Quick Guide to Soft Contact Lens Jargon

With all of the ambiguous terminology surrounding soft contact lens modalities and replacement schedules, it’s no wonder that patients get confused. But that doesn’t mean we have to be lost – especially when an attending doctor starts rattling off a bunch of contact lens jargon!

In general, all of these terms follow common sense, but I sometimes mix up a few of the modalities, so I thought it might be helpful to lay things out with a quick clinical pearl. Understanding the terminology will help you educate your patients and minimize their risk of contact lens complications.

Lens Wear Modality (AKA, lens wear schedule)

The lens wear schedule indicates how many days and nights in a row a contact lens can be worn without removal or cleaning.

  • Daily Wear: lenses are removed from the eyes at least once per day; not approved for wearing while asleep
  • Extended Wear: lenses worn for no more than 6 nights and 7 days in a week
  • Continuous Wear: lenses can worn for up to 30 nights without removal
  • Flexible Wear: lenses are worn mainly while during waking hours, but can be worn while asleep on occasion
Bacterial ulcer secondary to contact lens over-wear.
Bacterial ulcer secondary to contact lens over-wear. For more clinical photos, click the picture to visit our Clinical Photo Database!

Replacement Schedule

The replacement schedule indicates how often contact lenses are discarded and replaced with a new pair.

*Patient Education Tip: the clock starts ticking on a lens replacement schedule the moment the lenses are taken out of the blister pack, and it keeps ticking until the schedule period is finished. For example, if your patient wears their two-week contact lenses 2 days per week, they shouldn’t keep their lenses for seven weeks – but just two! For these patients, daily disposable lenses may be a better option.

  • Disposable lenses: The FDA defines “disposable” as “to be used once and discarded”
    • Many manufacturers and O.D.s will use the term “disposable” to describe a frequent replacement lens. To be extra clear, most will use “daily disposable” or “single-use” to describe a lens that should be thrown away after one use.
      • E.g. 1-Day Acuvue, Soflens Daily Disposable, Proclear 1 Day, Dailies Total 1
  • Frequent/planned replacement lenses: Replaced every 2 weeks, monthly, or quarterly
    • E.g. Acuvue Advance, Avaira, O2 Optix+, Purevision
  • Traditional/reusable lenses: Replaced every ≥ six months

Have fun trying out all of the types of contacts in clinic!

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