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People with vision problems have many options to help correct their vision and improve eye health. Many people opt for contact lenses or eyeglasses, as they are simple, quick. However, surgical options are also available.

This article compares contact lenses and eyeglasses, the pros and cons of each, and what factors to consider when choosing eyewear.

Eyeglasses and contact lenses can help to correct vision problems, or refractive errors, including:

Eyeglasses sit on the bridge of a person’s nose and do not touch the eyes, while contact lenses sit directly on the eyes. Wearers can switch their contact lenses daily or wear them for more extended periods before removing them to clean. However, wearing contact lenses for longer periods can increase the risk of eye infections.

Because eyeglasses sit slightly away from the eye, and contact lenses sit directly on the eye, prescriptions for each are different. People who wish to use both eyeglasses and contact lenses will require two prescriptions. An eye doctor can measure a person’s prescription for both during a comprehensive eye exam.

However, an eye doctor will also need to measure the curvature and width of the eye to make sure the contact lenses fit correctly.

People who have contact lens prescriptions and eyeglass prescriptions need to renew them regularly. However, contact lens wearers will need yearly eye checks with their eye doctor, ophthalmologist, or optometrist.In contrast, people who wear eyeglass may not need to renew their prescription or have an eye test as frequently as this.

In terms of choice, eyeglass wearers have plenty of options to choose from, including lens and frame material, frame size, style, and color. They can also choose to have lenses that darken in sunlight or opt for a coating that protects the eye from glare during computer use.

Contact lens wearers may choose between daily contacts, extended-wear contacts, hard and soft lenses, or even tinted lenses to change the color of their irises.

Roughly 90% of contact lens wearers opt for soft contact lenses. However, an eye doctor may recommend hard lenses for people with astigmatism or a condition called keratoconus. This is because these conditions cause unevenness in the cornea. Hard lenses can correct this to help give sharper vision.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) advises that contact lens wearers consider switching to eyeglasses during the coronavirus pandemic. Although there is no evidence that they are more at risk of developing the disease, contact lens wearers tend to touch their eyes more frequently. The novel coronavirus can spread through the eyes, so protecting them with glasses may help prevent infection.

Pros and cons of wearing eyeglasses may include:

Many people wear either eyeglasses or contacts to improve their vision. Evidence suggests that roughly 164 million people in the United States wear eyeglasses, while around 45 million people wear contact lenses.

When deciding between the two, people may consider their lifestyle, hobbies, comfort, and cost. For example, contact lenses may be easier to wear when being active and do not fog up but are more likely to result in eye infections. Eyeglasses generally work out to be cheaper and are easier to wear, but a person may break or misplace them.

Alternatively, while it may be the most expensive option, people can alternate between eyeglasses and contacts if they wish to do so. This may also be advisable to allow contact users a break from contacts or for times they are unable to wear contacts.

Some popular brands for contact lenses and eyeglasses include:

Contact lenses

  • Acuvue: A well-known contact lens brand, Acuvue has a range of daily, 2-week, and monthly wear lenses. Users can also choose lenses based on their eye condition, eye sensitivity, and environment. Learn about Acuvue Oasys lenses here.
  • Dailies: Dailies provides a range of 1-day contact lenses, specific to nearsightedness, farsightedness, age-related vision problems, and astigmatism.
  • Biofinity: This brand produces silicone hydrogel contact lenses that people can wear continuously, day and night, for up to 29 nights.

Eyeglasses

People can also find glasses at their local eye doctor’s office.

Frequent eye testing is fundamental to good eye health. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends that all adults in their 20s and 30s test their eyes every 5–10 years if they have good vision and healthy eyes. Older adults should have a baseline eye test when they are nearing 40 years or sooner if they have symptoms of sight loss or a family history of vision loss or eye problems.

People should visit their eye doctor for a test if they experience any of the following, whether they have a current prescription or not:

  • difficulty reading small print or words at a distance
  • changes to their vision, such as blurring, lack of focus, or black dots
  • red, swollen, dry, watery, itchy, or painful eyes
  • headaches after activities such as reading, using a device, or driving

Regular eye tests can also identify early signs of other health conditions, such as certain types of cancer, diabetes, high cholesterol, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Some alternative options to both contact lenses and eyeglasses include:

Lasik eye surgery

Lasik eye surgery can be an effective and permanent alternative to wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses. According to the AAO, the risks of side effects are low, with 95% of people who had the procedure reporting a good outcome. However, the procedure is not suitable for everyone.

Phakic intraocular lens (PIOL) implants

PIOLs are soft, flexible lenses that a surgeon implants straight into the eye, between the natural eye lens and the iris. The treatment is suitable for people who have astigmatism and a very high glasses prescription. Follow-up laser eye surgery can further improve eyesight. Although it can be an expensive procedure, it may be cheaper than the lifetime cost of wearing eyeglasses or contacts.

Orthokeratology, or corneal refractive therapy

This treatment involves wearing a rigid contact lens overnight to help reshape the cornea. It is a temporary measure to improve vision across the following day without further help from lenses or eyeglasses. It is suitable for people with astigmatism. All benefits, however, are reversible if the user stops wearing the lenses at night.

Eyeglasses and contact lenses can help improve vision, and each has pros and cons. Users may wish to consider budget, hobbies, and lifestyle factors before choosing between the two. Many brands and services are available to supply the most suitable option.

Alternatively, people may wish to consider more permanent surgical solutions, such as laser eye surgery or an implanted lens.