Duette lens with vial

A SynergEyes Duette Hybrid Contact Lens Review – Is It The Holy Grail for Clear, Crisp, Comfortable Vision?


Photo of hard lens plus soft lens equals Duette lens

Look out folks! There’s a new contact lens in town. Made from SynergEyes, the Duette contact lens is the newest in hybrid contact lens technology.  It’s promising crisper, clearer vision and comfort by incorporating both hard and soft contact lenses into one.

What is currently out on the market now for those of us that need vision correction? There are soft contacts, soft contacts for astigmatism (explained below), hard contacts (or RGPs – Rigid Gas Permeables), and glasses. Soft contacts are very easy to get used to and are very comfortable, but they do not correct for astigmatism. Soft contacts for astigmatism correct for astigmatism, but blur when you blink, because the lens moves a little then settles back into place. Hard contacts, well are hard and can pop out of your eyes at the most inopportune time, but give clearer vision. And glasses….well, they’re not contacts.

Photo of Tootse Pop owl cartoonThe Duette lenses have a hard contact lens in the center and soft outer lens skirt. This should provide the clear vision of a hard contact lens and the comfort of a soft contact lens.  Almost sounds like an inverse Tootsie pop!

I am a Certified Ophthalmic Technician who is lucky to be working at Dedham Ophthalmic Consultants and Surgeons (or DOCS for short) one of the very few offices in Massachusetts that carry the Duette lenses. Both Dr. Donna Valentini OD and Dr. Judy Darrow OD do the fittings for these special lenses.  I made my appointment right away so I could try these as soon as possible.

Photo of a basketball and footballBut first, a brief explanation of the shape of eyes that I tell my patients. Your eyes come in two shapes: a basketball shape and a football shape (the astigmatic shape). The basketball shaped eye is completely round and has the same prescription 365 degrees around. On the other hand, the football shaped eye when looking at it nose on, is not completely round, but more ovoid shaped. Therefore, it’s prescription is not the same 365 degrees around.  Rather it is clearest at the axis where the seams come together. Any where on the leathers the vision is blurry. I have the pleasure of having one basketball and one football shaped eye, so fitting me for contact lenses can be a challenge.

The Duette lens, like the RGPs, can turn football eyes into basketball eyes, giving the crisp vision that hard lenses can provide.

The fitting itself can take some time because you’re trying to find the best fit for your eyes so that the front of your eye will conform properly to the lens.  The doctor will fill the fitting contact lens with water and a yellow dye.  You will then need to bend your head forward so that your face is parallel to the floor. The doctor then puts the contact on your eye.  This minimizes any air bubbles in the lens. This can be a harrowing experience for those who have never worn contact lenses before nor have had anyone come at their eyes with something in hand.  But stay still, relax, and keep your eyes wide open to ease the process. It’ll be over before you know it. (Note: Do not wear any eye make up, white clothing, or any outfit you like to a Duette fitting. There is a lot of yellow dye and water involved that may get on your clothes and you do not want any residual eye make up to go underneath the lens.)  Once the contact lens is in the doctor will check how the dye pattern is under a blue light. Adjustments to the fit can be made if the the lens is too steep or flat.

Removal of the lens is fairly simple. It’s alot like taking out a soft lens, but without all the flexibility.  First make sure your fingers are DRY.  Then put your index and thumb together. Place the two near the bottom of the hard lens where the soft lens skirt should be, pinch and pull up and out. (See update 01/12/13 at bottom of post for another way to take the Duette lens out.)

The prescription of the fitting lens is set at -3.00D. Once a proper fit has been determined the prescription needs to be found. The doctor will you put you behind the big eyeglasses with the spinning dials and lenses called a phoropter and according to your responses will find the appropriate prescription.  Then the lenses are ordered and you wait breathlessly for the call that the Duettes are in.  Whaaaaat? I told you I was excited about these things!

During my fitting exam with Dr. Valentini my left eye was giving me the most trouble.  I could feel the hard lens on my eye with or without blinking.  It could be because that’s the football eye, but I don’t remember for sure, but it’s easy to assume.   But just like when I got my first pair of contacts at age 11 I was determined.  I also knew that I have been a soft contact lens wearer for 22 years, so anything thicker than that my eyes and lids will definitely notice. It got to the point in the exam that I was putting the Duettes in and taking them out myself!

Unlike the left eye, the fit for the right eye was cake. First fit was very comfortable. So we decided to try the same fit in the left eye. It was a tolerable discomfort. After a few more tries with other fits we went with the comfortable fit in the right eye and the tolerable discomfort in the left. She put the order in and I waited….and waited….and waited.

After the third day of waiting my contacts arrived! My coworker didn’t even have time to check them in before I had the vials out and the contact lenses in my eyes!   What I first noticed was that the overhead lights had flares coming down from them. Possibly from the junction of the hard and soft points. Also my peripheral vision was blurred.  But I knew it would just take time for my brain to register the new visual information and make the necessary visual adjustments. Brains are cool like that.

I wore my new lenses all day and late into the night. Like I said it was a tolerable discomfort. It felt like two huge contact lenses in my eyes, which comparatively speaking, there were.  It felt like my eyes were dry, but not really. When I blinked I could feel my lids go over the lenses. A very strange feeling which you don’t get with regular soft lenses.

The next day, I noticed that words on signs seemed more distinct. Same with words on posters in the office when standing at a far distance.  That morning I couldn’t even feel the lens in my right eye and by late afternoon I couldn’t feel it in my left eye either! Whoo-hoo!  The flare from the overhead lights was still there, but that didn’t bother me. No trouble with vision when outside in the sunlight. My peripheral vision seemed to have been corrected since it was not noticeable any more.

Unfortunately, on the third day, since my eyes conformed to the lenses I started noticing a slight blur in my left eye. When I looked in the mirror I noticed a dry spot on my lens. I took it out, wet it, put it back on my eye, blinked a few times and the spot came back. It was like a bad wiper on a windshield that misses a spot. My lid was not touching that part of the lens whenever I blinked. Boo. So that may mean that I will have to go down to a flatter curve.

Duette lens with vialI really do like the Duettes and if I can find a good fit for my left eye I would continue to use them. The Duettes come in a pair of vials and get disposed of every six months. They correct basketball eyes from -12.00D to +4.00D and football eyes +/-6.00D (this is the second number in your prescription)

Calculating the cost for me between the Duettes and my regular contacts it works out that the Duettes cost a few dollars more per month.  The fitting for the Duettes is a little more expensive, but because it’s such a unique lens, I feel that it is worth the cost.  All offices may charge a different fee so please contact them to get the current fitting cost.  If you’re in the Dedham, MA area and interested in being fit for the Duette lenses, feel free to call DOCS at 781-251 2222.

Just remember that they may be uncomfortable when you first get them, but wear them and give them a few days for your eyes to conform and your brain to adjust and you may just like them very much.

Right now I’m back in my soft contact lenses and my vision is slightly blurry. I may have just been spoiled but will have to wait until the new Duettes lenses are sent to me to be sure. I will update accordingly.

Also I read on the SynergEyes website that they are coming out with a multifocal version.  So that should be interesting! 🙂  If you have them, please comment! I would like to hear how well these work out.

E Rating (1 E= meh, 5 Es = Eenae Endorsed): Even if they don’t work for me I would still give it EEEEE. 11/24/11 update: Due to recent comments I think that I have to downgrade E Rating of  the Duettes to EEE. It looks like the Duettes are still a work/fit in progress.

08/29/12 update: It’s been a year since I wrote this post and I’ve just finally gotten my refit with my Duettes.  I hope to receive them on Friday and try them for the long weekend.  I’ll update accordingly. Let’s hope they work out! 🙂  Also a few of my coworkers tried the new Duette Multifocals. I will get their opinions and let you know.

Thank you for all of your experience. In fact, because of you this post is the top search find on Google.  Even the Duette rep noticed! So please keep the comments coming.

09/04/12 update:  My Duettes came in and I tried them.  They felt like really thick pieces of plastic in my eyes.  But I know that’s normal as my eyes got settled into them.  My vision was clear when I stood still.  However, the initial flare from overhead lights was noticeable again where the junction of the hard and soft lens met and when I started walking I found myself blinking alot, as if the air hitting the contact lens was drying out the lens fast.  Mind you, the office I work in tends to be on the drier side. The contacts were still in the tolerable discomfort stage.

I wore the Duettes for about 10 hours.  By hour 7 I could not feel the right one anymore, it settled in quite nicely.   The left one was still giving me trouble like before.  It felt as if there was a constant eyelash under my top lid and it felt thick and annoying.  I finally couldn’t stand it anymore and had to take it out.  I’ve tried it a couple of times more, but again, too uncomfortable to stay in my eye for long.

So I’m back in limbo until our next fitting at the end of the month with the guy who is alleged to be the ultimate Duette fitter.  Let’s hope he can find a better fit for my left eye.

09/06/12: One of my coworkers tried her Duettes, said it took her a few hours to get used to and now she’s wearing them comfortably ALL DAY!!  Lucky.  And she says that the vision is sharp and clear.  So jealous.  But that means it does work for some people.

01/12/13 Removal tip update:  A patient of mine whom I was giving a Duette instruction taught me a great tip regarding removal. She had previously worn hard, RGPS, and soft contact lenses.

Open eyes wide, pull up on corner of eye towards temple, then blink.  This should pop the lens out.  Please let me know if this works for you!

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