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There are currently four main categories of lens:-

Hard Lenses

Hard lenses are made from clinical quality perspex. Oxygen will not pass through this material and the oxygen demands of the front of the eye (cornea) must therefore be satisfied by tear exchange behind the lens. Because of this, the build up of wearing times is fairly slow as the cornea adapts to the slight lack of oxygen. Generally unpopular due to poor oxygen transmission Patients who would benefit from a rigid lens will more likely use gas permeable.


Easy to clean


Lengthy Adaptation

Less Stable

Very Low Oxygen

Gas Permeable Lenses

Gas permeable lenses are made from modern plastics which allow oxygen to pass through the lens. In this way, the problems due to the lack of oxygen associated with hard lenses are virtually eliminated. Some patients, such as those with astigmatism, may achieve better vision with a rigid lens.


Oxygen Permeable
Less Spectacle Blur
Less Adaptation


Less Stable
Initial Discomfort
No cosmetic tints

Expensive Replacement
Dust can be uncomfortable

Soft Lenses

Soft lenses are made from hydrophilic plastics which absorb water to become flexible.  It is the water content of the lens that allows the oxygen to pass through.  The higher the water content, the greater the permeability. They require much less adaptation time due to their initial discomfort.  This permits more flexible wearing schedules such as social / weekend wear. Also available in tinted designs, astigmatic prescriptions and even bifocals.


Almost no adaptation
Very stable
Can be used occasionally
Can be coloured
Cheaper replacements
Fitted from stock


Less Durable
Multi step cleaning

Silicone Hydrogel

A special type of soft lens with higher oxygen transfer then traditional soft lenses.  Perhaps surprisingly they have low water contents, but their high silicone content allows gases to pass easily.

These new materials are

currently only available

in a few different designs,

but may represent the

future of contact lenses.


Excellent oxygen permeability


More expensive than standard soft

Limited lens choice

Types of Contact Lens Image of Silicone Hydrogel lens Dunelm - RETRO304  MODEL2 Dunelm - RETRO304 MODEL2 Charles Lea  Opticians Ltd. Telephone: (0115) 960 6526 Name & Registered Office:  CHARLES LEA OPTICIANS LIMITED, 27 CASTLEGATE,  NEWARK ON TRENT, NOTTINGHAMSHIRE, ENGLAND, NG24 1BA.  Company No. 07202587