Are RGP Contact Lenses For You?

gas permeable contactsI’ve been a contact lens wearer for almost two decades now. So when I recently read an article about “RGP” lenses providing the sharpest visual acuity, I wondered why I had never heard of them before!

Then I discovered that RGP stands for “rigid gas permeable” lenses or as some eye doctors refer to them, “gas perms.”  This type of lens is made of a durable plastic and, the secret ingredient, silicone that helps this type of lens transmit oxygen much better than a conventional soft contact lens.  RGP (or GP) lenses are more rigid in shape, but don’t confuse them with the old-fashioned hard lenses (which aren’t even available anymore).

Benefits of RGP Contacts

In addition to being more durable, gas permeable lenses are also more resistant to protein and lipid deposits and other ‘gunk’ that will eventually build up on your soft contacts and cause them to need replacing.  For this reason, RGP lenses last longer (years, even!) and can be less expensive in the long run.

Because they are a little firmer in texture, they retain their shape better when you blink and they don’t draw moisture out of your eyes (because they don’t need water to retain their shape).  Both of these traits keep your eyes moister (and happier) and take away the need to refocus after every blink (as you often have to do with soft lenses).

Gas permeable lenses are most often recommended for people who don’t feel as if soft contact lenses are giving them the quality of vision they want, including people with astigmatism.  These lenses work especially well in bifocals and multifocal lenses because of the excellent level of visual acuity – both near and far – that this type of lens provides.

Another plus side to GP lenses is that they are smaller in diameter.  In fact, they are often prescribed used for people who have a condition called keratoconus or a condition called ortho-k where vision distortion is caused by a misshaped cornea.

So, if gas permeable lenses are so fantastic, why doesn’t everyone wear them? And, why didn’t my eye doctor recommend them?

RGP Downsides

Well, there is a downside.  The simple truth is that this type of lens requires more getting used to than a soft contact lens does.  If you don’t wear your lenses for a week, it will take you yet another adjustment period to get used to your GPs again.

One other minus for the GPs:  because they are designed to move when you blink, there is a higher risk of getting debris or dust under the lens.  Every contact lens wearer knows that this is not an ideal (or comfortable) situation.

But, if crisp, clear vision is something that you don’t feel you are getting from your current lenses, call your optometrist and see if rigid gas permeable lenses are for you.

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