Whether for sports or leisure, contact lenses are a practical aid for people with impaired vision. But especially when you are buying contact lenses for the first time, you are often overwhelmed by the wide range.
For this reason, we have included many tips and tricks in this article that can help you with your decision. In our contact lens test 2021, we introduce you to the best products and explain what you should bear in mind when buying this visual aid. You will learn about the different types of contact lenses and what their advantages and disadvantages are. In addition, our buying criteria can help you find the right contact lenses for you.
- 1 Weekly newsletter with the best personal finance tips
- 2 The most important facts
- 3 The Best Contact Lenses: Our Picks
- 4 Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying contact lenses
- 4.1 What are the advantages of contact lenses over glasses?
- 4.2 What types of contact lenses are there?
- 4.3 What should I look for when buying contact lenses?
- 4.4 What does the DIA value indicate?
- 4.5 Do I still need glasses even if I wear contact lenses?
- 4.6 How are contact lenses categorised?
- 4.7 What side effects can contact lenses have?
- 4.8 How much do contact lenses cost?
- 5 Decision: What types of contact lenses are there and which is the right one for you?
- 6 Buying criteria: These are the factors you can use to compare and rate contact lenses
- 7 Facts worth knowing about contact lenses
The most important facts
- Contact lenses are a practical addition to glasses. Depending on the purpose, you can choose either daily, weekly, monthly or yearly lenses.
- You can also choose between exchange lenses, toric contact lenses, bifocal contact lenses and motif lenses. Motif lenses are coloured or printed with a pattern.
- Depending on the number of lenses, the maximum wearing time, the oxygen permeability and the material, you can choose a contact lens model that is suitable for you.
The Best Contact Lenses: Our Picks
Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying contact lenses
Before we show you the different types of lenses, we have put together some important information about contact lenses. Here you can find out about the advantages and disadvantages of contact lenses compared to glasses, what types of contact lenses there are, what the DIA value is and how much contact lenses cost.
What are the advantages of contact lenses over glasses?
Spectacle lenses for correcting severe myopia reduce what is seen, whereas contact lenses do not. In addition to these advantages, however, there are also disadvantages that should be considered. Contact lenses reduce the oxygen supply to the cornea, and they also increase the risk of infection.
What types of contact lenses are there?
These standard geometries fit many people - but not everyone. In some cases, it makes more sense to prefer a custom-made contact lens to ensure an optimal contact lens fit.
By the way, presbyopia and astigmatism (astigmatism of the cornea) can also be corrected with contact lenses. In principle, contact lenses are divided into soft and rigid materials. Some people call dimensionally stable contact lenses hard contact lenses.
This originates from the time when contact lenses were still made from glass and then from PMMA. However, the dimensionally stable contact lenses offered on the market today are made of high-quality and well-tolerated copolymers and are therefore no longer so often referred to as "hard". In the study conducted in America, the prevalence of problems was estimated in 1092 wearers of soft contact lenses.
Participants wearing Senofilcon A silicone hydrogel lenses were also tested. Participants reported an estimated 23% dryness, 13% discomfort and 27% uncomfortable wear for at least 2 hours. Average wearing time remained unchanged, but wearing time increased significantly. Most of the symptoms that subjects experienced with their current contact lenses were alleviated with silicone hydrogel lenses. (1)
What should I look for when buying contact lenses?
What does the DIA value indicate?
The DIA value of hard lenses is generally smaller than that of soft contact lenses in comparison to the corneal diameter. While soft lenses have an average size of 12 to 16 mm and the edge of the lens lies below the edge of the eyelid when the eyes are open, the diameter of hard lenses ranges between 8 and 10 mm and is thus somewhat smaller than the corneal diameter.
The DIA value is determined during the contact lens fitting at the optician. He or she will determine the corresponding corneal parameters and then advise you. Since the various parameters of a contact lens (such as the diameter, the base curve or the material composition) have a decisive effect on the wearing comfort as well as the tolerability of a contact lens, it is important to get advice before you buy.
Even small deviations of only 0.1 or 0.2 mm can have an effect on the wearing comfort as well as on the correction of the refractive error.
Contact lenses from different manufacturers can differ not only in terms of the material used, but also in terms of their respective geometries.
Do I still need glasses even if I wear contact lenses?
In order to give your eyes a period of regeneration and rest, you should go without your lenses at least one day a week and wear your glasses instead.
How are contact lenses categorised?
- Customised contact lenses
- Exchange systems
- Toric (astigmatic) contact lenses
- Bifocal contact lenses
- Coloured and motif contact lenses
We conducted an independent market analysis of contact lens types to determine the most common product types. You can read the results in the following chart: We will show you what distinguishes each type of contact lens in the following sections.
Custom-made contact lenses
Custom-made contact lenses guarantee a particularly high level of wearing comfort as well as HD-quality vision. They are made exactly according to the curvature and size of your cornea, the flattening of the cornea in the transition area to the conjunctiva, the eyelid position and tension, the tear film composition and your diopter strength. Rigid contact lenses last about two years, while soft custom contact lenses usually last one year.
Exchange systems are available as daily lenses, weekly lenses, bi-weekly lenses and monthly lenses. The disadvantage of the limited choice of parameters - and the associated limitations in fitting - is offset by the advantage of more frequent replacement.
Exchange systems are a sensible alternative to custom-made contact lenses, especially in cases of severe allergies or limited hygienic possibilities (e.g. during long-distance travel).
One speciality is the daily disposable contact lens. They do not need to be cared for at all, but are simply thrown away in the evening. Even daily disposable lenses must be carefully fitted to your eyes, otherwise permanent damage cannot be ruled out, e.g. due to a too tight fit.
Toric (astigmatic) contact lenses
Toric contact lenses are primarily used to correct a sphero-cylindrical refractive defect if a residual astigmatism is to be expected after fitting a "normal" spherical contact lens. Another area of application is the improvement of the fit of the contact lens in cases of severe corneal curvature.
A distinction is made between outer-toric (side facing away from the eye), inner-toric (side facing the eye) and bitoric contact lenses. With custom-made contact lenses, even high astigmatisms can be corrected without any problems.
Bifocal contact lenses
Bifocal contact lenses provide both distance and near vision correction for wearers over the age of 40. They thus combine the advantages of contact lenses for both distance and near vision.
It is important to be prepared to make small compromises in terms of visual acuity. As a rule, sufficiently sharp vision in the distance and when reading is guaranteed after a short acclimatisation period.
Coloured and motif contact lenses
Contact lenses can be slightly tinted (manipulation tint). To emphasise or change the colour of your eyes, you need a contact lens with an iris pattern. Your own eye colour then shines through between the colour structure. This makes the changed iris colour look real.
Motif contact lenses with drawings such as a heart, a cat's eye, etc. are also available. The use of these lenses is in some cases only partially recommended due to the field of vision restricting imprint. Coloured and motif contact lenses must be fitted conscientiously, just like all other contact lenses.
An ill-fitting coloured contact lens can cover the entire pupil when the eye blinks with the design and thus temporarily lead to a loss of vision. This can lead to accidents, for example when driving.
What side effects can contact lenses have?
This increases the proportion of inflammatory cytokines in the tear film. The number of particles dissolved in the tear film is decisive for its osmolarity. Thus, the osmolarity of the tear film also increases. The osmotic pressure, in turn, is important for fluid transport and fluid balance in the cells. Incorrect concentrations can lead to cell damage. In addition, the evaporation rate of the tear film increases as already described.
All this has the consequence that the sensitive corneal nasociliary nerve and thus the corneal sensitivity is negatively influenced. (2) A study from November 2012, deals with the handling of daily contact lenses during continuous wear. It is known that continuous or extended wear of contact lenses is associated with a higher risk of ocular infections.
A new evidence study was initiated to explain the association between 30 days of continuous wear of daily disposable contact lenses and the occurrence of contact lens-induced adverse ocular events. 215 subjects with silicone hydrogel daily contact lenses wore them for 30 days.
Logistic regression analysis revealed a significant reduction in mechanically and inflammatory induced ocular disorders when daily contact lenses were changed in the morning compared to monthly contact lens changes. 35% of the participants were found to be infected with Staphylococcus aureus as a result of handling unworn contact lenses.
Changing in the morning during continuous wear reduces adverse effects. Sleeping with contact lenses has no positive effect. (3)
How much do contact lenses cost?
However, the expensive brands often offer better materials. For lenses made of the very oxygen-permeable silicone hydrogel, you usually have to dig deeper into your pocket than for models made of hydrogel. The duration of wear also plays a role.
Daily disposable lenses are intended for single use and can therefore be produced more cheaply than annual lenses, which have to last 365 days. In addition, daily and monthly lenses are usually produced in standard sizes, while annual lenses are custom-made for each contact lens wearer. These contact lenses naturally cost more.
Those with dry eyes or complicated refractive errors must also expect a higher price. The cheapest lenses are spherical lenses, which correct farsightedness or nearsightedness. They are more expensive if you have astigmatism or presbyopia (long-sightedness in old age). Another important question is how often you want to use contact lenses.
If you only want to do without glasses occasionally, daily disposable lenses are cheaper. If you mainly want to use lenses, buy monthly or annual lenses.
Here you will find an overview of the different types of contact lenses and their price ranges. The individual types are described in more detail below.
|daily lenses||15 euros per pack of 30|
|monthly lenses||15-50 euros per pack of 6|
|coloured lenses||about 14 euros per pack of 2|
|hard lenses||from 70 euros per lens|
Prices for daily lenses
Daily disposable lenses are ideal for occasional users who want to leave their glasses in the case, for example, when doing sports or on holiday. They are available as multipacks of 10, 30 or 90 lenses. Contact lens prices for a pack of 30 start at about 15 euros. As the lenses are disposed of after wearing, there are no further costs for care products.
Prices for monthly lenses
When it comes to monthly lenses, there is a wide range of different types of contact lenses. These include toric contact lenses, varifocal contact lenses and day-and-night lenses. There are also differences in the materials. Prices vary accordingly.
You can get a 6-pack of simple monthly lenses for as little as 15 euros. Depending on whether you need the same or different strengths for your eyes, one pack is enough for 3 or 6 months. It gets more expensive if you have astigmatism.
Prices for toric lenses start at 30 euros for a pack of 6. Multifocal lenses are even more expensive, starting at 50 euros per pack of 6.
Prices for coloured lenses
If you want to change your eye colour, go for coloured contact lenses. These are usually available as monthly lenses in packs of 2. You can buy them with or without prescription. This usually does not change the price. The contact lenses cost 14 euros or more per pack.
Prices for hard contact lenses
Hard contact lenses cost comparatively much. They are custom-made and mean more work for the optician to fit them. In addition, they are lenses that last a year or more. Accordingly, the material must be stable. The hard lenses are sold individually.
One lens starts at around 70 euros plus the cost of fitting. However, hard contact lenses can be more affordable than monthly lenses because you wear them much longer before replacing them.
Decision: What types of contact lenses are there and which is the right one for you?
Basically, you can distinguish between two different types of contact lenses:
- Hard lenses
- Soft lenses
There are differences in each of these types because each contact lens has its advantages and disadvantages. Depending on how sensitive your eyes are, a different type of contact lens is best for you.
In the following section, we want to help you find out which type of contact lens is best for you. To do this, we'll give you an overview of all the types of contact lenses mentioned above and show you what the advantages and disadvantages of each are.
How do hard lenses work and what are their advantages and disadvantages?
Which contact lens is best for you depends on your personal lifestyle and occupation. You should consider whether you want to use contact lenses on a daily basis or only rarely in your free time. Rigid ("hard") contact lenses have many advantages: For one thing, there is a high oxygen transport to the eye because the contact lenses cover less corneal surface than soft contact lenses.
On the other hand, they have constant optical properties and little tendency to deposit. Furthermore, the contact lenses are precisely customised to the eye. A long service life and therefore a cheaper option compared to soft contact lenses is also an advantage of hard contact lenses.
On the other hand, hard contact lenses also have their disadvantages: Due to their smaller diameter, hard contact lenses do not always fit under the eyelid. Because of this and the firmer material, the lenses are clearly felt when blinking, especially in the early days, and are usually perceived as a foreign body in the eye. It can take up to a month to get used to them.
After that, however, you no longer feel them. Since the dimensionally stable lens fits over the cornea like a protective cover, a very precise adjustment is necessary. This is much more time-consuming than with soft lenses, which automatically adjust to the curvature of the cornea. This adjustment is necessary, however, because an unadjusted rigid contact lens can cause considerable damage to the cornea.
Hard contact lenses are more expensive to buy than soft lenses. However, with good care, rigid lenses can be worn for up to 2 years. If you then calculate the price down to the corresponding months, they are not that different in price from soft lenses.
Since GP lenses are smaller and float on the tear film, they can fall out of the eye more easily and get lost. Soft contact lenses are therefore more suitable for sports, where there is a lot of movement and, above all, rapid head movements.
How are soft lenses to be handled and what are their advantages and disadvantages?
Soft contact lenses are defined by their water content and silicone content. Both components have a positive effect on the flexibility of the material. Some materials, such as silicone hydrogels, have good oxygen permeability. Unlike hard lenses, they have less consistent optical properties and a higher tendency to deposit.
Custom-made soft lenses are also precisely adapted to the eye. With daily, weekly, bi-weekly or monthly contact lenses, an exact fit is not always possible.
The "lifespan" of soft lenses ranges from one day to one year. As a rule, they are tolerated very quickly. Likewise, there is less risk of loss during water and contact sports.
In a dirty and dusty work environment, foreign particles cannot easily slip under the contact lens and feel uncomfortable. Thanks to the optimised silicone hydrogels, selected lenses can also be worn for several nights if cleaning agents are not at hand.
Buying criteria: These are the factors you can use to compare and rate contact lenses
In the following we would like to show you which factors you can use to compare and evaluate contact lenses. This will make it easier for you to decide whether a particular type of contact lens is suitable for you or not. In summary, these are:
- Number of lenses
- Maximum wearing time
- Oxygen permeability
In the following paragraphs you can read about the individual buying criteria and how you can classify them.
Number of units
Depending on the manufacturer, a different number of contact lenses is supplied. A distinction must be made here between monthly lenses and daily lenses. With daily lenses, for example, up to 90 lenses can be supplied. For monthly lenses, three to six lenses are standard.
Maximum wearing time
A distinction is made here between continuous wear lenses (day and night) and lenses that can only be worn during the day. For some professionals who work rotating shifts, continuous wear lenses offer a great alternative to glasses. Similarly, people who are on duty day and night, such as doctors on 24-hour duty. The modern monthly contact lenses can be worn for up to 30 days.
Depending on your eye, your trusted specialist will decide whether this is possible for you individually. An alternative may be to limit the wearing time to one week and then clean the lenses overnight.
The oxygen permeability of contact lenses is of utmost importance for eye health. Only with a sufficient inflow of oxygen is the functioning metabolic activity of the cornea guaranteed. Wearing contact lenses restricts the natural oxygen supply to the eyes.
Modern contact lens materials (such as silicone hydrogel) ensure that long-term contact lens wear nevertheless has no negative consequences for eye health.
If particles get stuck under the lens while sleeping, they can also rub into the cornea, which can lead to an extremely painful corneal inflammation. Furthermore, the cornea is poorly supplied with oxygen, which can lead to vascular thickening and scarring of the cornea and thus to impaired vision.
The degree of oxygen permeability of contact lenses is indicated by the DK/t value.
This describes the oxygen permeability of the material in relation to the lens centre thickness (usually measured at -3.00 dpt).
Facts worth knowing about contact lenses
Here is some useful information that you might find interesting.
Can I still wear expired contact lenses?
Once the expiry date has passed, manufacturers cannot guarantee safe, sterile lens use. Germs can form that can endanger the health of your eyes.
Always check the expiry date when using contact lenses. To protect your eyes, do not exceed the expiration date and remove expired lenses.
Contact lenses should not be used after the expiry date. Lenses with an expiry date of 12/2017 must be opened for the first time by 31.12.2017.
After this date, the so-called use-by period begins for daily or monthly lenses, for example, during which safe use is still guaranteed.
If you open your contact lenses before the expiry date, they can still be used after the expiry date, but only within the use-by period. A prerequisite is proper storage and cleaning, which requires a specific lens solution and cannot simply be done with a microfibre cloth. If contact lenses have expired, they can be harmful to your eyes and should therefore not be used.
There is a possibility that pathogens such as bacteria or viruses can form and settle in the lenses. Conceivable consequences are allergic or infectious reactions, whereby the eye becomes inflamed, starts to burn unpleasantly and blushes. In addition, the cornea receives less oxygen due to expired contact lenses and the wearing comfort decreases.
How do I clean contact lenses properly?
Washing up liquid, tap water or even spit have nothing to do with cleaning contact lenses. Instead, you should use the special contact lens cleaning systems recommended by your optician. The most important steps for cleaning soft and rigid lenses are listed below.
We follow the instructions of the optician Fielmann for these steps. In addition to the instructions for use of your contact lens solution, please also note which cleaning method is suitable for your contact lens type (soft/hard).
- Surface cleaning: Surface cleaner is dripped onto the lens and rubbed onto the lens with the fingertip. Suitable for soft contact lenses: combination solution, surface cleaner. Suitable for rigid contact lenses: combination solution, surface cleaner.
- Rinsing: The contact lens is rinsed with e.g. saline solution. Suitable for soft contact lenses: combination solution, saline solution. Suitable for rigid contact lenses: combination solution, saline solution, storage solution.
- Disinfection: The contact lens is placed in a combination/peroxide solution for disinfection. Suitable for soft contact lenses: combination solution, peroxide solution. Suitable for rigid contact lenses: combination solution, disinfection and storage solution.
- Neutralisation (only for disinfection with peroxide solution): As a rule, the contact lens must remain in the peroxide solution for at least 6 hours until it is neutralised. Suitable for soft contact lenses: Peroxide system. Suitable for rigid contact lenses: peroxide system.
If there are heavy deposits on your contact lenses, you can clean them with protein removal tablets in addition to normal cleaning. These use enzymes to dissolve all the proteins that are overlooked during daily cleaning. Protein removal tablets are suitable for soft and rigid contact lenses. For soft lenses, you can also use a combination solution with protein remover.
The following is a list of contact lens solutions available on the market that differ in function:
|Contact lens solution||Function|
|Care products||These include all-in-one solutions and peroxide systems used for daily cleaning, disinfection and overnight storage.|
|Intensive care products||These include surface cleaners and enzyme tablets that are used in addition to the care product to successfully remove heavy soiling and deposits.|
|Additional products||These include saline solutions for rinsing or wetting the contact lenses in between.|
(Image source: 123rf.com / serezniy)
Riley C, Young G, Chalmers R. Prevalence of ocular surface symptoms, signs, and uncomfortable hours of wear in contact lens wearers: the effect of refitting with daily-wear silicone hydrogel lenses (senofilcon a). Eye Contact Lens. 2006 Dec;32(6):281-6.
Mathers WD. Why the eye becomes dry: a cornea and lacrimal gland feedback model. CLAO J. 2000 Jul;26(3):159-65.
Ozkan J, Willcox MD, de la Jara PL, Mandathara PS, Rathi VM, Thomas V, Holden BA. The effect of daily lens replacement during overnight wear on ocular adverse events. Optom Vis Sci. 2012 Dec;89(12):1674-81.