Contact Lenses

Contact lenses are worn directly on the cornea of the eye. Like eyeglasses, contact lenses help to correct refractive errors and perform this function by adding or subtracting focusing power to the eye's cornea and lens.

Facts about contact lenses

Over 30 million Americans wear contact lenses, 80 percent of whom wear daily wear soft lenses. Currently, there are four types of contact lenses in use:

  • The soft, water-absorbing lens
  • The rigid, gas-permeable lens
  • Other rigid lenses
  • Other flexible, nonwater absorbing lenses

Cosmetic Safety for Contact Lens Wearers

What eye hazards may be associated with cosmetic use?

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Optometric Association, cosmetics are among some of the most common sources of problems for contact lens wearers. Misusing cosmetics can lead to severe adverse reactions, including:

  • Deposits on the lens
  • Eye irritation
  • Allergy
  • Injury
  • Infection
  • Dryness

Reading a contact lens prescription

The prescription for contact lenses includes more information than what is available on the prescription for eyeglasses. Special measurements will need to be taken of the curvature of the eye. In addition, the doctor will determine if the eyes are too dry for contact lenses, and if there are any corneal problems that may prevent a person from wearing contact lenses. Trial lenses are usually tested on the eyes for a period of time to ensure proper fit.

The contact lens prescription usually includes the following information:

  • Contact lens power (measured in diopters, like eyeglasses)
  • Contact lens base curve
  • Diameter of the lens
  • Contact lens manufacturer
  • Expiration date

Eye care specialists are required by federal law to give you a copy of your contact lens specifications.

What safety practices should take place?

There are safety measures for choosing, applying, and wearing cosmetics, which you can follow to protect your eyes and provide for long-term, problem-free contact lens wear, including:

  • Choose unscented, hypoallergenic cosmetics manufactured by a well-known brand name that you trust.
  • Wash your hands before inserting or removing your contact lenses.
  • Do not borrow or lend your cosmetics to others.
  • Wash all makeup application brushes frequently.
  • Apply makeup after inserting the contact lenses.
  • Do not purchase mascara refills in which you insert your old applicator.
  • Avoid frosted, pearlized, iridescent, or other glittery types of eye shadow, which may contain ground oyster shells or tinsel.
  • Do not apply eyeliner to the inner edge of the lid or above the lash line on the lower lid.
  • Avoid using loose powder on the face.
  • Do not apply creams too close to the eyes.
  • Never apply eye makeup while in motion or while driving.
  • Do not use water or saliva to lubricate applicator or thin cosmetics.
  • Do not apply cosmetics if your eyes are red, swollen, or infected. Consult your ophthalmologist or optometrist if symptoms persist.

Locations Performing this Treatment

Meet the Teams

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Northwestern Medicine ophthalmology specialists treat and manage the full spectrum of eye disease, providing leading eye care for everything from contact lens fitting to the most advanced refractive cataract surgeries and treatments for macular degeneration.