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Both glasses and contact lenses are designed to correct vision problems (refractive errors) such as farsightedness, nearsightedness, and astigmatism. Eye doctors recommend prescription glasses or contacts after an examination in which they diagnose vision problems.
Many people can wear either glasses or contacts, and some choose to wear both depending on the situation. Some people cannot wear contacts. However, over the years, advancements have made contacts an option for more people.
How do you know which of the two is best for you if you have the option of wearing glasses or contacts? It all depends on your lifestyle, comfort level, and personal preference.
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Wearing contact lenses poses a bigger health risk than glasses because of infection. About one in 500 contact lens wearers develop an eye infection each year. A vast majority of contact lens wearers do not follow proper maintenance and care instructions for their contacts.
Nearly everyone has done or not done something that puts them at risk of developing an eye health problem or infection from their contacts.
Glasses not only pose less of a risk, but they also provide extra protection for your eyes. They are also easier to care for and tend to cost less than contacts in some cases.
Glasses might be the right choice for you if:
Contact lenses are a better choice for more active people. This doesn’t mean you can’t be active if you wear glasses, but contacts make it easy to engage in physical activity at any moment without concern for breaking your glasses.
Contacts do not interfere with your field of vision as glasses do when they block part of your peripheral vision.
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Many people choose contacts as their preferred eyewear for aesthetic reasons. They prefer how they look without glasses or they’ve never worn glasses and the sudden change in their appearance bothers them.
Contact lenses are also more convenient throughout the day. Contacts require more care and cleaning, but you don’t need to worry much about them throughout the day. They don’t make your face sweat, they don’t fog up, and they don’t slip down your nose.
Eyeglasses with corrective lenses have been used for centuries to improve vision. They offer many benefits, but they aren’t perfect.
Pros of glasses:
Cons of glasses:
Contact lenses eliminate many of the cons of wearing glasses. They are placed directly on your eyeballs, so you don’t need to worry about them falling off or affecting your face overall. But like glasses, as great as contacts are, they aren’t perfect.
Most of the time, glasses are cheaper than contact lenses. This takes into account the longevity of glasses and the care and cleaning of contact lenses. Contact lenses need replacement, whereas a pair of glasses can last a lifetime if you’re careful and your prescription doesn’t change.
Of course, the cost of someone’s glasses or contact lenses is affected by their prescription. In general, glasses and contacts range in price from around $100 to several hundred dollars.
How do you know whether you should choose contact lenses or glasses for better vision? Is it worth the investment having both?
In the end, it’s a personal choice. However, there are several things to consider when determining if glasses, contacts, or both are the best option for you. When deciding whether you want to wear glasses or contacts, consider issues related to:
Some people, when first diagnosed with impaired vision, opt for glasses. This is especially common for someone diagnosed during childhood. Getting used to vision correction devices takes time. Many people find the process to be easier with glasses that are easy to take on and off. Glasses are also easy to take care of and maintain.
After some time, many people choose to transition to contact lenses. They’ve already adjusted to having their vision corrected, so the only adjustment is getting used to wearing contacts and getting them in and out of your eyes.
In addition to getting used to something touching your eyes, you’ll also need to carve out time in your routine to clean them. Disposable contacts cut down on a lot of the care and cleaning, so if your prescription allows, you should consider a disposable option.
Advancements in contact lens manufacturing also mean lenses are an option for more people nowadays, including people who need bifocals.
As a general rule, people who wear contact lenses DO need glasses, but people who wear glasses DO NOT need contact lenses.
If you wear contact lenses, you should have a pair of glasses with an up-to-date prescription. If something happens with one or more of your contacts or your eyes get infected, you’ll need a backup option. This includes a backup pair of prescription sunglasses to protect your eyes when outside.
Some people also find that part-time contact lens wearing is the best for them. They might wear contacts when exercising or doing other physical activity, but prefer glasses in other cases. Glasses also tend to be better for people who spent a lot of time looking at computer screens.
If you still aren’t sure whether you want contacts, glasses, or both, speak to your optometrist or vision care specialist. They’ll discuss how the pros and cons of each apply to you and help you make your ultimate decision.
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CDC. “Fast Facts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26 July 2018, https://www.cdc.gov/contactlenses/fast-facts.html.
Cope, Jennifer R. “Risk Behaviors for Contact Lens–Related Eye Infections among Adults and Adolescents — United States, 2016.” MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, vol. 66, 2017, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6632a2.htm.
Office of the Commissioner. “Focusing on Contact Lens Safety.” FDA, 20 Nov. 2019, https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/focusing-contact-lens-safety.
“Children & Contact Lenses | Contact Lenses | CDC.” Www.cdc.gov, 29 Jan. 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/contactlenses/children-and-contact-lenses.html.
Bui, Thai H., et al. “Patient Compliance during Contact Lens Wear: Perceptions, Awareness, and Behavior.” Eye & Contact Lens: Science & Clinical Practice, vol. 36, no. 6, Nov. 2010, pp. 334–339, https://journals.lww.com/claojournal/Abstract/2010/11000/Patient_Compliance_During_Contact_Lens_Wear_.4.aspx.