Coloured contact lenses: friend or foe?

18. November 2015

Coloured contact lenses are becoming more and more popular but when using them we need to remember the basics about keeping our eyes healthy.

Coloured contact lenses are different from so-called regular contacts in that they have a layer of colour which can make your eyes more interesting and attractive. Coloured contacts are available in all the main eye colours as well as in some other, at times, unusual designs.

The colour layer seals in the oxygen more

Regular contacts don’t let oxygen in or let your eyes “breathe” normally but coloured contacts are even more airtight. “Coloured contacts should be worn less and for shorter periods than regular contacts,” says KSA Vision Clinic optometrist and Service Development Manager, Kadri Altküla. According to Altküla, coloured contacts should be more for parties and special occasions than everyday use. Coloured lenses keep oxygen away from the eyes so much that they can cause problems in the long term.

“Contacts should be worn in a way that at least one day is lens-free. Lenses made from hydrogel can be worn for up to 8 hours and those made from silicone hydrogel can be worn the entire time you are awake. Coloured lenses should be worn for shorter periods. It is recommended to wear them for just a few hours,” says Altküla, who suggests using coloured lenses made from silicone hydrogel.

They need to suit the individual

Of course coloured lenses need to suit the individual, in the same way that regular lenses do. “Too small a lens compresses the cornea and will eventually lead to an ulcer. And too big a lens moves about when you blink and so you can usually then see your natural eye colour. And it’s also not particularly comfortable in that case,” notes Altküla.

The main thing is for people to go to the optometrist and try out various types and sizes in order to find the lenses that suit them best. Altküla certainly doesn’t recommend buying contacts online. Ill-fitting lenses can leave you feeling uncomfortable and unhappy.

Good care and hygiene are priorities

A lot of women wear coloured contact lenses and don’t actually need them: that is, they don’t have any problems with their eyesight. And so they need to be especially careful about familiarising themselves with the right ways of looking after and cleaning their lenses as incorrect or poor hygiene can lead to infections.

“Before inserting or removing lenses, you need to make sure you have thoroughly washed your hands. You also need to make sure the lens container is clean and regularly change the lens solution,” notes the optometrist. Contact lens containers should not be washed with tap water but should be rinsed with contact lens solution, which should be changed once a month. After rinsing, the container can be left to dry upside down on a towel.

Open or closed lenses

Coloured contacts come in two types: open and closed. In other words, the iris area of the lens is coloured and closed or there is a transparent area around the pupil which is open. Kadri Altküla explains the difference: “Closed lenses feel a bit more natural, as when the light is bright, they make the pupil smaller whereas open lenses can reveal your natural eye colour.” Closed lenses can also change your perception of the world as you are literally looking through coloured lenses.

Contact lenses, be they transparent or coloured, prescription or cosmetic, should always be well chosen, meticulously cared for, and responsibly worn. Worn carefully, they can give you a great new look, but worn to excess, they can easily lead to discomfort and eye problems.