I'm Nearly 50 And I Just Tried Contact Lenses For The First Time

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When I was 11 years old, I went to the football (AFL, or VFL as it was in those days) with my Dad. He was a Carlton supporter and I barracked for Hawthorn. That meant we'd go to games at Princes Park, which was the home ground for both teams in the 1970s. But when I kept asking my Dad to read the scoreboard to me it was time to get my eyes checked. After almost four decades of wearing glasses every day since then, I've decided to give contact lenses a go.

My eyesight is afflicted by two issues: shortsightedness and astigmatism. My myopia, or shortsightedness, is quite severe - I'm basically useless without my specs. My prescription is -7.00 which is quite strong. But the time had come to have my eyes checked. Also, I was recently married and during my honeymoon I couldn't go snorkelling as it was pointless. While I can swim, I can't see anything.

So, at my eye test the time came to look into contact lenses.

Getting started

The optometrist I visited (at my local Specsavers) said I could give contact lenses a go. They offer a free trial of disposable daily lenses. So, I booked in for a tutorial where they ran me through how to put them in as well as a further visit from the optometrist who tested my eyes with the contact lenses in.

It took me about 30 minutes to go through the process of putting on and removing the lenses a few times. It takes some practice to place the lens on your eyeball. For most of my almost 50 years, my reflexes have been trained to stop anything from touching my eye so it took a few goes to get the lens in.

But once I got the hang of it, it wasn't too challenging.

Which lenses?

The folks at my local Specsavers recommended disposable lenses that I can use for a day at a time. Once I'm done with them, I simply toss them out.

The cost is about $2 per day. But I doubt that I'd use them every day - maybe once or twice a week.

Not all I expected

I'd never really understood the effect of astigmatism on my vision. The contact lenses I'm using correct for shortsightedness but, as I understand it, there are no contact lenses that correct for astigmatism as well.

When I first had the contact lenses in, I looked all around and was able to read the various signs and posters around the room. For someone who has worn glasses for as long as I have, it was quite amazing to be able to see without them. I did experience some image distortion, particularly around my peripheral vision.

With glasses, the shape of the lense can distort things but my brain has learned to compensate for that. Without the glasses, my brain had to readjust. But that only took a short time.

The second thing I looked at was my iPhone. Surprisingly, it was actually harder to read but the optometrist told me this was because of my astigmatism. He suggested a pair of cheap reading glasses from the local pharmacy would do the trick. So, I need to use glasses while reading even when my contacts are in.

When I got home and went back to work on my computer, I found the reading glasses were helpful. On the days when I use contact lenses, I'll keep my $10 reading glasses handy.

General use

As part of my initial review by the optometrist, I did the standard eye test where you read letters from a chart. With the contact lenses I was able to read beyond the 20/20 vision line, indicating that the contacts were countering my myopia.

While driving, I did notice that I had a slightly harder time reading the odometer and trip meter on my dash but the speedo, which uses a larger typeface and better white-on-black contrast, was easy to read. I had no trouble treading street signs, seeing other vehicles and keeping track of pedestrians.

However, if I'm using my phone's navigation app, the screen is harder to read so I find I"m more dependent on the audio cues. Also, if I'm getting directions on my Apple Watch, I can't easily see the screen with my contacts. Again this is a consequence of the astigmatism according to the optometrist.

Sitting at home, I can watch TV glasses-free for the first time since the 1970s.

I've also purchased a pair of regular sunglasses for the first time in a very long time for when I drive or exercise.

A secondary benefit that comes from contacts is that I don't have to bother with a spare set of glasses. Until now, I'd had two pairs - one regular and one tinted or a pair of phtochromic lenses and a pair of presecription sports glasses.

Now, I can have a regular set of specs and use contacts and off-the-shelf sunnies.

Why did I wait?

The one question I've been asking myself since trying contact lenses is why did I wait so long? I've never really thought of wearing glasses as a hassle until recently. But I'm living a more active lifestyle these days and there are times when glasses get in the way.

I had not really kept an eye on changes in contact lens technology. Because of the strength of my prescription, there was a time when lens technology couldn't deliver a comfortable contact lens. That has clearly changed.

There's also inertia. I've been happy with glasses so there's been little need to try anything else. I've not really played any contact sports - I was a squash player until my 30s, then I took up tennis and I run and cycle - so glasses weren't an issue. But with summer coming and the missed experience of snorkelling during my honeymoon, life has given me the push I needed.


Comments

    Why did I wait?

    Me exactly! I was 30 when I started, and only got them because my wife wanted me to be able to see her walking down the aisle without glasses on!

    I spent my 20's in bars and clubs struggling to find my friends because I was too vain to wear glasses, too scared about putting contacts into my eyes!

    There are some downsides, I've got dry eyes so need to put drops in every few hours but being able to just slip on a pair of sunnies when going outside rather than swapping my glasses for prescription sunglasses every time is great!

    I got contacts in 2014, I went back to glasses two months ago. The contacts I got were Gas Permeable Hard Contacts due to my astigmatism.

    The contacts were great (fantastic) for vision acuity. The clarity I got was amazing to the point I hadn't realised how "off" my glasses prescription was. The other thing it did was make me realise things weren't as wide (read fat) as I had thought they were. My glasses had been altering my sense of self and what I had perceived around me.

    So, I stuck with them, but soon began to realise how much more convenient glasses were in the long run.

    For instance, Contacts require constant maintenance and upkeep, you don't ever really stop thinking about the fact you're wearing them, and they can just pop out at a random time, no matter how well they are fitted. Moreover, the daily hassle of getting up putting them in and then taking them out before bed actually distracts from a good rest, in that, you have to plan for this occurrence (think travelling, holidays, or just falling asleep at your desk). You can't leave them in, because you can actually damage your eyes...ffs.

    There's also the issue of dry contacts, random eye-watering in meetings, and I can't overstate the contacts popping out (driving, walking, sitting, existing...yep they will just pop out for no reason).

    So, after one day where my left lens popped out and basically vanished into thin air (my wife and I searched for 2 hours trying to find the blasted thing) I said enough was enough.

    I went back to the optometrist and found out the contacts had one more side effect...if you try to go back to glasses, it takes a while for your eyeballs to reshape, meaning you have to go in several times to get your prescriptions reset!

    Eventually my prescription settled and I am back to glasses. The good side to all this was that I found out what a GOOD vision acuity actually was, so did not settle for a bad prescription and have as good vision now as I did with the contacts, without all the hassle.

    I'd never really understood the effect of astigmatism on my vision. The contact lenses I'm using correct for shortsightedness but, as I understand it, there are no contact lenses that correct for astigmatism as well.
    J&J Acuvue range has lenses for astigmatism. I don't use them as my astigmatism is not that bad, but my optometrist said if my astigmatism gets worse then I can switch over from the normal Acuvue Oasys range that I currently use. I find that as handy as the dailies are, they're just not as comfortable as fortnightly lenses which seem to be made thicker and less flimsy.

    I have been wearing lenses for 17 years now (since I was 14) and I am considering LASIK. Contacts for me are much better than glasses (I rarely spend a day in glasses), but I would guess not needing anything at all would be even better.

    On a separate note, I am using guest access and I got an error as I selected a name that already exists. It would be really good if the system would save my comment when the error comes up instead of clearing it all!

    Hard contact lens correct astigmatism (and don’t cost anywhere near $2/day!)

    My wife and I have worn contact lenses for 25 years plus and I also have astigmatism which you can get contact lenses to overcome this and not just in the last 10 years. In all my time that I have worn contacts, I have had maybe 2 or 3 "pop out". As for maintence, I use Aosept which is a one step solution, take them out put them in a special cup which fizzes and bubbles, take them out next morning as the solution has now turned to saline, whack them in the eyes. Thats it it and change them each week. We swim (with goggles), play sport, walk, shop, fly whatever, backpacked thru Europe, Asia, India and no issues. Can I suggest giving Specsavers the flick? They really are cheap factory production rubbish. Go to a specialist contact lens people like we do. You may pay that little bit more but you will get specialised service rather than someone trying to up sell you everything like $pecsaver$ do.

      Thanks - that sounds like good advice. I've got a follow up visit coming up so I'll look into it a little further.

        @anthonycaruana My wife & I both use Acuvue Moist (with Laceron) and mine are marked for Astigmatism. As well as shortsighted and with my impending damn old age, have troubles reading close up. For the past 7 years my specialist has given me one lense (L) for long distance & the right lense for reading close up. It feels very strange for the first day or two but after that, your eyes get very used to it and I now never need reading glasses or have troubles watching sporting events, movies or anything in the distance. It may seem odd & you may feel that you will need to close one eye to see near or far but that is not the case at all. Your eyes and brain adapt very quickly. My wife has also had this setup for past 3 years and loves it. Hope this really helps. You can contact me off list if you need any more info.

    Last time I checked, my optometrist wanted somewhere up to $360 to show me how to put in and take out the contact lenses. Also when I tried them my eyes watered and never stopped. I'd really like to try them again but that experience really isn't that conducive to it.

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