Things to know about wearing contact lenses in Australia

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Contact lenses are one of the greatest inventions ever, right ?  They can very quickly and easily change your look giving you that immediate face lift ! They can allow you to have the freedom to participate in active sports and activities without worrying about breaking your spectacles, plus they can even improve your game as they provide a broader field of vision.  Contact lenses give you the option to wear specialised eyewear such as masks for diving, goggles for skiing and those wonderful wrap around or large high fashion sunglasses that your prescription spectacle lenses were never going fit into.  Contact lenses can also change lives, as they can have a very positive effect on our younger spectacle wearers by improving their self confidence.

There is no age limit to considering contact lenses as an eyewear option whether you’re interested in wearing them full time or just occasionally.  Often the younger generation learn how to insert and remove lenses very quickly as they have no fear, however they do need the maturity to look after their lenses, their eyes and have good hygiene habits !  The older generation sometimes take a little longer to adapt, after all we’ve all been taught not to touch our eyes so inserting and removing a lens goes against the grain, however practice and determination usually wins the day.

Geographically and climate wise contact lenses can be worn anywhere regardless of whether you live in the tropics of Queensland or high in the Snowy Mountains of NSW, however sometimes some conditions can be challenging and need to be managed.  For example low humidity conditions can evaporate the moisture in our eyes and wearing contact lenses can exacerbate uncomfortable eye dryness issues.  Air conditioning is one of the culprits, living in arid regions of Australia such as outback Queensland or high altitude areas where the air is dry. In saying that there are many new technological advances in contact lens materials and moisturising systems that have been designed to combat these common eye dryness issues.  The good news is if you wear contacts in Tully, Queensland’s wettest town where the average annual rainfall exceeds 160 inches, you won’t suffer from water smear on your lenses !

In Australia there is a huge array of contact lenses available from simple single vision to astigmatic powers or multifocal options. They’re available as daily lenses which are worn and thrown away after a single use, two weekly lenses or monthly lenses that need to be removed each night and stored in specialised solution, extended wear lenses that can be left in continuously for multiple days and nights.  And then you can have fun with colours and eye enhancement lenses that are available in prescription powers and without, that allow you to change your eye colour, make them look bigger, sparkle, shine or simply go wild with crazy designs.

The first step to wearing contact lenses is to visit your eye care professional. They have the knowledge and access to all the different types of contact lenses available in Australia so can give you suitable options for your eyes and your lifestyle. A free trial is often provided as part of this consultation so you can access if contact lens wear is for you.  If it is, the professional optometry staff will instruct you how to look after your eyes and lenses plus show you techniques of how to insert and remove a contact lens.  This is an important step, as contact lenses in Australia are categorised as a medical device and require a professional assessment, fitting and instruction to ensure your comfort, clear stable vision and overall contact lens wearing success.

I can hear you now, “ I’m wearing contact lenses so now I can throw away my spectacles !”   Err -that’s a NO.  It’s important to keep an up to date pair of spectacles on hand and when I say up to date I means ones that you are happy to wear not the cheap option that you thought you’d get just in case, and hope you never have to wear. It’s important to always give you eyes a break from wearing contact lenses whether it’s at the end of the day after work or at the weekend, you should aim for at least 1 day a week, contact lens free.  Another reason to keep those spectacles on hand is that sometimes visual issues can occur and your eye care professional may suggest you cease wearing your contacts for a while to let things settle down.  Out of stock issues with contact lens powers do occur, in many instances suppliers will provide free lenses to top up your supply and get you through the delay period, however it’s always good to have a backup plan.

Once you have your contact lens prescription, which by the way is different from a spectacle prescription, as it often features different powers in comparison to your spectacle prescription and provides the details of the contact lens that your eye care professional has prescribed for you.  It is not wise to deviate from the lenses that you have been prescribed.  Contact lenses come in so many sizes and materials; your eye care professional has prescribed the best lenses to suit your eyes, ensuring comfort, vision and fit.

You can choose to purchase your lenses from your eye care professional or you may choose to purchase your contact lenses online.  If you choose the later, my best advice is to buy from an Australian business that that stocks the exact lenses that you have been prescribed and provides health fund claimable receipts. The prices are often cheaper online and you can enjoy the convenience of having your lenses delivered to your door.

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