Rigid gas-permeable (GP) contact lenses are made from slightly flexible plastic material that is specially designed to allow oxygen through to the cornea. Gas-permeable lenses shouldn’t be confused with hard contacts, as they’re not the same thing. Hard contacts are no longer in use in America as their disadvantages far outweigh their advantages.
Silicone gas-permeable contact lenses were introduced in 1987 and account for about 8% of contact lenses used in the U.S. today.
Despite being less popular than soft contacts, GP lenses offer plenty of advantages to our Southaven patients. Gas-permeable lenses’ benefits include:
- Outstanding eye health. Gas-permeable lenses don’t absorb environmental deposits and pollutants, so they’re less likely to cause damage to your eyes than soft contacts. While you should still wash your hands before handling your contacts, you can rest assured that sprays and other particles won’t reach your corneas when you wear GP lenses.
- Top oxygen transmission. The silicone material used for GP contacts is extremely oxygen permeable. They deliver more oxygen to the cornea than soft contacts, which is important to the functionality and health of your eyes.
- Low risk of infection. Since these contacts offer top-notch eye protection, they’re less likely than any other type of contact to harbor bacteria. This reduces your risk of infection substantially, which is important since about 1 in 500 contact wearers experiences a serious eye infection each year.
- Easy care and cleaning. Many of our patients find gas-permeable lenses’ trouble-free maintenance highly appealing. These lenses are easier to clean, maintain and handle than any other contacts on the market.
- Long-lasting lenses. The rigid plastic material used to make GP lenses is highly durable and difficult to tear. It also never dehydrates. Due to this exceptional resilience and how easy they are to clean and maintain, gas-permeable contacts last longer than many other types of lenses.
- Crisp vision. Rigid lenses retain their shape better than soft contacts. This results in clearer, crisper vision. While some people find the difference minor, others report huge improvements after a switch to gas-permeable lenses.
- Astigmatism correction. GP lenses are very effective for correcting astigmatism. They’re usually considered the best option if you suffer from severe astigmatism or your vision isn’t fully corrected by glasses or other contact options.
Of course, gas-permeable contacts have disadvantages as well.
- Gas-permeable lenses are less comfortable, especially initially. Once your eyes adapt to gas-permeable lenses, they’ll likely feel just as comfortable as soft lenses. However, for the first week or so of wear, you may these lenses annoying or even painful. Additionally, GP contacts must be worn regularly in order to maintain a desirable level of comfort. If you leave them out for more than a few days, you’ll have to readapt to the lenses when you resume use.
- Gas-permeable contacts are easier to dislodge during activities. GP lenses are smaller and firmer than soft contacts, which results in an increased risk of dislodging them during physical activities. While the risk is low for most people, GP contacts aren’t always ideal if you play contact sports or lead a highly active lifestyle.
- Dust or debris can get caught under gas-permeable lenses. Unlike soft-contacts, GP lenses don’t mold to the shape of your cornea. Since these lenses fit the eye less closely, there is a better chance for particles to get lodged behind your contacts. This typically just causes irritation and can be resolved by removing and cleaning the lens; however, there is a risk of temporary damage to the cornea that requires attention from our optometry team.