Top FAQs about contact lenses

How do I go about getting contact lenses?
If you want to wear contact lenses to correct your eyesight, you must start by consulting an eyecare practitioner for a fitting. Only registered optometrists, contact lens opticians and medical practitioners can fit contact lenses. 

What happens when I go for a contact lens fitting?
Fitting includes discussing your visual and lifestyle requirements. An eye and contact lens examination will determine if your eyes are healthy and if you are suitable for lens wear. Your eyecare practitioner will also take measurements of your eyes to find the best lens type, fit and vision, before trialling lenses with you.

How should I choose a contact lens practitioner?
Our 'Find a BCLA contact lens practitioner' service can help you to find a practitioner in your area who is a member of the BCLA. Personal recommendation is also a good way to find the right practitioner. Ask friends and colleagues in your area about their experiences.

Can anyone wear contact lenses?
Nowadays, almost everyone can benefit from contact lens wear. Most eyesight problems can be corrected with contact lenses and advances in lens materials and solutions mean that wearing contact lenses is simpler, more convenient and more comfortable than ever before.

I've tried contact lenses before without success. Should I try again?
Yes. Research has shown that many people who drop out from contact lenses can be successful with modern lenses. Lens designs and materials are constantly evolving – so ask your eyecare practitioner about the latest developments.

How do I know if contact lenses are right for me?
Your eyecare practitioner will put contact lenses on your eyes so that you can see how they feel, and will then check the lens fit and your vision. Once you've tried the lenses, you and your practitioner can decide together whether contact lenses are right for you.

Can I try contact lenses before I decide whether to wear them?
Practitioners usually offer a trial so you can take the lenses away with you to see how you get on with them. You'll need to learn how to look after your lenses, put them on the eye and remove them, before you take them away to try. Once you've worn the lenses, you'll need to have the health of your eyes checked and the fitting completed.

What type of contact lenses should I wear?
Think about when and where you want to wear contact lenses: every day, for going out or playing sport, or just for special occasions. Your practitioner will help you decide on the best type of lens to suit your needs and advise you how often you should replace them.

Are all contact lenses the same?
No. There are hundreds of different types of contact lenses and thousands of different fittings. Each lens type needs to be fitted to meet your individual requirements. Contact lenses are not interchangeable and you should never change your lens type or the way you wear your lenses without the recommendation of your practitioner.

Am I too young for contact lenses?
Young children, and even babies in some instances, can be fitted with contact lenses. Research has shown that children can be very successful and benefit from contact lens wear. Now that most contact lenses are replaced often, there's no need to wait until your eyes have stopped changing to wear contact lenses.

Am I too old for contact lenses?
With modern lenses, there's no reason why age should be a barrier. Bifocal and multifocal contact lenses are available for those who need different lens powers for distance and close work, or you may want to wear contact lenses for some of the time and spectacles for the rest.

Can I wear contact lenses for sport?
Yes, contact lenses have many advantages for sport because they provide all-round, natural vision, are more stable than spectacles and are not affected by rain, fog or reflections. They allow protective eyewear or sunglasses to be worn and means a low risk of damage or injury. What type of contact lens is best for sport? Soft contact lenses are generally the best choice for active sports as these tend to move less on the eye compared to rigid gas permeable lenses (RGP) and are less likely to be dislodged. For outdoor sports, your contact lenses can also incorporate protection from ultraviolet (UV) light.

Can contact lenses protect my eyes against the sun?
Some contact lenses block ultraviolet (UV) light and, worn with other forms of eye protection, offer protection from damaging UV rays. UV-blocking lenses alone can offer some protection when wearing sunglasses is undesirable or impractical. Will I still need to have glasses? Yes. You'll need to have an up-to-date pair of glasses to wear when you remove your lenses. You may want to combine different types of vision correction to suit your eyesight and lifestyle. And you may also want to have sunglasses to wear with your contact lenses.

How much do contact lenses cost?
The cost of contact lenses varies according to the lens type and the frequency of wear. Remember that you will need to pay for check-ups as well as for lenses. Your contact lens practitioner may include the cost of check-ups in the price of your lenses, charge separately, or offer a monthly eye plan or payment scheme.

Isn't it cheaper to buy them off the internet?
The monthly cost of contact lenses bought from an optician's often look more expensive as they generally include the cost of regular aftercare appointments and professional time doesn't come cheap. When comparing prices between online retailers and your eyecare practitioner, you should include the cost of at least one aftercare appointment per year (~£15-£40/year), not forgetting that you still need a full eye examination (sight test) at least every two years. It is not illegal to sell cosmetic lenses online in the UK, so long as the seller complies with the current legal requirements. However, it is the advice of the BCLA that contact lenses only be purchased and worn after a registered contact lens practitioner has undertaken an initial contact lens assessment, and issued you with a contact lens prescription. Buying contact lenses online from unregulated overseas website may increase the risk of eye infections, corneal abrasion and even corneal ulcers.

Are contact lenses comfortable to wear?
Contact lenses provide excellent comfort and vision. Most people find that they are so easy to use that they forget they're wearing them. Your practitioner will help you find the most comfortable lenses for your needs.

I don't like the idea of putting something on my eye. Can I still wear contact lenses? 
Many people are concerned about a lens touching their eyes or putting them on but are still very successful with contact lenses. Try a lens for yourself and see how comfortable it can be. Soft lenses feel much like a drop of water on the eye.

Are contact lenses hard to put on and take off?
Applying and removing lenses takes some practice but will soon be as natural as brushing your teeth. Your contact lens practice will help you get used to handling your lenses and will be on hand to give you advice.

Am I likely to lose a contact lens?
Contact lenses are very unlikely to be dislodged provided you avoid rubbing your eyes. Take care when handling your lenses to ensure they only come into contact with your clean finger and your eye. If they touch any surface other than the lens case you should clean and disinfect them before re-applying

Are contact lenses bad for my eyes?
Contact lenses are a very popular and successful way of correcting your vision and problems are thankfully rare. Contact lens-related infections affect only about four in 10,000 wearers per year and vision loss due to infection is less common affecting just six in 100,000 wearers per year (see 'Looking after contact lenses').

How can I check my eyes for problems with my lenses?
Ask yourself these three questions, each time you wear your lenses: do my eyes feel good with my lenses; do my eyes look good – no redness; and do I see well – no unusual blurring with either eye? If the answer to any of these questions is no, leave your lenses off and consult your contact lens practitioner immediately who will advise you what to do next.

Can a contact lens go round the back of my eye?
The outer coating of the eye is continuous with the inner coating of the eyelid. If a lens is dislodged from the front of the eye it may settle under the upper or lower lid but cannot go behind the eye. Make sure you remove the lens if it becomes dislodged.

Do I have to wear my contact lenses every day?
No. In fact some types of contact lens, such as daily disposable soft lenses, are particularly useful if you only want to wear contact lenses part time or occasionally. Ask your contact lens practitioner for advice on the best type of lens to suit your needs.

My optician told me I have astigmatism. Can I wear contact lenses?
Yes. Almost all prescriptions can now be corrected with contact lenses, including astigmatism. Soft lenses, rigid gas permeable lenses and bifocal or multifocal lens designs are all available to correct astigmatism. These lenses are also known as 'toric' lenses.

I have two pairs of glasses, for distance and for reading. Can I wear contact lenses?
Yes. There are many convenient options for correcting your eyesight with contact lenses. You may want to have contact lenses for most situations or continue to wear glasses just for reading. Bifocal or multifocal contact lenses allow you to see clearly at various distances. Ask your contact lens practitioner to explain the options available.

I've heard you can buy 'circle lenses' on the internet to make your eyes look bigger. Are they safe?
A growing number of overseas companies have begun selling so-called 'circle lenses' over the internet. These cosmetic lenses cover part of the sclera (the whites of your eyes) with a ring of colour surrounded by a black border to enhance the iris and make your eyes appear bigger and more attractive. They have reportedly become increasingly popular in US and elsewhere since singer Lady Gaga's eyes were apparently digitally altered to look unnaturally big in her 2009 Bad Romance video. Circle lenses sit directly on the delicate surface of the eye so the risk of infection and causing trauma or injury is high. Poorly fitting lenses, extended wear and poor hygiene habits can all lead to serious eye infections, corneal ulcers, abrasions and even loss of vision.

It is not illegal to sell cosmetic lenses online in the UK, so long as the seller complies with the current legal requirements. However, it is the advice of the BCLA that contact lenses only be purchased and worn after a registered contact lens practitioner has undertaken an initial contact lens assessment, and issued you with a contact lens prescription. Buying circle lenses online from unregulated overseas website may increase the risk of eye infections, corneal abrasion and even corneal ulcers.

I normally wear multifocal glasses. Can I get multifocal contact lenses?
Yes. Bifocal and multifocal contact lenses are available in soft and rigid gas-permeable materials. Ask your contact practitioner about trying these lenses and the advantages of each lens type.

I suffer from allergies. Can I wear contact lenses?
Most people with allergies can successfully wear contact lenses. With the right choice of lenses, and, where necessary, appropriate medication, all but the most severely affected can continue to wear their lenses. Daily disposable soft lenses have been shown to be effective for those suffering from seasonal allergies such as hay fever.

I have dry eyes. Can I wear contact lenses?
Contact lenses are not contraindicated in most cases of dry eye and can be worn successfully even in challenging environments. Ask your contact lens practitioner for advice on lens types and alleviating dryness, and check before using any eye drops or dry eye preparations.

Can I re-use my daily disposable lenses if they're still comfortable?
No. Daily disposable are designed only for single-use and must be discarded after each wear. These lenses should be used strictly on a daily wear basis and are not intended or approved for re-use or for overnight wear. Daily disposables have a low risk of problems when used correctly.

Can I wear my monthly lenses for more than a month?
No. Comfort and performance will be affected if you extend the life of your lenses beyond the recommended replacement interval. Wearing dirty or damaged lenses can put your eye health at risk. Always follow the wearing schedule and replacement frequency recommended for your lenses by your contact lens practitioner.

Can I wear my contact lenses overnight?
Only lenses approved for overnight use ('extended' or 'continuous' wear lenses) can be worn during sleep and then only on the advice of your contact lens practitioner. Sleeping in contact lenses increases the risk of eye infection irrespective of lens type. Avoid sleeping in extended wear lenses if you are unwell.

I've heard about lenses that are worn during sleep and not during the day. What are these?
Orthokeratology ('ortho-K', 'corneal reshaping' or 'overnight vision correction') uses specially designed rigid gas-permeable (RGP) contact lenses to alter the shape of the cornea (the transparent front part of the eye) during sleep. These lenses are designed to be worn overnight and removed in the morning and to correct vision without the need for spectacles or contact lenses during the day.

I don't want to wear glasses on my wedding day. Can I wear contact lenses just for that day?
Yes, but you may find there are other occasions when you'd prefer not to wear glasses, such as for going out or playing sport. However often you wear contact lenses you must take the same care of your eyes and the lenses as you would wearing them every day and follow your contact lens practitioner's advice carefully.

I don't wear glasses but I'd like to change my eye colour. Can I get coloured lenses?
You can get contact lenses that change the colour of your eyes rather than correct your eyesight. It's in your best interest to have a proper fitting and specification by a registered eyecare practitioner. You'll need to take the same degree of care when wearing these lenses as with any other lenses and follow the recommended care procedures.

Can I buy 'fun' contact lenses to wear at Halloween?
Contact lenses are available that change the appearance of your eyes for special occasions but again you should have a proper fitting and specification and take the same care that you would with any contact lens (see above). Also remember you should never share contact lenses with anyone else.

Can I wear my contact lenses for swimming?
The BCLA advice for contact lens wearers is to not wear contact lenses for swimming – or in hot tubs or whilst showering or participating in water sports – unless wearing tight-fitting goggles over the top. After swimming – or if lenses are removed and stored whilst swimming – contact lenses should be cleaned and disinfected in fresh solution before putting them back on the eyes. The BCLA recommendation is that regular swimmers talk to their eyecare practitioner about being fitted with daily disposable lenses for use with goggles whilst swimming. Wearers of daily disposable contact lenses should always discard them immediately after swimming.

What precautions should I take with my lenses when travelling?
Make sure you take all the contact lenses you need with you, including spare lenses, as well as your storage case and solutions if you have re-usable lenses. Daily disposables can be useful when travelling in difficult or unhygienic conditions or lenses that allow flexible wearing times may be appropriate. Ask your contact lens practitioner for advice.

Can I store my contact lenses in water?
No. Never allow tap water, or any other type of water, to come into contact with your lenses or lens case whatever type of lens you use. You should also dry your hands thoroughly after washing and before handling your lenses. You should also keep your eyes firmly closed if you wear your lenses for showering.

How can I tell if my soft contact lenses are inside out?
Take the lens out of the storage case or packaging and hold it on the tip of your dry finger. If the lens turns slightly in at the edges it's the correct way around – if the edges turn slightly out and the lens looks unusually flat it's inside out. Some lenses have inside-out indicators to help you. A lens that's inside out will generally feel slightly uncomfortable on the eye or will move more than usual.

Can I wear any type of eye make-up with my contact lenses?
Generally it's best to avoid putting kohl or eyeliner on the inner rim of the eyelids since this can make the lens dirty. Remember to apply your lenses before putting on make-up and remove lenses then remove make-up. You should also avoid any contact between the lenses and lotions or creams. Don't forget to check the expiry date on your cosmetics and discard them as directed.

Can I use any solution with my contact lenses?
To get the best out of your lenses it's important to use the solutions recommended to you by your contact lens practitioner for your particular lens type and to follow the instructions carefully. Your practitioner may record the solutions recommended on your contact lens specification.

Are all contact lens solutions the same?
No. Different solutions contain different ingredients and may require different steps to be effective. Some lens solution combinations may be more compatible with your eyes than others so don't switch the solution you use except on the advice of your practitioner.

Are contact lenses environmentally friendly?
Research has shown that the overall environmental impact of waste generated through the use of contact lens products by the end consumer is insignificant compared with the amount of waste generated in everyday life.

For more information on all aspects of contact lenses, speak to your qualified eyecare practitioner.