye doctor about switching into a newer brand that will allow your cornea to breath better. This will significantly reduce the risk of you developing potentially serious contact lens complications.
… To a Certain Extent
When studies started to show that older contact lens brands weren’t allowing enough oxygen to reach the cornea, contact lens manufacturers started pouring huge amount of money in to research and development to develop lenses that would be healthier for the eyes. The world’s top contact lens scientists and engineers were all working on this problem, and they found the solution.
In fact, they were so good at the task that was given to them, that with some of the newest contact lenses they went a little overboard.
The cornea only needs a certain amount of oxygen throughout the day to function properly. If the contact lenses are breathable enough to permit the necessary amount of oxygen to pass through without causing problems, there is no need to increase the breathability of the contact lenses any further.
All the major contact lens manufacturers have had brands out that more than surpass the required level of breathability for good corneal health. For example: Air Optix Aqua Night & Day, Bausch & Lomb ULTRA, Biofinity, and more.
However, with newer brands, they continue to try to push the breathability of contact lenses higher and higher. Health studies show that they provides no additional benefit to the contact lens wearer, but the technology required to produce these brands continue to push the cost higher.
If you are in a brand that gives you more than enough oxygen to ensure your eyes stay healthy over time, there is no need to spend more on even newer brands. You would be paying for a feature that provides you no additional benefits.
The Trade Off
Water content is a property of contact lenses which specifies what percentage of water makes up the contact lens vs the percentage of plastic.
Water in contact lenses is what makes them softer and more comfortable. Plastic in the contact lenses it what allow them to hold their shape and fix your vision.
If the water content is too high, although the contact lenses will be very comfortable, they will be too soft and flimsy to hold their shape, meaning that you will have a terrible time getting them into your eyes.
On the flip side, if the water content is too low, although the contacts will retain their shape extremely well, they will feel rigid and uncomfortable.
Getting the perfect water content has always been a bit of a balancing act for contact lens manufacturers. They have always had to make a compromise between comfort, and ease of use. .. until recently that is.
Water Content Gradient
In 2012, Alcon released a lens called Dailies TOTAL1 that solves the water content dilemma. They invented something called a water content gradient.
They were able to manufacture a contact lens that has almost 100% water content on the inner and otter surfaces, and 33% in the core.
This means that where the contact lens interacts with your eyes (at the inner and outer surfaces), practically all you feel is water. But since the core of the contact lens has a lower water content, the lens still holds its shape well.
So if you’ve been wearing older lenses that always either seem to give you too much trouble putting them in, or are too uncomfortable, switching to Dailies TOTAL1 might be the solution for you. Ask your eye your eye doctor about it the next time you go in for your eye exam.
UV protection in contact lenses is not a new feature, however, if you’re wearing an older brand of contact lenses, chances are they don’t have UV protection.
For many years, only contact lenses in the Acuvue family of brands (such as Acuvue Oasys, Acuvue TruEye, Acuvue 1-day Moist) had UV protection. Nowadays, every manufacture is producing lenses that will block out the sun’s nasty UV rays, so you can feel more protected while you wear you contact lenses.
Why is it a good idea to wear contact lenses that block UV light?
UV light is harmful to our bodies. It is harmful to our skin, just as it is to our eyes. When your eyes are exposed to UV light, they sustain microscopic amounts of damage, most of which the body can repair. However, over time, this damage adds up, and your body will not always be able to repair itself correctly, leaving your eyes with permanent damage.
Elevated long term exposure to UV light can increase the risk of developing eye conditions such as cataracts, macular degeneration, and corneal diseases.
In addition, exposure to UV light around your eyes can lead to the early onset of wrinkles, crow’s feet, moles, and skin cancer, but wearing contact lenses that block UV light won’t help you with those. For that you’ll need to throw on some quality sunglasses over top of your contact lenses.
So are newer contact lenses better than old ones? Is it time for you to change contact lens brands? Of course it depends on your exact circumstance, but it general, yes, contact lenses have been steadily improving over the decades and have become much more breathable, much more comfortable, and much better for the long term health of your eyes.
If you’re wondering if the brand of contacts you’re wearing is outdated, mention it to your eye doctor at your next eye exam, and see if you would benefit from switching to a newer brand.
Remember that when your optometrist is finished assessing you for contact lenses, that he/she must provide you with your contact lens prescription so that you may shop elsewhere for you contact lenses if you wish.
Want to know how to convert my eyeglass prescription to contacts
Hi Darlene, I have an article that discusses how eye doctors convert eyeglass prescriptions to contacts with links to conversion charts here: Converting Your Glasses Prescription to a Contact Lens Prescription. However, it’s important to note that for ordering purposes, you need a prescription filled out by your eye doctor him/herself. Hope this helps :)