I've had my contact lenses for about two and a half years. When I first went to get contacts about 10 years ago, my only option was the hard kind and I didn't like them so I left it and assumed I would never be a contact lens wearer. Then two and a half years ago I decided to brave it out and try contacts (assuming it would be the hard ones). However, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there had been big advances in the soft lens technology and manufacturing process and that they can now make soft toric lenses.
~~~ Why toric? ~~~
Toric lenses are lenses which are not uniform in thickness. They are made so that one side is slightly thicker, and therefore heavier, than the other. This means that when the lens is in the eye, the heavier end positions itself as the bottom of the eye.
Toric lenses are used for people who have astigmatism.
(What is a stigmatism???)
The word is actually astigmatism. A simple explanation is that an astigmatism means that instead of being spherical, the cornea or lens of the eye is rugby ball shaped, this causes blurring and generally diminishes the ability of the eye to focus correctly.
Most contact lenses move around and turn on the eye throughout the day. People with nice spherical corneas don't notice this and it does not affect their vision. However, if you are unlucky enough to have astigmatism, your contact lens actually needs to contain two different powers across the horizontal and vertical lines of focus. This is why the toric lens is weighted. The thicker end makes the lens always sit in roughly the same position on the eye - thus correcting the vision of your wonkily shaped cornea. If it were to spin and move like non-toric lenses, the wearers vision would be constantly blurred.
Simply put, toric lenses need to always sit in a specific place in on the eye with very little room for movement.
~~~ Description of the lenses and packaging ~~~
These lenses come in a box which contains 3 little blister packs which are connected with thick foil lids. These little blister type pots each contain one tinted lens in buffered saline. Each box contains lenses of the same strength, so you usually receive them from the optician with a little "R" or "L" on the box so that you know which eye they go in. Many people don't realise that contact lenses need to be tuned very closely to the prescription for each eye, so you would not have good vision of you used two lenses designed for your right eye or vice versa. This is even more important for people with astigmatism as the differences between their right and left eyes are usually more significant.
Now, I said that the lenses are tinted. They are very slightly blue in colour if you look at them from the side. I assume this vague tint is simply to make them easier to detect when they are floating around in a tub of solution. The colour tint does not interfere with your vision or your eye colour.
~~~ My Experience ~~~
On starting a new pair of lenses, I tea or a "left" pot from one box and a "right" pot from the other box.
When opening the pots you have to gently peel back the foil top. It is difficult to open them without spilling some of the saline solution; however I have never actually spilled a lens out along with it (although this is always my fear!).
I take the lens out with my right index finger and thumb. I always put the lens in my left palm and rinse it with Opti-Free lens solution although you don't really need to with a fresh lens.
When you open a new lens, you will notice that they are really soft and kind of cushiony. They feel fairly thick and I think they must absorb some moisture. I really love opening a fresh pair of lenses! When handling these lenses you can feel quite easily that they are toric and that one side or the lens is thicker.
As I am use to putting in contacts now, I usually just hold my eye open with my left hand, and with the lens sitting like a little cup on my right index finger, I pop it into my eye at the side - you have fewer nerve endings on the white of your eye so you are less inclined to blink. It takes about 30 seconds. I always position my toric lens so that the thick end will be at the bottom of my eye, however, if I forget, gravity usually sorts it out for me. I can speed the settling process up my blinking and looking up and down and to the sides. You know your toric lenses are perfectly positioned when your vision is clear and sharply focused. If your lens is simply refusing to sit in the correct place, it is possible to move it gently using your finger until you have sharp focus.
These lenses remain comfortable and moist all day. Sometimes they lose focus due to the positioning changing but I can usually fix that quickly. Once the lenses are in you can't feel them, but you can see them. If you look at the edge of your iris, you can see the edge of the lens, particularly the thick end of the lens; but you can really only see it if you look for it.
Once these lenses are in, my vision in clear and sharp and remains so all day. If I am in particularly dry climates or air conditioned or windy areas, they do tend to feel dry towards the end of the day. To give your eyes a rest and to restore moisture to the lens, it is usually helpful to take the lenses out and soak them in solution for a short time. I do this very rarely if I have to. However, usually my eyes feel fine well beyond the 10 hour suggested usage time.
The only precaution I would give is that if you have had a particularly tiring or straining day and you then have to drive at night, you can sometimes be affected by slight glare or eyestrain which you would not get if you were wearing glasses.
Taking them out is simple. I hold my eye open with my left hand and I use my thumb and index finger to slide the lens to the outer corner of my eye and "pinch" it. It comes away really easily.
As with all monthly lenses, you need to clean and store them before and after use. When I take these lenses out one at a time, I clean them by placing the lens in the palm of my hand and pouring a little solution on. I then rub it lightly and place the lens in a lens case which is usually provided by the optician. The lens case is clearly marked so that you know which side is right and which is left (right is usually the coloured side). Once I have deposited my lenses into the correct compartments of the case I fill each compartment with water and put on the lids.
With these lenses, I find that they stay moist and fresh throughout the month, but that the cushiony thickness that I talked about earlier tends to diminish as time goes on. It is usually pretty easy to tell when you need new lenses.
I have to admit that I have worn my lenses beyond the recommended 28 days. They are usually ok but they're effectiveness does diminish slightly. However the main reason for NOT wearing them beyond the 28 days is to reduce the risk of eye infections so I really don't recommend wearing them beyond 28 days.
~~~ Conclusion ~~~
These lenses work really well for me. They are very effective in correcting my vision and they are always comfortable and easy to wear. I forget that I have them in and have been guilty of falling asleep wearing them (there is nothing more confusing and uncomfortable as waking up with perfect vision and then realising your eyes feel like they are full of gravel because your lenses have dried out).
These lenses (and most contacts) are often difficult to put in and take out at first. Because of the different thicknesses in these, it can add to the difficulty by trying to get them in the correct position. However, with practice, they become really simple to put in and even easier to take out. If you ever have that moment of just not being able to get a grip of the lens to remove it I would advise you to stay calm, go and get a cup of tea or take a short walk, come back, try again. Usually problems with contacts come from panic or a mental block, not any real issue with the lens sticking.
Contact lenses cannot get lost in your eye as the eyeball is surrounded by muscle. They can move up or down but not get lost behind your eye. I have never experienced these lenses sliding too far up or down and I suspect it is because of the toric design. They are designed to stay in place much more than other lenses.
I have nothing but positive experiences of these lenses and I would highly recommend them for anyone with astigmatism who is tired of wearing glasses. Yes, you need to persevere at first and you will probably have a couple of panic stricken GET THIS THING OUT OF MY EYE NOW!!!!!!!! Moments, but they are all par for the course in trying contacts and in the end, they provide clearer vision than glasses and are unobstructed - you have excellent peripheral vision with contacts.
These monthly lenses cost about £25 a month from most opticians, however, I use a very good, local, well trusted optician and they are a couple of pounds more expensive from here. Yes the expenses can add up if you have lenses and also have to buy glasses, but it is worth if I feel to have the freedom to move away from glasses if you want to.