When asked “what would you prefer – soft contact lenses or rigid?”, most people would say “soft, of course”. The idea of having a hard object in your eyes scares people and eye doctors know about this, so they tend to prescribe soft lenses for their patients. But which type provides more benefits for your eye health and gives you better comfort and vision? The answer isn’t as obvious as you might think it is.
Both high quality soft and RGP contact lenses provide good vision. However, studies have shown that properly fitted RGP lenses provide better vision. This is important for people who rely on their eyes in their jobs – truck drivers, pilots – and for certain sports, like shooting.
Also, many soft lens wearers report that their contacts feel funny in the dark and their vision decreases. RGP don’t have this problem.
Eye health comparison
Two important factors determine how healthy a contact lens is for your eyes – oxygen permeability and resistance to protein build-up.
RGP lenses let through 2-4 times more oxygen than soft contact lens. Therefore the risk of corneal inflammation is much lower. The only soft lenses that have oxygen permeability comparable to RGP lenses are silicon hydrogel contacts, like Focus Night and Day or Acuvue Advance
Soft lenses are more prone to protein build-up than RGP contacts. Of course, if you wear daily disposable soft lenses, this is not an issue. But if you use monthly or quarterly replacement lenses, by the end of its life the lens is covered with proteins no matter how carefully you clean it. RGP are made from totally different material – plainly said proteins and other secretions don’t stick to them.
Use as color contacts to change your eye color
Here RGP lenses can’t compete with soft contacts. All color contact lenses are soft – an RGP lens is smaller than the iris (the colored part of your eye), so it can’t change your eye color effectively.
Which is more expensive – RGP or soft lenses?
Soft lenses cost per pair is lower than RGP lenses. But considering that RGP lenses are usually good for at least 2 years, the picture turns the other way around. Lets say you wear Acuvue 2 week disposable contacts and buy them at $15 (6 lenses per box). 2 years supply would cost you $ 240. This is definitely more than you would pay for RGP contact lenses, if you know where to buy discount contct lens.
On the other hand, RGP lenses can break and are easy to lose. So if you think that in two years you might loose your lens a couple times, soft disposable lenses are more cost effective for you.
Many people think that rigid lenses aren’t comfortable. This is nothing but a misconception. People who wear RGP lenses usually don’t feel any discomfort; in fact, they don’t feel the lens at all.
However, soft lenses feel good from the first time you put them in, while RGP require a 5-7 days adjustment period. They feel strange initially but, after a week, most people adjust to them quite well.
If you aren’t happy with the soft lenses you currently wear, ask your doctor if RGP contacts would be better for you. If your optometrist knows that you aren’t afraid of the word “rigid”, he or she might suggest that RGP lenses would suit your better.
Tanya Turner is a contact lens expert and a founder of Contact Lens Consumer Guide, where you can find unbiased information about eye health and all types of contact lenses with reviews and pictures