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Contacts vs. Glasses: Which Is the Best Option for You?

Contacts vs. Glasses: Which Is the Best Option for You?

Jan 27th 2022

People who need some form of vision correction often have to answer the contacts vs. glasses question. There is no right or wrong choice when selecting between contacts or glasses, and you do not even have to choose between the two. Some people switch between contacts and glasses depending on the situation or mood.

Choosing between contacts and glasses comes down to one’s vision needs and preferences. Your lifestyle and ability to follow instructions may also influence whether you opt for contacts or glasses. This article is WebEyeCare’s guide to help you decide between contacts and glasses.

What Are Contact Lenses?

Contact lenses are thin plastic discs placed directly on the eye to correct vision errors or for aesthetic or cosmetic reasons. They are made from clear lens materials with a tinge of color for easy handling. Contact lenses are typically made from soft plastics or rigid glass permeable materials. They are medical devices, and the FDA regulates their use.

How Do Contacts Work?

Contact lenses are thin films that rest on the eye to correct refractive errors. But how do contacts work precisely? Contacts work by refraction; they bend and focus light into a single focal point on the retina – the light-sensitive layer behind the eye.

Vision receptors then transmit the image to the brain. Contact lenses fine-tune and focus light entering the eye like a magnifying glass. Contacts adhere to the layer of tears covering the eye and are invisible to others.

Are Contacts Safe?

Contact lenses are usually a safe form of vision correction. But contacts can be bad for your eyes if you misuse them. The FDA regulates the use of contact lenses, and you cannot purchase one without a prescription.

A contact lens is a medical device that requires proper care and handling to prevent eye infections. Following manufacturers’ guidelines on contacts use and removal, cleaning, handling, disposal, and replacement helps you use your contacts safely.

Do Contacts Hurt?

Contact lenses do not and should not hurt. Initially, there may be a little discomfort as your eyes adjust to contact lenses, and this sensation should go away within hours once your eyes get used to the contacts. If you feel any pain from using contacts, you should see a doctor immediately as it could signify something serious.

Pain from using contact lenses could result from an eye infection, ripped lens, stuck contacts, corneal abrasion, dirty or expired contacts, and the presence of deposits on the lens. All of these are serious issues that require a doctor’s intervention.

What Are the Different Contacts With Corrective Lenses?

There are several types of contact lenses for various vision problems. An eye doctor will examine your eyes and after the eye exam prescribe contacts for your refractive error.

A refractive error means that the shape of the eye does not allow it to bend light correctly, resulting in poor vision and other symptoms. Common refractive errors and contacts for their correction include:

Nearsightedness (Myopia)

Myopia is the inability to see distant objects because the eyeball is too long relative to the focusing power of the cornea and lens, causing light to focus in front of the retina rather than on it. Nearsightedness can be corrected with spherical contact lenses made from hard or soft contact lenses materials.

Farsightedness (Hyperopia)

Hyperopia happens because the eyeball does not bend light correctly, making it difficult to see near objects. Light entering the eyes focuses on the back of the retina because the eyeball is too short. Farsightedness can be corrected with spherical soft or hard contact lenses.

Astigmatism

Astigmatism results from an irregular shape of the cornea or lens. The cornea or lens has an uneven shape, affecting how light enters the eye leading to blurred or distorted vision.

Toric contact lenses are the most common type of contacts for correcting astigmatism. Other lenses like gas permeable and hybrid lenses may also be prescribed for correcting astigmatism.

Presbyopia

Presbyopia is the gradual loss of the eye’s ability to focus as a person grows older. The effects of presbyopia become apparent in most people as they reach the age of 40. Presbyopia makes reading text at close range difficult, so people with the error tend to hold reading material farther to make the letters clearer. Presbyopia can be corrected using multifocal contact lenses made from hard or soft lens materials.

Glasses vs. Contacts – Are Contacts Better Than Glasses

Woman holding blue eyeglasses and contact lenses

People who want to correct their vision often face the glasses vs. contacts question. There is no right or wrong response to the question, and whichever you pick will depend on your vision needs and personal preference.

Knowing the pros and cons of the two options will help you decide whether contacts are better than eyeglasses for you.

Glasses Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Glasses require less cleaning and maintenance
  • Easy to use
  • Less risk of eye infections
  • Glasses are generally cheaper than contact lenses
  • They come in a variety of styles

Cons

  • Glasses can distort peripheral vision
  • They can be discomforting to some people
  • Limited to certain activities
  • Easier to misplace or lose
  • They can fog up in bad weather

The Pros and Cons of Contacts

Pros

  • Provides a more natural feel and look to your vision
  • Better visual acuity
  • It does not interfere with your physical or sporting activities
  • Not affected by the elements
  • Easier to replace if lost

Cons

  • Requires regular care and maintenance
  • Higher risk of eye infections
  • More expensive in the long-term
  • It can take time to get used to wearing contacts

Should I Get Contacts or Glasses?

Whether you should get contacts or glasses depends on your lifestyle and vision needs. If you don’t want to worry about cleaning and maintenance, then you may want to be wearing glasses over contacts.

You should also consider using glasses if you are going to make a fashion statement with your eyewear. Glasses may also be for you if you want to have better vision on a limited budget.

If you live an active lifestyle or play sports, you are better off choosing contact lenses. Contact lenses offer a constant clear field of vision, so you don’t have to worry about them obstructing your view or falling off during sports.

People who are uncomfortable with the feel of glass frames can also consider opting for contact lenses.

Contacts and Glasses During Each Season

Man with contact lens on his finger

Weather conditions can affect your eye health and choice of eyewear. Contact lenses are not necessarily affected by extreme weather conditions as they rest on the eyes and are protected by the body.

However, sweat can get between contact lenses and your eyes, causing possible infections. Cold air and wind can also cause contacts to dry out faster.

Glasses are more affected by weather changes than contacts.

Extreme heat or cold can distort the shape of glass lenses, crack the frames, or cause lenses to fog up. Heat can also expand glass lenses, leading to optical changes and distorted vision.

It is necessary to know your contacts and glasses may be affected by variances in weather so you can appropriately care for them and protect your eyes.

Glasses or Contacts When You’re Sick?

When you are down with an illness, you want to avoid wearing contacts as much as possible. Your eyes, like other body parts, react to ailments differently. You could have reduced tear production leading to dryness, pink eyes, and a swollen cornea during an illness.

You may also experience blurred vision due to increased mucus production. Wearing contacts can worsen these symptoms, so you are better off with glasses when sick.

If you must wear your contacts, ensure you clean them thoroughly or switch to disposable contacts to prevent eye infections. You may also want to take your contacts out during the day to give your eyes room to recuperate.

Does Age Affect Glasses and Contacts?

Child wearing glasses in a doctor's office

Age affects every part of your body, including your eyes. As you grow older, your vision requirements change, and so do your eye care prescriptions. The peculiarities of childhood also affect the choice between glasses and contacts.

Glasses are the more popular choice for children because of their durability and the responsibility of inserting and removing contacts daily. Children also tend to rub their eyes, which could pose an infection risk.

Children who are actively involved in sports may prefer contact lenses if they can maintain hand hygiene. Better still, they could use daily disposable contacts which have little cleaning and maintenance requirements.

Glasses are more popular for older patients who may have lost the handiness required to use contacts and are at higher risk of eye infections.

Contact Lenses vs. Glasses in Your Daily Activities

Woman wearing fashion glasses with a gold necklace

Your lifestyle can influence your choice between contact lenses vs. glasses. If you are involved in sports and physical activities, you may prefer contact lenses as they provide a clearer field of view and are less likely to fall off during vigorous activities.

There are cases where glasses may be better for sports, like in situations where the person has an injury and needs to wear glasses to prevent further damage. If you stay in front of screens for long, glasses with a blue light filter can help prevent eye strain and headaches.

Choosing Between Contacts or Glasses for Cosmetic Reasons

According to the American Optometric Association, over 45 million people in the US use contact lenses, but not all use them for medical reasons.

Color contact lenses also exist and are used for their aesthetic value to change eye color or provide dramatic effects for Halloween or movie sets. Glass frames come in different designs and colors, which can help to accentuate your style.

Are Contacts Cheaper Than Glasses?

The cost of getting glasses depends on your prescription and the type of frames. Prescription glasses cost anywhere from $150 to over $1000 if you opt for designer frames. However, you don’t need to replace your glasses unless your prescription changes.

Contact lenses cost between $175 to $1000 depending on your prescription, lens material, and replacement schedule.

So we see that the prices between contact and glasses are comparable, even though glasses may be cheaper in the long term.

Glasses vs. Contact Prescription – Are They the Same?

Glasses and contact lens prescriptions are not the same though they share similarities and correct common refractive errors. Contact lenses rest directly on the eye while glasses sit some millimeters above the eyes.

The differences in both prescriptions come from the refractive error and the strength of lenses required to correct it. Contact lens prescriptions typically contain parameters not present in glass prescriptions, including base curve, diameter, lens material, and brand manufacturer.

A glass prescription includes a cylinder and axis value which is absent on contact lens prescriptions.

FAQs

Can I Sleep in My Contact Lenses?

Unless approved for extended wear, you should not sleep in your contact lens. Sleeping in your contact lenses can cause severe dry eye syndrome and increase your risk of eye infection.

Can Glasses or Contacts Correct a Refractive Error Permanently?

Glasses and contact lenses correct refractive errors but not the cause. Glasses or contact lens wear will have to undergo eye surgery to correct a refractive error permanently.

Can Contacts Protect My Eyes From UV Rays?

Overexposure to UV rays from the sun can increase the risk of cataracts and photokeratitis. Wearing sunglasses and UV-blocking contacts can help protect your eyes from harmful ultraviolet rays.

Can I Wear Glasses and Contacts at the Same Time?

Yes. People with multiple vision problems may use glasses and contacts at the same time. Contacts may correct farsightedness, while glasses help with reading. You may also ask your doctor for a multifocal contacts prescription to help with multiple vision errors.

Are Contacts or Glasses Better for Dry Eyes?

If you have dry eyes, wearing glasses may be better than contacts because you don't have to touch your eyes with them, so there's little risk of irritation or infection. If you must wear contacts, you should opt for soft contacts to keep your eyes hydrated. Using eye drops can also help keep your eyes lubricated and relieve dry eye symptoms.

Can Vision Therapy Correct Refractive Errors?

Vision therapy is the use of personalized techniques to correct vision problems. Vision therapy may improve symptoms of a refractive error, but you need glasses, contact lenses, or surgery to permanently correct a vision error.