Soft vs. rigid contact lenses

There are so many different contact lens options available today that the choices can become confusing!

Categories of contact lenses

There are two broad categories of contact lenses, however: soft contact lenses (SCLs) and rigid gas permeable lenses (RGPs). Each type of lens has advantages and disadvantages.

Soft contact lenses

Advantages of soft contact lenses

Soft contact lenses tend to be very comfortable initially. They drape over the eye, so patients don’t feel them much when blinking. SCLs tend to stay on the eye without becoming dislodged or displaced. Many people find disposable SCLs (lenses are worn for a specific period of time – from one day to several months - and then thrown away) very convenient and like knowing they have back-up lenses in case something happens to a lens.

Disadvantages of soft contact lenses

Disadvantages of soft contact lenses include the risk of tearing a lens and less oxygen getting to the cornea than with RGPs. Some patients experience more dryness with SCLs.

Rigid gas permeable contact lenses

RGPs, on the other hand, allow more oxygen to the cornea by the tears flowing under the lenses. They provide very crisp, clear vision, and often people with mild to moderate dry eye find they can wear RGPs longer and more comfortably than SCLs. Some studies have shown that children fitted with RGPs tend to have a more stable prescription than children do in glasses.

Differences in rigid gas permeable lenses compared to soft contact lenses

Rigid gas permeable lenses are smaller in diameter than SCLs and are felt more initially by the eyelids as you blink over the lenses. This lid sensation decreases quickly with time, and the final comfort of SCLs and RGPs is very similar. RGPs may become dislodged from the eye or pushed off to the side more easily than SCLs.

Find the best lens for you

Telling your eye care provider about your visual needs and the types of activities you enjoy will help him or her select the best lens option for you.

Last reviewed: 
January 2017

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