Single Use Contacts: A Complete Guide
When contacts were first introduced as a correction device for poor vision, they came with a huge list of instructions on how to handle and care for them. This is because there were very limited methods to manufacture contact lenses which made them very expensive to produce.
With time, there was innovation in the processes for the industrial production of contact lenses which meant that higher quality contact lenses that offered unparalleled comfort could now be produced in large numbers and for cheaper than before. Contact lenses were now being replaced quicker. All of this opened avenues to the creation of single use contact lenses in 1995.
What are single use contact lenses?
Also known as daily disposable contact lenses, these type of lenses are meant for one time use only. At the end of a long day of use, they are to be thrown away. A fresh pair is unpackaged and worn the next day.
What is the difference between daily wear contact lenses and daily disposable contact lenses?
Daily wear contact lenses are those that are fit to be worn throughout the day, but have to be taken off at night and put in contact cleaning solution. These lenses are not intended for overnight wear. The next day, these lenses can be worn again. These lenses can be used for a period of time that can vary from two weeks of daily use to up to four months of daily use (as long as it is clear that they are to be taken off at night). These will then need to be thrown away after they reach their expiration date. In contrast, daily disposable can only be worn throughout a day and are disposed of at night. They cannot be kept and reused for the next day.
What are the uses of daily disposable contact lenses?
- They can be used in replacement of glasses for those that have problems with their visual acuity hence enabling the user to see sharper and clearer.
- They can be used to correct astigmatism which is a refractive error caused by the abnormal curvature of the cornea of a person.
- They come in designs that have bifocal and multifocal properties hence making them ideal for use for those that suffer from presbyopia.
- They are also made in a wide range of colors from hazel to green because of this daily disposable contact lenses can be used for fashion and artistic purposes.
Why do contact lenses need to be cleaned after use?
Contact lenses, besides daily disposables, need to be put in a cleaning solution after use. This is important as the lenses rest on the cornea which is kept moist by the lacrimation system of the eye. The tears of the eye contain organic compounds like lipids and proteins and minerals like calcium that can build up as deposits on contact lenses. This creates problems as:
- The deposits cause the lenses to be uncomfortable for the user.
- These deposits can also serve as breeding ground for the bacteria leading to the risk of eye infections.
Though cleaning solutions disinfect contact lenses by removing the debris and buildup of the day; they are not a 100% effective. This is why all contact lenses need to be periodically thrown away and replaced with new ones.
Advantages of single use contact lenses
Since the user puts on a fresh clean pair every day from a sealed pack, there is no risk of it having accumulated bacteria from previous use. As long as the user washes their hands while handling lenses, there is minimum risk of contaminating them. Since the lenses are disposed of at night, there is no overnight wear that can lead to eye infections. They are also great for people with allergies as there is no allergen buildup.
Since these lenses do not require cleaning or gentle handling this makes them very convenient. The user does not have to worry about putting them in cleaning solutions or losing one while taking them off. You do not need to carry proper kits to store them in when you take them off. You simply throw them away when you are done using them. This makes them very suitable for teenagers who are sometimes irresponsible when it comes to lens care and handling.
These lenses do not require cleaning solutions to be soaked in every night nor do they require lens cases for them. This means that you do not spend money on these things hence cutting down expenses.
Disadvantages of single use contact lenses:
These type of lenses are much more costly than daily wear contact lenses. You need to purchase large amounts of them depending on the number of days you plan on using them. If you want to wear contact lenses for a month, you would need a minimum of 30 pairs. In contrast, you would need only one pair of monthly replacement daily wear contact lenses.
Even though there is decreased spending as there is no expense of cleaning solution, it often not enough to offset the amount spent on procuring them. The most expensive of all daily disposable contact lenses are those that are made of silicon hydrogel. They offer great comfort and sharp vision.
These contact lenses since they are thrown away every day contribute to landfill. They are also packaged in plastic that also needs to be disposed of when the pack is finished. In a period where we should be promoting sustainability and recycling, daily disposable contact lenses do the opposite.
However this problem was addressed by Bausch + Lomb, a company based in Quebec, Canada which manufactures eye care products including contact lenses and medicines. They founded a recycling program called TerraCycle, where you can collect and send in used contact lenses and their blister packs. They not only accept their own products but are also open to recycling contact lenses manufactured by other companies.