Although 85% of contact lens wearers use soft lenses, there remains a niche audience that uses the original and still-effective hard contact lens. Keeping this in mind, it is important to understand the many differences in their uses and caring needs.
Hard contact lenses are made with the polymers polymethyl methacrylate and silicone, the latter of which is used in rigid gas-permeable contacts (RGP). RGP contacts serve as the more common choice for hard contacts, as they allow for more oxygen to reach the cornea and, as a result, prove to be the more comfortable plastic. This silicone hydrogel, coupled with the simple fact that some contact users are allergic to materials used in soft contact lenses, is largely responsible for the enduring use of hard contact lenses.
But of course, there are numerous other reasons why some opt for hard contact lenses over soft contact lenses, with a major reason being that they do not always require the same tedious level of care that soft lenses demand. Soft contact lenses stand as the more difficult contact lens to handle on a daily basis during the routine of cleaning and insertion, and as such are especially difficult to deal with for people with arthritis. In terms of comfort, the “hugging” nature of a soft lens may also limit oxygen intake and be problematic for those with asthma.
Hard contact lenses have a positive reputation of, compared to soft lenses, being more durable and easy to manage. Soft lenses are prone to blotches and dirtying from pollutants in the air, which can also prove dangerous if you work around chemicals on a daily basis. Naturally, this makes hard contact lenses a bit easier to deal with in the cleaning process.
In most cases, the care involved with soft lenses and hard lenses will depend on your lifestyle. If you find yourself to be an active person (an athlete, hiker, biker, etc.), you may want to stick with soft lenses for the sole purpose that they cling more tightly to your eye and, consequently, are a lot less likely to fall out than a hard lens. If you happen to be a nurse at a hospital, however, hard lenses may be the way to go for a career that involves constantly being surrounded with dirty and dangerous chemicals on a daily basis.
One might also be reminded that, on average, hard contact lenses are the economically wise way to go, making care that much simpler. The technology involved with creating a hard lens makes them not only cheaper to produce, but much easier to clear away scratches and clean smudges that might be tricky to attend to with soft contact lenses. (They also tend to require less solution to clean.) Hard contact lenses have a level of accessibility not quite matched by that of soft contact lenses, which involve a slightly deeper cleaning process with specific protein-removal and disinfectant solution processes.
Both soft contact lenses and hard contact lenses share their individual burdens and faults, making the decision of which to wear a fairly personal and relative decision. You may find it helpful to consult youreye doctor about which to use and what particular regimen you should abide by for caring for and cleaning your contact lenses. Read more about contact lens basics.