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What is the difference between soft and hard/rigid contact lenses?

Contact lenses come in two common formats – rigid and soft.

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Soft lenses are rubbery and flexible to the extent they can fold over when you handle them. Rigid lenses, on the other hand, would crack if you tried to fold them and are hard to the touch. Soft lenses are easily the most popular now because the materials are comfortable a few moments after insertion and most people can wear them for 10 hours or more each day. Around 96% of lens wearers today choose to use soft lenses.

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Soft lenses do get soiled more easily than rigid lenses and are less durable so they tend to be replaced daily or monthly. Three monthly, six monthly and annual replacement options are also available but the extra cost and time required to clean these lenses tends to render them more expensive. For some people, though, they are the only option available.

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Daily disposable lenses are used once and a fresh lens is selected every time – minimal fuss, maximum hygiene and easy to use.

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Monthly disposable lenses involve a simple cleaning process that takes a few seconds and overnight storage in inexpensive solutions so they are also a great option for most contact lens wearers.

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Rigid lenses can be fitted to almost any eye shape but, being hard to the touch, they can feel a little irritable when first inserted and need consistent wear to keep them comfortable. Some eye shapes are better fitted with a rigid design and when they are well tolerated they give excellent visual acuity. As soft lens materials and designs have improved so demand for rigid lenses has declined but they are still an excellent option.

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Soft and rigid lenses can correct myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism and presbyopia.

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