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Contacts for Astigmatism: What to Look For

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A woman holding out a contact lens for astigmatism that rests on her finger tip

Say Hello to Astigmatism Correction Sans Frames

In the past, contact lenses could be challenging to fit and wear. Though many people with easy-to-correct refractive errors could use contacts, those patients with eyes that didn’t suit the smooth curve of most contacts were left with fewer options. 

If you’ve been told in the past that there wasn’t a contact lens for your eyes due to astigmatism, it’s worth checking again at your next eye exam. Contact lens technology is continually improving, and there are more options than ever to correct your vision with contacts.

Talk to your optometrist about contact lenses, and read on to learn about the types of contacts that help those with astigmatism achieve clearer vision.

What Is Astigmatism?

Astigmatism is a vision condition caused by the cornea or the lens having an irregular or cylindrical shape, or by mismatched curves in different parts of the eye’s anatomy. This condition means the light entering the eye is unable to hit the correct spot on the retina, which makes vision blurry.

Astigmatism often starts in childhood and may be influenced by genetic factors, small changes and disruptions in eye growth, or pressure on the cornea or eyelid.  Often the condition is found alongside either hyperopia (farsightedness) or myopia (nearsightedness), and all three are classified as refractive errors.

Astigmatism may present itself with signs and symptoms like:

  • Blurred vision
  • Distorted vision
  • Headaches
  • Eyestrain
  • Squinting
  • Poor night vision

Types of Contact Lenses for Astigmatism

Toric Lenses

Toric lenses are specially designed contact lenses made to correct astigmatism. While many contact lenses are smooth and rounded, toric lenses have thicker and thinner areas that help correct for the differently-shaped cornea.

Toric lenses come as soft contact lenses made of hydrogel or silicone hydrogel. They offer different types of refractive correction on their vertical and horizontal axes, which helps accommodate for the differently shaped areas of the eye’s surface. Toric lenses also rotate on the eye to sit in the optimal place for vision correction.

Rigid Gas-Permeable Lenses

Rigid gas-permeable lenses are made of a stiff plastic that maintains its shape and allows oxygen through to the eye. They can correct vision issues caused by astigmatism due to their hardness—since the lenses aren’t soft enough to form to the eye’s contours, they hold their shape. This rigidity offers refractive correction and sharper vision.

Rigid gas-permeable lenses are also called gas-permeable lenses, GP lenses, RGP lenses, and oxygen permeable lenses. They tend to take more time to get used to as they’re thicker and harder than their soft counterparts. Normally they are custom-fitted to the eye.

Hybrid Lenses

Hybrid lenses combine aspects of soft and rigid gas-permeable lenses to help correct your vision. The center is made of rigid gas-permeable material for sharp vision correction, and the outer ring is made of soft hydrogel. The outer ring keeps the lenses more comfortable, and their size makes them more likely to stay on the eye during physical activity.

Scleral Lenses

Scleral lenses are a type of rigid gas permeable lens made to fit those with irregular corneas. These lenses vault over the cornea and rest on the white of the eye, called the sclera. They also have a fluid reservoir filled with a solution that keeps the eye moist during wear, making them an excellent choice for people with dry eye disease.

Orthokeratology Lenses

Orthokeratology lenses (or ortho-k) are rigid gas-permeable lenses designed to be worn overnight. They gently reshape the cornea while you sleep, so glasses aren’t needed during waking hours. The corneal reshaping isn’t permanent, but it generally allows a day or two of clear vision once you’ve removed the lenses.

A woman putting in a set of contact lenses

Finding Your Perfect Contact Lens Fit

Contact Lens Exams

If you’re interested in contact lenses to correct your astigmatism, let your doctor know when you come in for your next eye exam. A contact lens eye exam will be added to your regular comprehensive exam. The contact exam includes measurements of:

  • Pupil and iris
  • Corneal curvature
  • Tear film quality

Fittings & Trials

Fitting contacts to correct astigmatism may take longer than an average contact lens fitting because there are more unique variables in the eye’s shape and the cornea’s surface. There are even custom-made contacts available for astigmatism.

Once your optometrist has found the best fitting contact lens type for you, there may be a trial period of a week or so to ensure that you like the way the contacts fit, you’re comfortable with them, and they correct your vision appropriately.

Contact Care

Contact care is critical when wearing any type of contact lens. Since the lens is sitting directly on your eye, proper hygiene is crucial to keep your eyes healthy. 

Your special astigmatism correcting lenses may require specific care, so be sure to follow all the instructions your optometrist gives you to deal with your contacts. Some general contact care tips include:

  • Always handle your contacts with clean hands
  • Use the correct solution to clean your contacts—NEVER water & NEVER saliva
  • Replace your contacts as directed
  • Remove your contacts regularly to give your eyes a break
  • Don’t sleep in your contact lenses (unless specifically directed otherwise by your eye care team)
  • Come in for regular eye exams to ensure your eyes are healthy during contact use

Explore Your Astigmatism Contact Options

If you’re interested in contact lenses to curb your astigmatism, contact your optometrist. The Eye Care Centre in central Alberta has been looking after the community’s eye health and optical needs since the 1940s. Let our experienced team of professionals lead you through the ins and outs of contacts for astigmatism and help you experience clear, frame-free vision.

Written by Dr. Kevin Hesterman

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