Contact lens use is widespread among many ethnic groups. However, some have contrasting views about the merits of contact lenses for vision correction. Some believe that color contact lenses are an abomination, while others applaud their use. Color contacts can enhance one’s eye color or correct a range of visual impairments, such as astigmatism, hyperopia or myopia (neither myopia or astigmatism affects everyone). They can also correct a wide array of other visual problems, such as cataracts, age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma.
There are several varieties of colors of contact lenses. Most are opaque white, but there are a few color-correcting varieties such as “tints” and “curtain” contacts. The most popular variety is opaque white; however, there is another variety, called a limbal ring, which is made of a plastic resin and fits around the iris of the eyes. It allows light to reflect off the retina, thus creating an optical illusion of the eye being larger than it really is. The color of the limbal ring influences its perceived size and shape, and is sometimes used to help professional sports individuals decide on their helmet color. In the same way, professional drivers may opt for red-eye reducers to make their eyes appear wider and brighter.
Colored contact lenses work because of a unique property of the human eye: light does not pass through the cornea of a colored eye. Instead, the portion of the eye nearest the surface is illuminated, creating an effect called reflected light. The majority of colored contact lenses contain a fluorescent dye, which “colored” the lens through emission of ultraviolet rays. Some of these colored lenses have added properties, such as anti-scratch coatings to reduce the risk of “seeing” dry eye or “straining” the eye’s drainage system. Some also contain ultraviolet (UV) blocking compounds to reduce the possibility of the UV rays entering the eye.
It is important to note that tinted and patterned contact lenses are only one type among the various available colors. Among all the different varieties, however, blue contact lenses are by far the most popular and are used in just about every application. Among other applications, many people wear these lenses for astigmatism. They allow the retina to focus light properly, reducing the blurry vision common with this condition. In some cases, they are even used for color vision correction.
Among the many types of tints are light-filtering tints, dark-filtering tints, and even glazing tints. Light-filtering contact lenses are often used for vision correction, while dark-filtering lenses are often used to enhance certain colors or to improve the color of an object. Glazing tints are commonly used for improving eye color or to counter colorblindness.
The next time you pick up a color contact lens, be sure to ask your optometrist about the benefits and risks of that particular lens. As you likely already know, there can be some benefits to wearing colored lenses. However, you must be aware that there are some risks as well. Wearing any kind of tinted or coated contact lens in any application besides the correct application will alter your eye’s natural color. This can change your vision and can be potentially dangerous. Be sure to have your eyes checked before you wear any color contact lens.