By March 20, 2006

Sight for sore eyes

I’ve been wearing contact lenses since I was sixteen years old. Going from glasses to contact lenses was an amazing experience. I hadn’t realized how much one’s peripheral vision is lost while wearing glasses. I originally started wearing contacts because of my involvement in contact sports, but continued to wear them diligently for the next decade. I was pretty good about cleaning my lenses, although I do miss the days of thermal cleaning instead of the chemical process that’s so prevalent now. I swear the chemical system is a conspiracy not only to sell more consumables, but also to push the more expensive, and less durable, disposable contact lenses.

Speaking of disposable contacts, those little beauties signaled the demise of my love affair with contacts. I could deal with putting plastic in my eyes every morning, scrubbing them for exactly 20 seconds a side (but never in a swirling motion) at night, and using re-wetting drops after particularly long periods of usage. What I came to hate was how disposables made it hard for me to wear contacts for any longer than five or so hours at a time.

I guess I’m being a little unfair. The important sidebar to tiny rant is that I developed astigmatism at about the same time my optometrists started recommending disposables. Astigmatics have a much more limited array of contacts to choose from. We have to wear “torics,” or specially shaped contacts that apparently is synonymous with “fucking painful.” To go from wearing soft contacts for 14+ hours a day to no more than five was a big blow. I chalked part of it up to working ever increasing hours in front of a computer monitor. I tried three brands of torics before giving up and settling on lenses made by Ultraflex, as suggested by my optometrist at Costco. I wore them for about four years, not because they were comfortable, but because I figured I was screwed and the Ultraflex was as good as any.

Torics are shaped kinda odd, and are made out of a thicker plastic than other disposables. The thicker plastic reduces the air that can flow through, which results in a dried out lens. Odd shape + dried lens = discomfort and all sorts of other fucked up symptoms, such as the lens moving around on my eye (blurry vision) and my own personal favorite: ejecting the lens from my eye when blinking. I found that I could hold the lens in place by squinting slightly, which was better for my acuity but gave me horrible headaches. Gradually I stopped wearing contacts at all, except when I swam or rode my motorcycle. Soon I couldn’t even handle wearing them for an hour at a time. Let me tell you, swimming without vision correction is a dangerous thing.

I started seeing commercials for Accuvue’s Advanced Toric lenses on television. They specifically touted a thinner lens that allowed for more air to pass through. Hrm. Sounded good to me. I made the pilgrimage back to Costco and asked for another exam. I wanted to make sure that my current lenses were properly fitted. They were, and my prescription hadn’t changed, so I asked my doc about the Accuvues. He made a face. “Those are getting a lot of attention because of their television ads, but I don’t like them. If you really want to, I can give you a trial pair, but I’d recommend four other lenses before those.” I accepted, although my doc had me worried that I bought into the marketing hype.

I’m not sure why he was so down on them. They were EXTREMELY floppy out of the package (my left lens kept trying to roll into a cylinder), but other than that handled just like any true soft contact. I still had hair on my head the last time I wore contacts this comfortable. The first day I had my trial pair I wore them for about twelve hours. I started putting my lenses in first thing in the morning and wore them throughout the day. Lady Jaye remarked it was good to see my face again 🙂

I’m not entirely sure why the Accuvue lenses are so much better. Aside from the thickness of the lens, they seem really slick out of the package. I doubt there’s a coating on them, but I wonder if the plastic used to make the lens is different than other lenses as well. They are more expensive: $68 for 6 sets of lenses, compared to the $40 I was paying for the Ultraflex lenses.

So, the question arises: why was my doc so down on them? Being a little bit of a pessimist and conspiracy theorist, I wondered if it was because the Ultraflex lenses were made private-label for Costco. While this is a possibility, I know that the optometrist rents his space from Costco, but is otherwise unaffiliated with them. However, I guess there could still be some incentive to push the Costco white label brands instead of the national brands. Even if the profit margin was higher on the house brand, Costco is probably making more on the Accuvues. Odd. Maybe the optometrist really doesn’t like them, for whatever unspoken reason.

So far I’m on my second pair of Accuvues, and I love them.

Accuvue Advance Toric lenses, I blink out five out of five STFU mugs!

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4 Comments on "Sight for sore eyes"

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  1. traceracer says:

    I got contacts in … 6th grade I think. I started with soft and then had to go to semi-hard because my vision was getting worse. During my junior or senior year in high school, I wore them for a year. Straight. Mind you, these weren’t disposables. They were semi hard contacts that I was sleeping in every night. I was dumb.

    After that, I could only wear contacts so many days a week. And they had to be disposable because I screwed up so badly and wasn’t supposed to wear the same pair for more than one day. Usually I just ended up wearing my ugly glasses most of the time.

    Two or so years ago, I got Lasik and now I am the happiest girl in all the land.

  2. drfaulken says:

    I really wish I had the cash for LASIK. My eye budget was swallowed up this year by the new fence and other uncool stuff like taxes. How did your final corrected vision turn out? I hear some folks can’t quite get to 20/20, but then my brother pulled off 20/15 🙂

  3. traceracer says:

    I had 20/15 last time I checked. And I was blind as hell. contacts were like -7.5.

    I did a payment plan with my place, which worked out pretty well. Especially since mine was really expensive.

  4. cymwyd says:

    I tried contacts when I first discovered the need for vision correction, at the ripe old age of 16. Gave up on them in college – too many late nights (studying!) and stupid-youth errors on hygiene left me with multiple eye infections. Vanity kept me out of glasses for several years, but driving when almost completely blind in one eye is really stupid, so I’ve worn glasses full time for >20 years now.

    Vision is one of the most important things to me. The idea of letting someone with sharp instruments (or lasers) near my eyes scares me practically witless.