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Pharmacy Care provides information about self-care, that is how to treat minor medical conditions with products available at the pharmacy. Find out how your pharmacist can help you to manage minor conditions yourself.
There are two main types of contact lenses: ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ lenses. The older style of hard lenses have now mostly been replaced by the rigid gas permeable (RGP) lenses, which are better for the health of the eye. They may be referred to as ‘hard’ lenses or as RGP lenses. Both hard and soft lenses have their own advantages and disadvantages for the wearer.
Rigid gas permeable lenses
RGP lenses have tiny holes in them to allow plenty of oxygen to reach the cornea (surface of the eye). This is important for the long-term health of your eyes. These lenses are more expensive than soft lenses but can last for years and provide a sharper vision. They are also less likely to trap bacteria than the soft lenses and are easier to care for, although they are harder to insert and take out. However, you need to slowly build up the time you spend wearing RGP lenses, so they are not suitable for occasional use.
Soft lenses are quick to get used to wearing, so can be used occasionally. They have a high water content and are usually larger than RGP lenses, allowing easy removal and better retention in the eye. They are less likely to trap dust and eyelashes than hard lenses, although they can be easily damaged if not cared for properly, and may exacerbate dry eyes. Soft lenses come in a wide variety, including coloured, bifocal and disposable types.
Disposable or frequent replacement lenses
Disposable lenses are worn for a period of time then thrown away. Daily disposable lenses remove the need for cleaning products, although weekly or monthly disposable lenses require nightly cleaning. Protein build-up on the surface of the lenses is not usually a problem because they aren’t kept for more than a month.
Day and night lenses
Day and night lenses are designed for up to 30 days’ continuous use and are then thrown away. They are made from silicone hydrogel, which allows more oxygen to reach the cornea than standard soft lenses. This means the eye can breathe, even while you sleep.
'Cosmetic' soft lenses
Soft lenses can also be obtained in varieties for 'cosmetic', 'special effect' or 'novelty' lenses. These lenses may be opaque or tinted, in order to change eye colour or add designs. The middle of the lens is left clear to allow you to see. Your vision can be affected if the lens slips from its correct position.
Always check with an optometrist before using any type of cosmetic lens, as some people have eye conditions that make them unsuitable. Also follow instructions about length of wearing time and any cleaning of lenses or hygiene measures that may be required.
See Your Pharmacist or Medical Professional
- Before wearing lenses each day, check your eyes are comfortable, you can see clearly and your eyes are not red. Otherwise, seek professional healthcare advice, and do not wear the lenses until your eyes are back to normal
- If you develop a painful red eye while wearing lenses, take the lenses out and seek advice from your optometrist or doctor
- If contact lenses make your eyes drier than normal, ask your optometrist or pharmacist for advice on lubricant products that can be used with contact lenses (also see Treatment Options, below)
Tips for safe use of contact lenses
- never share lenses as eye infections may be spread
- do not wear lenses if your eyes are red, uncomfortable or painful or if your vision is abnormal; see your optometrist or doctor
- do not exceed the recommended wearing time of your lenses
- have regular check-ups with an optometrist
- always wash, rinse and dry your hands before handling lenses
- follow the cleaning, rinsing and disinfecting instructions
- replace your lens case every month, and clean and rinse it daily with hot tap water. Leave the case out to dry
- never use tap water on your lenses or as a storage medium
- never lick or use saliva on lenses
- never touch lens solution bottle tips to any surface as they may become contaminated
- lenses should not be worn while sleeping, unless they are for extended wear
- remove lenses prior to using medicated eye drops and wait at least 15 minutes before re-insertion. For eye infections it is recommended to avoid wearing contact lenses until the infection has resolved
- do not keep lens care and eye products past their expiry dates
- insert lenses before applying make-up and remove them before removing make-up
- cream or gel eye shadows are preferable to powders, which may fall into your eye
- avoid mascara with lash-building fibres, which may also fall into your eye
- for lost or dropped lenses:
- hard lens: use a vacuum cleaner with pantyhose over the inlet to catch the lens
- soft lens: turn out the light and shine a torch around the room (the light will reflect off the lens)
Medications and contact lenses
- remove contact lenses before using eye medications, except when directed by the optometrist to keep the lenses in
- some medications (such as rifampicin and sulphasalazine) taken by mouth can discolour tears and stain lenses
- some medications can make your eyes dry and make wearing lenses less comfortable
Caring for contact lenses
- your optometrist will recommend a suitable regimen for cleaning, storing and disinfecting your lenses. Some people develop an allergy to the preservatives in lens solutions and will need to swap to a preservative-free product.
- the following products can be used on hard (H), soft (S) and rigid gas permeable (RGP) lenses, unless otherwise indicated
Cleaning and protein removal lens products
e.g. (S only): Complete Products, OmniCare 1 Step Disinfecting System, Opti-Free Replenish, Opti-Free Express, Renu Multi-plus Multipurpose, Renu Sensitive Eyes Daily Cleaner, Renu Sensitive Eyes Protein Removal, Ultrazyme Protein Remover Tablets
e.g. (S, RGP only) Total Care System, Boston Advance Cleaner, Boston-1 Step Liquid Enzymatic Cleaner, Complete MoisturePLUS Multipurpose Solution
- products for removing protein include enzymatic cleaner (usually used weekly) and daily protein removal liquids
Rinsing lens products
e.g. Complete Moisture Plus, Lens Plus, Opti-Free RepleniSH, Opti-Free Express, Bausch & Lomb Sensitive Saline Solution, Renu-Multiplus Multipurpose (S only)
- rinsing products include multi-purpose solution and saline
Disinfection and storage lens products
e.g. (S only): Complete Moisture Plus, Omnicare Step-1 disinfecting solution and neutralising tablets, Opti-Free Replenish, Opti-Free Express, Renu Multi Plus Multipurpose
e.g. (H, RGP only): Boston Advance Comfort Formula Conditioning Solution, Total Care Disinfecting, Storing and Wetting solution
disinfection products include multi-purpose solution, hydrogen peroxide solution and cleaning/disinfecting devices
disinfect lens after cleaning for as long as recommended (from a few hours to overnight)
In-eye contact lens cleaners
e.g. Complete Blink-n-Clean (all soft and extended wear lenses)
these clean and cushion the contact lens in your eye
Lubricants, artificial tears, wetting agents, for use with lenses
e.g. Bion Tears, Blink Intensive Tears, Boston Re-wetting Drops (RGP only), Genteal Gel, Opti-Free Replenish, Poly-Tears, Refresh range, Renu MultiPlus Lubricating & Rewetting Drops, Systane Contacts
lubricants, artificial tears and wetting agents lubricate and cushion the contact lens in the eye. They also make inserting the lens more comfortable
Availability of medicines
- GENERAL SALE available through pharmacies and possibly other retail outlets.
- PHARMACY ONLY available for sale through pharmacies only.
- PHARMACIST ONLY may only be sold by a pharmacist.
Last Reviewed: 11 January 2010