Are There Transition Contact Lenses?
You may be familiar with transition eyeglass lenses that are clear indoors and darken automatically when exposed to the sun or other sources of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. This technology is now available in a contact lens.
What Are Transition Contact Lenses?
Transition lenses have been around since the 1960s. Until a few years ago, this light-adaptive feature was only available for eyeglasses or sunglasses.
In 2018, Johnson & Johnson launched the ACUVUE® OASYS contact lenses with Transitions™ Light Intelligent Technology™. These were the first contact lenses with transition technology to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Johnson & Johnson (which owns Acuvue) worked with Transitions Optical — a leader in transition eyeglasses lenses — for more than 10 years to develop contact lenses with transition technology.
Transition contact lenses are made with hydrogel — a soft, thin polymer plastic that conforms easily to the human eye. This material also holds a lot of water so people with sensitive eyes or dry eye can comfortably wear transition lenses.
Along with helping you see clearly, transitions contact lenses are designed to reduce vision discomfort that can be caused by bright light. They can also help your eyes adjust to changing light better than they would if you weren’t wearing these contacts.
How Do Transition Contact Lenses Work?
Similar to transition eyeglasses, transition contacts have the Transitions brand’s “Light Intelligent Technology.” This is a photochromic additive. When this photochromic additive is exposed to UV rays or blue light from sources such as screens and lightbulbs, the lenses darken to block UV radiation from potentially harming your eyes.
When your eyes are exposed to UV radiation, the lenses fully darken in about 45 seconds. Once you go inside, it takes around 90 seconds for the lenses to go back to clear. Transition contact lenses also adjust throughout the day to help make sure you have comfortable vision and to protect your eyes. These adjustments allow the amount of light reaching your eye to be consistent so you can see clearly wherever you are.
It’s important to note that these contacts won’t get darker when you’re driving. Your car’s windshields block the UV rays from the sun that cause the lenses to react.
What do Transition Contacts Look Like?
Transition contacts are clear to slightly tinted in normal indoor lighting. They automatically become darker when you go outside or when the lenses are exposed to UV light. Lens darkness varies depending on lighting.
Who Can Wear Transition Contact Lenses?
You can wear transition contact lenses if you have myopia (nearsightedness) or hyperopia (farsightedness). Currently, transition contacts aren’t available for people with astigmatism (blurry vision close up and far away).
You don’t have to have a vision problem to wear transition contacts. They’re available without vision correction for people who like the convenience of a contact lens that automatically darkens and gets clear as the light around you changes.
Pros and Cons of Transition Contact Lenses
There are several reasons you may want to try transitions lenses:
- Transition contacts adapt quickly to changing light conditions. These lenses are clear inside and automatically darken outside in about 45 seconds. They get clear again indoors in about 90 seconds.
- They protect your eyes from UV rays. Transitions contacts have 100% protection against UVB rays and more than 99% against UVA rays.
- They can help you drive better at night. Halos and starbursts (star-shaped glare around bright light, such as streetlights and car headlights at night) can make it hard to drive at night. These lenses can reduce halos by about 18% and starbursts by about 28%.
- Transition lenses filter blue light. Blue light is emitted by the sun and digital devices like your phone. Too much blue light could possibly lead to eye damage. Transition contact lenses can block around 15% of blue light inside and 55% outside.
- They can reduce vision problems caused by bright light. If you’re sensitive to light, you might squint in bright indoor or outdoor light, causing headaches and/or making it hard for you to see clearly. These contact lenses can help relieve these symptoms.
- They don’t fog up. Eyeglasses can fog up in situations such as walking outside from an air conditioned space into a humid day. Transitions lenses stay clear.
- You could feel more confident. Contact lenses can provide the vision correction you need without changing your look the way that glasses do.
There are some drawbacks to transition lenses to consider:
- You could get an eye infection. Your risk of getting an eye infection is higher with any contacts, including transitions. Infections are caused by a number of factors, including using extended-wear lenses, sleeping in your contacts, and not keeping your lenses or your contact cases clean.
- You’re more likely to go blind. Because the risk of eye infections is higher, the risk of blindness is higher too. Serious eye infections caused by contacts can lead to blindness. Blindness is rare, but approximately one out of every 500 people who wear contact lenses becomes blind every year.
- You may spend more for vision correction. Contact lenses can be more expensive than glasses over time.
Do Transition Contact Lenses Replace Sunglasses?
Transitions lenses reach their darkest shade outside when it’s sunny and protect your eyes from UV rays. However, they’re not a substitute for sunglasses.
These contacts only cover your iris and a small part of your cornea, leaving the rest of your eyes and the skin around them exposed. Sunglasses help protect your entire eyes and skin from UV damage that can cause macular degeneration, corneal sunburn, cataracts and skin cancer.
If you’re interested in transition contacts, visit your eye doctor to see if they’re an option for you.