Your eye doctor has filled you in. It’s official. You have an astigmatism. So now, not only are the numbers on your almost perfect 20/20 vision rising slightly, but it’s not clear if contact lenses are an option. Luckily, vision correction technology has evolved a lot through the years, and contacts have been evolving too.
Beyond the surface of astigmatism
When light enters your eye, it must pass through multiple structures where it’s focused to place a clear image on the retina. This refraction, or light bending, starts with the corneas at the surface of your eyes.
Normal corneas have a regular and consistent rounded surface, where light is properly focused regardless of the angle. With astigmatism, corneas may have an oblong shape with irregular sloping along the surface of the eye. This causes the light entering your eyes to be refracted at inconsistent angles and leads to vision impairment.
Standard contact lenses and astigmatism
Historically, contact lenses were not an option for most patients with astigmatism. A standard contact lens does not fit properly over a unique cornea. Vision correction is possible, but the lenses move around and do not consistently solve the problem. As a result, prescription glasses and refractive surgery were the most reasonable options for astigmatism for a long time.
Modern contact lenses that work with astigmatism
Now unique lenses have been developed specifically to accommodate vision changes associated with your astigmatism.
Toric contact lenses
Toric lenses use the soft materials of standard lenses, but correct for varying degrees of near and farsightedness caused by astigmatism. They have a special design feature that stabilizes the lens and keeps it in the ideal position for consistent vision correction.
Gas permeable contact lenses
Gas permeable (GP) lenses are made from rigid materials and typically have a thicker profile than soft lenses. Instead of fitting to the shape of the cornea, these lenses maintain a firm spherical shape that replaces the irregularities of astigmatism. GP lenses are extremely effective, but many people find them uncomfortable.
Hybrid contact lenses
These lenses combine elements of both toric contacts and GP contacts. A central rigid GP zone is surrounded by soft lens material to provide the comfort of toric lenses with the vision clarity of GP lenses. With a wider lens diameter, these lenses are also less likely to be dislodged during sports and other activities.
Costs associated with specialty lenses
These options are slightly more complex than standard contact lenses, so they need to be fitted to your eyes individually by a skilled optometrist or eye doctor. They may not need to be replaced as often, but to begin with they will be more expensive than standard lenses. Even if you decide specialty contacts are not the best fit for you, overcoming astigmatism is easy with modern optometry.
If you’re uncertain about your contacts or are experiencing any discomfort, then use your VSP Individual Plan to schedule an appointment with your eye doctor today. If you don’t have vision insurance, find out how VSP can help you save on your next eye exam or pair of contact lenses.