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What Are Toric Contact Lenses for Astigmatism?
Toric contact lenses are a specific type of contact lens used to correct astigmatism, which can cause blurry or distorted vision. Unlike regular contact lenses, toric contact lenses have a particular orientation and specific features to ensure that they sit correctly in your eyes. Here’s what you can expect in a toric contact lens:
- A thin-thick zone
- Lens truncation (the bottom of the lens is partially cut off)
- Ballasting (the lens is a bit thicker or heavier in some areas)
- A middle axis
Toric contact lenses must be properly fitted to your eyes so that they perform optimally. Because they need to be highly customized to your eyes, toric contact lenses tend to be more expensive and may take more time to make than traditional lenses.
What Is Astigmatism?
Astigmatism affects the curvature of your eye’s lens or cornea, the transparent part of your eye that covers your iris, pupil, and anterior chamber. In regular cases, the cornea and lens are smooth and evenly curved to focus rays of light onto the retina in the back of your eye. If, however, your cornea or lens is not smooth or curved correctly (instead of a perfect sphere, they may be shaped like a football), the light that meets your eye won’t be refracted properly.
If it’s your cornea that’s distorted, you have what’s called corneal astigmatism. If it’s your lens that’s irregularly shaped, you have what’s called lenticular astigmatism. Both kinds of astigmatism can affect your near and far eyesight, making your vision blurry or distorted. Here are some common symptoms of both types of astigmatism:
- Blurry vision
- Distorted vision
- Eye discomfort or pain
Fortunately, there are ways to treat astigmatism of either kind, as they are both common. While some people may develop astigmatism after eye surgery, eye injury, or eye disease, most cases of astigmatism are inherited. Toric contact lenses, as well as glasses and surgery, can help to neutralize astigmatism, regardless of its onset.
Different Types of Toric Lenses
There are different types of toric lenses to treat astigmatism, and they’re all available in everything from daily disposable lenses to long-term wear lenses. Toric lenses can even come in different colors.
Most importantly, however, you have a choice between soft or hard toric lenses:
- Soft lenses: Soft lenses tend to be easier to adjust and more comfortable to wear than RGP lenses. They also have the potential to dry out on the eyes.
- Rigid gas permeable (RGP) lenses: RGP lenses may take longer to adjust, and they may feel less comfortable.
Toric Lenses vs. Other Astigmatism Contacts
People who only have a small amount of astigmatism do not necessarily need to use toric lenses. They can often get good vision from regular soft contacts. Toric lenses can also correct your corneal shape and help other refractive errors.
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Beyond your typical soft or RGP toric lenses, here are a few other contact lens options:
- Scleral contact lenses: Progressive astigmatism may indicate an underlying condition like keratoconus, which happens when your cornea thins and bulges out into a cone shape. If your astigmatism is progressive, you should consult your doctor about potential conditions and scleral lenses that may help.
- Hybrid contact lenses: A hybrid lens has a gas permeable lens center but, rather than being rigid, it’s surrounded by a soft skirt for comfort. You may be a good candidate for hybrid contact lenses if you have regular corneal astigmatism and often find yourself complaining about your soft lenses moving around or your RGP lenses being too uncomfortable. (Note that hybrid contact lenses are not for lenticular astigmatism.) If you’re a multifocal patient who currently wears soft contact lenses, a hybrid lens may help you achieve better vision, too.
Whatever you choose, it’s important to talk to your eye doctor about the best kinds of lenses for your astigmatism correction. An eye exam for your lens fitting is necessary to make sure that your contact lenses sit properly. If your lens design doesn’t align well, your contacts may not help you.
Are Toric Lenses Better Than Glasses?
Glasses are a great option to treat astigmatism, and they may even be cheaper than toric contact lenses. Most people will only need a single-vision but cylindrical lens, which offsets astigmatism.
That said, if you have corneal astigmatism, in particular, you may benefit from RGP lenses because the lens reshapes your cornea to improve your vision. Likewise, contact lenses can offer better peripheral vision than glasses.
Ultimately, the choice is yours. It’s best to consult your doctor about your eye care options and the fees associated with each before making your decision.