Rigid contact lenses are made from inflexible or minimally flexible plastic materials. Also known as gas permeable contact lenses, rigid gas permeable lenses, or RGPs, these lenses are designed to allow oxygen to pass through to the eye, providing greater comfort and better eye health.
Only about one quarter of all contact wearers in the United States wear rigid lenses; however, they are being prescribed more and more due to recent improvements in their development.
What are rigid contact lenses
Rigid contact lenses should not be confused with old-fashioned "hard" contact lenses. Hard contact lenses were made of a material known as PMMA. One of the issues with PMMA lenses was that they blocked oxygen to the cornea, which increased the risk of corneal swelling and damage.
Rigid, or gas permeable lenses, were introduced in the 1970s. These new lenses are made from silicone materials that allowed oxygen to pass through to the eye, which makes them more flexible and better for eye health.
Why are rigid contact lenses used?
Rigid contact lenses are particularly useful for correcting refractive error which is complicated by astigmatism. Most people with astigmatism prefer to wear rigid contact lenses rather than soft lenses because they provide sharper vision.
Rigid lenses are also commonly prescribed for people with corneal trauma or corneal diseases like keratoconus. These conditions may produce corneal scarring or an abnormally shaped cornea, which makes it impossible to wear soft contact lenses. Rigid contact lenses provide sharper vision for people with corneal irregularities.
Benefits of rigid contact lenses
Though rigid lenses are not as popular as soft contact lenses, they do provide some significant benefits. Because rigid lenses are made of inflexible materials, there is less risk that they will become dislodged. They also retain their shape when you blink, which results in crisper vision.
Rigid lenses are extremely durable; they will not break or tear easily like soft lenses. There is also less risk of allergic reaction to lens cleaning solutions because rigid lenses do not absorb chemicals and preservatives in the same way soft lenses do.