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FAQs: How Long Do Contacts Last? And Other Good Questions Answered

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Contact lenses are an easy and cost-effective alternative to wearing glasses. Contacts are particularly ideal for individuals who prefer how they look without a pair of frames on their face. They can also be more convenient than glasses for those who are especially active.

If you are new to the world of contacts or are merely curious about how they work, you probably have a few questions about these helpful little lenses. For example, how long do contacts last? What are contact lenses made out of? What are disposable contact lenses?

In this article, we'll answer these questions and more so you can have a clear understanding of contact lenses.

How Long Do Contacts Last?

Young woman wondering how long do contacts last

The answer to this question depends on the type of contact lens you use. All contacts end up in the trash eventually. Or they may be recycled. After a certain period of time, such as a week, or a month, you’ll have to discard them as per instructions.

Some lenses last for as little as a single day. Others last for up to two weeks, one month, or a year at a time.

In general, hard contact lenses last longer than disposable, soft contacts do. The lifespan of the lenses will depend on the type you opt for. Your prescription and the brand of lenses you choose will also be contributing factors.

What Are Contact Lenses Made Of?

Contact lenses stacked on a table

These small lenses of flexible, permeable plastic sit directly on your eye’s cornea. Not only do they correct your vision, but they also allow oxygen flow to your eye.

The plastic used to make contacts isn't the type found in food product containers, toys, or even industrial machinery. Contact lenses consist of a hydrophilic plastic that stays soft, provided they are in a moist environment.

In addition to plastics, some contact lenses also include silicone-hydrogel. This is a material that has high oxygen transmission to the eye due to its moisture content.

This is why contact lens wearers store their lenses in a special solution when not using them. Otherwise, they will dry up, becoming rigid and useless. While you wear your contacts, your eyes keep them moist.

What Are Hard Contact Lenses?

Contact lenses were once made of a Rigid Gas Permeable plastic (RGP) and before that, it was a plexiglass material called polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA). These lenses would last much longer than the disposable type of contacts we have today, although RGP and PMMA lenses are still available. In most cases, these lenses last anywhere from a month to a year.

RGP and PMMA contacts require a regular daily care regimen.This involves removing the contacts each night and storing them in a solution after being cleaned. Instead of throwing the contacts out, wearers use the same lenses for an extended period of time that is determined by the expiry date of the lenses.

Although it is possible to wear your contacts past their replacement date, it is not recommended. Doing so can cause irritation or infections.

The one major difference between the two lenses is that RGP contacts allow oxygen to penetrate through to the eye, while PMMA contacts do not. Because of this and the fact that these lenses are so durable, bad habits with respect to the daily maintenance routine can lead to eye health issues.

What Are Disposable Contacts?

Disposable contacts are just like any other disposable hygiene or medical product. You use them on a short-term basis and throw them away after the recommended time period is up.

The lifespan of disposable lenses will vary from brand to brand, but they can last for up to a month.

There are three distinct varieties of disposable contact lenses:

How Do I Care for Contact Lenses?

contact lenses with case and solution bottles

In general, it's fairly easy to care for contact lenses. Lens wearers float their lenses in contact solution when not wearing them. The solution usually has a preservative, buffer, binding agent, and surfactant. These all work together to disinfect your lenses and remove buildup.

The type of solution that is best for you will depend on the type of contacts you have and your eye doctor’s recommendations. Most also suggest that you gently massage the lenses in solution prior to storing them. This helps prevent buildup of bacteria and ensures your lenses stay fresh overnight.

Be sure to have a conversation with your eye doctor about the best steps to take for a successful contact lens care routine.

How Do I Start Using Contact Lenses?

Most people who require any vision correction are good candidates for contact lenses. To start using contacts, discuss them with your eye doctor at your next eye exam. Ask for his or her recommendations based on your eye health and activity levels.

Your contact lens prescription will differ from a standard eyeglass prescription, so be sure to clarify the difference with your eye doctor. In some cases, you'll be able to order lenses directly through your optometrist. In others, you may need to order online.

Some optometrists order free trial pairs for patients. Speak to your eye care professional about trying them and see how they feel. Initially, it can be difficult figuring out how to put them in and take them out. Your eye doctor can help make you feel more comfortable with the whole process.

Final Thoughts on Contact Lenses

Female optometrist offering glasses and contacts

Contact lenses are a great solution for just about any individual who needs vision correction. These lenses consist of special plastics and materials designed to promote corneal health and ease of insertion. With proper care, you’ll easily experience the benefits of contact lenses.

So, how long do contacts last? This will depend on the type of lens you have. Disposable lenses will generally last between one day to one month, while hard lenses (RGP and PMMA) can last up to one year or longer.

You can start using contact lenses right away with approval and a prescription from your eye doctor. Have that discussion with him or her to figure out which contact is right for you.

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