Contact lens wear is a tremendous portion of many optometry practices. Many patients come to ODs because of their ability to provide comfortable vision with contact lenses.
Unfortunately, without successfully providing patients with a comfortable wearing experience, they may not be able to appreciate the full impact of the vision-correcting opportunities that contact lenses can offer. Many major manufacturers have invested significantly in attempts to improve comfort through new materials, lens designs, lens care solutions, and surface treatments.1,2
Discomfort leads to dropout
ODs have seen firsthand the positive outcomes these new modalities have had on patients’ lens-wearing experience. Even with the availability of new contact lens technologies, some patients will still discontinue contact lens wear. There are several reasons for this, including ocular redness, decreased visual acuity, and even cost of the contact lenses. Interestingly, the most commonly-cited reason that someone will discontinue contact lens wear is discomfort.3,4
From a clinical perspective, ODs know who is wearing lenses but determining those who have discontinued lens wear is a more difficult exercise.
Some patients will tell their ODs about their comfort challenges and seek help, but most are silent sufferers because they attribute discomfort as a necessary evil of wearing contact lenses. These patients may seek other professional opinions, or they could simply come in to their next eye exam wearing their glasses, uninterested in continuing contact lens wear.
I went through a self-realization several years ago when I asked patients in my practice to grade their contact lens comfort on a scale from 0 to 10 (10 being the most comfortable wearing experience and 0 being the least) at the beginning and the end of the day.
I found that even my seemingly comfortable contact lens wearing patients were experiencing a significant drop in comfort toward the end of the day. This is when ODs typically consider intervening with new contact lens technologies to positively influence patients’ end-of-day comfort.
I think all practitioners should embrace the newest contact lens technologies, including material science and optical designs. Contact lens innovation provides our patients with a remarkable improvement in wearing experience. I believe ODs have the opportunity to reduce the number of contact lens dropouts, but we need to be proactive in the way we ask questions in the exam room and, ultimately, offer patients the highest-quality contact lens designs and optical properties that manufacturers have to offer.
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