contact lens management
Contact Lenses For Athletes
Challenging environments and duration of
wear are issues for athletes.
two days before Olympic ice dancers Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto headed off to Torino,
Italy last winter, to win a silver medal for the United States, I fit them with
new contact lenses. Ice skaters are particularly challenging as contact lens wearers
because they spend so much time in an environment with dry, cold air and wind blowing
in their faces. But the skaters' biggest complaints dryness and end-of-day
discomfort are very common among athletes, whether they are Olympic-caliber
or just weekend sports enthusiasts.
(center) with Olympic skaters Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto.
Considering special needs
Dry, windy conditions are common in sports ranging
from skiing to soccer. Many outdoor sports also involve sun exposure and glare,
which can cause eye strain in the short-term and contribute to UV-related disease
in the long run. Additionally, athletes tend to wear their contact lenses for long
hours through work or school and sporting activities, so they really need good oxygen
permeability and a comfortable fit.
Then there's the "weekend warrior"
contact lens wearer. Tanith Belbin falls into this category. She has a very mild
prescription and only wears her lenses for competition and some practice sessions.
She needs a lens that feels comfortable even though her eyes aren't accustomed to
In my clinical experience, wearing contact lenses
only for sport is very common. Patients who are nearly emmetropic may not need visual
correction most of the time, but they want optimum visual acuity to land a jump
perfectly, or to hit the ball out of the park. Those with higher prescriptions may
typically wear glasses, but find them unsafe and/or uncomfortable for sport. Often
these patient wear contact lenses to obtain full peripheral vision with no frames
in the way, and to eliminate the minification effect of glasses so the images they
see on the court or field are the correct size, both of which are crucial to good
their reasons for occasional contact lens wear, athletic patients don't want their
contact lenses to distract them. Like Belbin, their expectations of comfort during
the short time they wear their lenses is very high.
Score with the right questions
Fitting Tips for
patients about the conditions under which they normally wear their lenses.
patients how much time they spend outdoors or in "challenging" environments.
patients what conditions may be unique to their sport regarding their contact lens
contact lenses with high oxygen permeability and
In fitting any athlete with contact lenses, my
top priorities include a material with good oxygen permeability, UV-protection,
clear all-day vision and a good base curve for a comfortable fit. I chose Acuvue
Oasys with Hydraclear Plus (Vistakon) for both Belbin and Agosto. The lens, which
was designed for comfortable wear in dry environments, is made of silicone hydrogel
material (sen-ofilcon A). It blocks more than 96% of UV-A rays and 99% of UV-B rays.
The lens base curve is 8.4mm, and has
been compatible with every patient I've tried it on to date. I have found the
power to be predictable with no additional prescription adjustments necessary other
than standard vertex conversion. Although I do a trial lens over-refraction at each
follow-up visit, I cannot recall a time when I needed to adjust the power precalculated
from a patient's refraction.
You may have more athletes among your
patient population than you realize. In general, it's valuable to ask about the
conditions under which patients normally wear their lenses, including how often
and how long they wear them, and how much time they spend outdoors or in challenging
environments. Asking a few questions about lens wear habits may reveal that dryness
and discomfort are problems, even though patients initially say their lenses are
I suggest rewetting drops for dryness
and always recommend patients wear protective eye wear in the sun, but I also know
that patients don't follow our recommendations all the time. Anything we can do
to provide additional protection to keep their eyes healthy is important.
DR. HORN IS IN PRIVATE PRACTICE
IN WASHINGTON, MICH. CONTACT HER AT (586) 992-3700 OR
Optometric Management, Issue: October 2006