In recent years, the process for purchasing contact lenses has become easier and more accessible. Contact lenses can be purchased at any pharm chain, and even online. Sound good? Apparently only to 50% of contact lens wearers.
Setting aside momentarily the general risks of purchasing contact lenses off the shelf, we will focus our discussion on only those people who cannot purchase contact lenses off the shelf: those who need cylinder contact lenses. This covers 50% of contact lens wearers.
Cylinder contact lenses: what are they?
A cylinder is the name of a component in the optic lens that corrects a problem known in professional jargon as ‘astigmatism’. Astigmatism is a condition in which the cornea, which should be round, is elliptical, i.e. slightly protrudes. As a result of the lens’ unique structure, light that passes through the cornea is not focused on one point of the retina, allowing sharp vision but on two points, creating a distorted image that is received. A cylinder lens corrects this distortion and creates a sharp image and one focal point.
The fitting of cylinder contact lenses is more risky than fitting eyeglass lenses with a cylinder. The reason: whereas the lenses in eyeglasses are fixed in place, contact lenses freely move in the eye, making it difficult to fix the contact lens shape. As someone who specializes in producing and fitting contact lenses, including cylinder contact lenses, I frequently encounter people who needlessly suffer because they didn’t know that they needed cylinder contact lenses or because of an incorrect fitting of cylinder contact lenses.
For example, I had three cases in my clinic recently that demonstrated the complexity of fitting cylinder contact lenses.
Flat cornea and high diagonal cylinder – the story of Teacher A
A, a 28-year-old teacher, who wears contact lenses who doesn’t like to carry around the box of lenses or the saline solution bottles and therefore wears daily lenses. A used daily contact lenses with a cylinder but alleges that despite many attempts to fit, her vision still jumps and is blurred, a phenomenon typical of astigmatism.
Ultimately, A was referred to me by her physician to try to find an original solution to her problem. I conducted a comprehensive series of tests on A and the findings revealed several key points to be addressed. First, A’s cylinder was high, which required an exact setting of the lens. The cylinders were diagonal (angle of 45 degrees, for example), which made lens fitting difficult. Perhaps most importantly, the corneal structure of A was flat. The conclusion drawn from the combination of findings was that there was no way to fit A with contact lenses off the shelf and any such attempt was doomed to fail.
The solution was rather simple. Since A only wanted daily lenses, I fitted her with soft contact lenses from a company that specializes in this field, based on the exact fitting of the eye structure. These moments in which my customers put on the lenses and are amazed by the quality of their vision and absence of any side effects, are the moment that make me love my profession.
Breathable Lenses with Thin Edge Profiles – the story of H
H is 60 years old but is not afraid of her age. For example, she plays tennis and even heads various tennis tournaments. During the game, H wears contact lenses. H came to me with red eyes, claiming that she has recently been unable to play tennis with the contact lenses and does not see as well as she had in the past.
I examined the structure of H’s eye and discovered an irregular shape of the eye that required fitting of lenses to sit better on the eye. The tautness of H’s eyelids, typical of her age also contributed to the instability of the contact lenses. I realized that H needed the lens with silicone hydrogel with particularly thin edge profiles. These lenses are characterized by the fact that the lenses sit firmly and the eye breathes better. I ordered her special contact lenses, and within two weeks, she began playing tennis again and enjoyed sharper vision.
High Cylinder and Long Usage Times – The Story of Basketball Player C
C is a lively 17-year-old, basketball-playing, eyeglass wearing boy who wants to switch to contact lenses while playing. An examination revealed that C has a cylinder at three diopters, which is considered extremely high. With this data, there can be no deviation in degrees so that the lens will sit on the eye. It was also important to C that the lenses sit on the eye for lengthy periods of time during training and during the game.
The solution was to create hydrogel lenses and a very patient and exact fitting. The transition from glasses to contact lenses with a cylinder has been a positive experience for C, and he reports that his vision is better than ever.
Summary: Cylinder Contact Lenses? Only with personal fitting
Many people who need contact lenses prefer going to stores and buying them off the shelf. This may appear to be a quick popular solution but the opposite is actually true, particularly if you need cylinder contact lenses. This is not only a matter of comfort or visual acuity but use of the wrong contact lenses might damage your vision in the long term.
Need contact lenses or cylinder contact lenses? Come in for a fitting to save any future difficulties.