What Are Rigid Gas Permeable Contact Lenses?

What Are Rigid Gas Permeable Contact Lenses?

“RGP contacts”, also known as Rigid Gas Permeable contact lenses or oxygen permeable contact lenses, are a bit of a mystery to patients that have never worn them. RGP’s should not be confused with the first lenses developed, which were “hard contact lenses.” These “hard lenses” are rarely fit today due to their poor oxygen permeability. RGP contacts were later developed to address the issue of lack of oxygen reaching the eye and its effect on eye health. Although RGP contacts are still hard lenses, they are much more permeable to oxygen. Because of the higher oxygen permeability, rigid glass permeable contacts are still healthy for your eyes.

So what benefits do RGP contacts have? Why do we as Jacksonville optometrists sometimes need to prescribe RGP’s? RGP contacts because of their harder material, which retain their shape when the patient blinks. This leads to much crisper vision for the wearer. Rigid contact lenses are very durable as well. You can break them, if you step on them or crush them, but they are not prone to easy tearing like soft contact lenses are.

And lastly, a more technical benefit is that RGP’s are comprised of materials that don’t contain water. This makes lipids or fats from your tears and protein deposits less likely to build up on the lenses surfaces. With a proper care, rigid gas permeable contact lenses can last for a year or longer if a prescription change isn’t necessary.

Sometimes we prescribe RGP’s when they are medically necessary, such as for diseases like keratoconus or extreme astigmatism. Patients with such vision disorders may simply be unable to achieve proper vision correction with soft contact lenses.

We can prescribe RGP’s on previous soft contact wearers when a patient just can’t the level of clear vision they desire with soft contact lenses. RGP’s are great for patients who are very particular about achieving perfect 20/20 vision with their vision care prescription. In other words, for people who greatly value quality of vision, rigid gas permeable contacts may be a right choice. People who have had LASIK, or refractive surgery, who still need contacts may need to use RGP’s as well. Finally, rigid gas permeable contact lenses are also used for ORTHO-K, where specially designed contacts are worn during sleep to reshape the cornea and improve vision.

All RGP’s are custom made for individual patients and they come in a variety of parameters. They come in different diameters, steepness, materials and colors depending on patients needs. Multifocal and toric (for astigmatism) RGP’s are also available. Since, hardly any pair of RGP’s is a cookie cutter lens, and the materials last much longer, unlike soft contact lenses, RGP’s can take a bit longer to get the right fit for the individual patient.

So why does VAL-Uvision fit the majority of our patients in soft contact lenses? The number one reason is comfort. It takes awhile to adapt to the feel of RGP’s while patients usually get used to soft lenses on the first day. There is also the convenience of disposable lenses versus RPG’s that usually last 2-3 years yet need to be cleaned daily. Many factors must be taken into account when deciding if gas permeable contact lenses are right for patients. Feel free to ask your VAL-Uvision Jacksonville eye doctor if RGP’s are right for you when you come in for your yearly exam.

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