Many people with astigmatism have been told that they cannot wear contact lenses. Thanks to over a decade of research and development by contact lens companies, this is no longer true for most patients. Since the new millenium, there have been multiple improvements in both astigmatism-correcting contact lens design and materials.
Soft contact lenses that correct astigmatism, often called toric contact lenses, were traditionally designed with a thick zone at the bottom of the lens called a prism ballast. Because of its thickness, the prism ballast often created significant discomfort. It was also prone to rotating on the eye, especially when the wearer looked suddenly to one side, tilted their head, blinked hard, or participated in vigorous activities. With rotation came blurred vision.
New innovations allow contact lens manufacturers to replace the traditional prism ballast design. Many companies, such as Vistakon (who makes Acuvue Oasys for Astigmatism) and Ciba (who makes Air Optix for Astigmatism) now use strategically-placed thin and slightly thicker zones to not only improve comfort, but reduce rotation and allow for more stable vision. In addition to a more visually-stable design, patients can now enjoy an astigmatism-correcting contact lens in a premium material. Newer toric lenses are available in silicone hydrogel, a material that allows more oxygen to reach the eye. The silicone hydrogel lenses are also treated with a special process to increase their ability to maintain moisture, creating a comfortable feel throughout the day.
Melissa Richard, OD, MS