Most people who wear contact lenses choose to because they look better without spectacles. But vanity isn't the only reason for wearing contacts.
After cataract surgery, for example, in which the eye's lens is removed, patients can achieve better vision with contact lenses than they could with glasses.
Persons whose jobs require sharp peripheral vision need contacts, as do outdoor workers or athletes who would be impaired by glasses that get wet, fog up or fall off. Redskin linebacker Neal Olkewicz wears contacts; so do golfers Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.
Lenses are often the choice of broadcasters, fashion models and actors, who need to look their best before the camera without the reflections and owl-eyed look of heavy specs. That's why folks like talk show host Oprah Winfrey and newscasters Dan Rather, Peter Jennings and Jim Vance wear them. Winfrey wore green ones for a while, but switched recently to brown.
Camera-conscious politicians often turn to contact lenses when their distance vision needs correction. Ronald Reagan, who is both nearsighted and presbyopic -- the reading difficulty that comes with age -- wears rigid gas-permeable lenses. Sometimes, when delivering a speech, he wears only one lens so he can both see the audience, with the corrected eye, and read the speech with the other. As president, Jimmy Carter also used only one lens for the same reason. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy wears two lenses.
While most people do well with contact lenses, a few people will have problems and are, therefore, not good candidates for contacts. An ample production of tears is required for comfortable contact lens wear, but people who are pregnant, diabetic, or have thyroid problems often have dry eyes and have trouble with contacts. Insufficient tears also can be a side effect of certain medications, such as birth control pills, diuretics, antihistamines, and decongestants.
Others for whom contact lenses are not recommended are those with occupational exposure to dust or chemicals; persons with severe allergies that involve the eyes; uncontrolled diabetes; and problems with manual dexterity.