Cosmetic Contact Lenses
What are cosmetic contact lenses? At one time, this term differentiated between cosmetic and therapeutic. For example, when extended wear contact lenses were introduced, the first FDA approval was for therapeutic use, for people who'd undergone cataract surgery. At that time, IOL implantation was not as routine as it is today, and it was common for post-cataract surgery patients to use very thick, high-prescription glasses to compensate for their lack of a natural lens.
Contact lenses would have been another way to correct this problem and in fact, it would have been a better option both in terms of superior visual acuity as well as appearance. However, given the age of most cataract surgery patients in the 1980s, it was thought that the burden of contact lens insertion, removal and care was greater than the potential benefits. Another problem was the propensity of older adults to experience dry eye syndrome, which can be exacerbated by contact lens wear.
When 30-day overnight wear became available, that was an opportunity for post-cataract patients to wear contact lenses, and reap the benefits. The initial 30-day approval was for "therapeutic" use that is, for use by post-cataract patients. Shortly thereafter, 30-day wear was approved for "cosmetic" use that is, for people who simply wanted to wear contact lenses because they didn't like how they looked in glasses.
Today the use of an intraocular lens after cataract surgery is routine, obviating the need for post-cataract contact lenses or spectacles in the vast majority of surgeries on older adults (therapeutic contact lenses are still common post-surgery in pediatric patients). And there are many other instances where a "therapeutic" contact lens is used, such as a post-trauma bandage lens.
Some people might also use the term "therapeutic" interchangeably with some custom contact lenses. Custom lenses are becoming more common due to both improved manufacturing techniques, and greater demand which can partially be ascribed to refractive surgeries with less-than-desirable results. It's also thought that the availability of latheable silicone hydrogel lens materials, which became available in the United States in 2011, may increase the market for custom contact lenses. Many contact lens manufacturers that previously produced only made-to-order RGP contact lenses may now jump on the opportunity to manufacture custom soft lenses as well.
The phrase "cosmetic contact lens," meanwhile, has taken on entirely different meaning. Now we think of cosmetic contacts as lenses that are colored to either enhance or entirely change the appearance of the eye. "Appearance" is the operative term here, since the actual eye color is not changed. Following the introduction of colored contacts in the 1980s, the brands and designs of these lenses have greatly proliferated. There are more options than ever before to enhance your eyes with a subtle color change, or to dramatically alter their appearance.
In fact, with daily disposable color lenses, there's the option of changing eye color to suit any whim, or to match any outfit of clothing. Eye care practitioners typically offer free contact lenses that can be used to "test drive" different color options.
One downside of color contacts is that they aren't available as bifocal contact lenses or multifocal contact lenses. However, if happen to use monovision to correct your presbyopia, it will be any easy transition to using color contacts in your existing prescription.
Another fun color option that isn't exactly cosmetic is theatrical or special-effect contact lenses. These are the lenses that can make your eyes look like those of a jaguar, alien, zombie or dozens of other creatures or effects. Since Halloween is a big time of year for appearance change, it's naturally a time when many people think about such lenses even people who normally don't require glasses or contacts to see.
This being the case, it's important to remember that contact lenses are a prescription medical device. Any eye exam and contact lens fitting by a licensed eye care professional is required before wearing these lenses. Although there are ways to get around the system special effect contact lenses have been found in flea markets it's unwise to get any type of contact lens in this manner. An improperly fit or cared for contact lens can result in a corneal ulcer or other eye problem than might lead to permanent vision loss. It will cost a bit more and unfortunately, these lenses are not covered by vision insurance but start your quest for novelty contact lenses in the office of an eye care professional. Be certain to use care products that your eye doctors says are compatible with your lenses, and if you're using eye drops to address any dry eye issues, be certain those the drops are compatible with your lenses as well.
For more information about contact lenses, visit All About Vision.