Refractive errors, including shortsightedness, farsightedness, age-related farsightedness (presbyopia) and astigmatism, are the most common vision problems, affecting one in three people worldwide. They are generally easily treated, with a number of options available to help correct vision and improve eye health. Depending on the nature and severity of the problem, the optometrist may offer a choice between glasses and contact lenses and sometimes surgery. Each presents its own advantages and disadvantages. How does one decide which is best to manage their specific vision problem?
WHAT ARE THE SIMILARITIES BETWEEN GLASSES AND CONTACT LENSES?
While contact lenses and glasses are very different, they do share some similarities. Both require an eye examination and regular follow-ups by an optometrist as well as a discussion around which would best meet your individual needs. There are a variety of options for each. Cleaning, careful handling and good hygiene are essential for both. The costs may vary in terms of initial outlay and ongoing expenditure, but both are an invaluable investment in the visual quality of life.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF GLASSES?
Because glasses are not worn directly on the eye and do not require the same careful cleaning and storage as contact lenses, they come with a lower risk of eye infections. Glasses offer some protection from serious eye injuries, and prescription sunglasses provide protection from the harmful UV rays of the sun. Different lens coatings for glasses can help to reduce eye strain, minimise glare, enhance vision for certain sports and help to make night driving more comfortable. The wide variety of frames available allows for the opportunity to choose glasses that fit in with personal style or make a fashion statement.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF CONTACT LENSES?
Contact lenses sit directly on the eye and move with the eye, giving more natural vision and without interfering with peripheral vision. The entire field of view is in focus, which is particularly important in sports and driving. They do not affect vision by fogging up or becoming dirty or smudged. There is a wide range of contact lenses available from hard lenses to soft lenses, daily lenses, extended-wear lenses, disposable lenses, multiple focus lenses and even tinted lenses to change the colour of the eyes. They offer clear vision and are comfortable and safe to wear during sport without fear of them getting in the way, obstructing vision or shattering as glasses would in a sporting accident. Contact lenses correct and improve vision without affecting appearance, allowing others to see one’s eyes.
WHAT ARE THE DISADVANTAGES OF GLASSES?
The distance between the eye and the lens can distort vision. There may be annoying reflections off the back of the lens, and there is often interference with peripheral vision due to constant awareness of the frame and lens edge. The lenses can fog up with changes of temperature, be splattered in the rain and become dirty or smudged during outdoor or sporting activities. There may be a periodic need for tightening or adjustment to the fit of the glasses. Glasses can pose a risk of becoming damaged or broken during certain sports. Some people simply do not like the way they look in glasses or find the weight of glasses on their face uncomfortable.
WHAT ARE THE DISADVANTAGES OF CONTACT LENSES?
It can take some time to get used to wearing contact lenses, requiring follow-up visits to the optometrist. They need more care than glasses. Sleeping in contact lenses, unless they are extended wear lenses prescribed by an optometrist, and inadequate cleaning or hygiene can significantly increase the risk of eye irritation, inflammation and infections. Contact lenses may exacerbate the symptoms of dry eyes and allergies. In the case of age-related farsightedness, one may still have to use reading glasses with contact lenses. In the long run, contact lenses can be more expensive than glasses. While certain contact lenses have UV blocking properties, they do not offer 100% UV protection or protect the delicate tissue around the eyes, so sunglasses still need to be worn even with contact lenses.
WHICH IS THE BETTER OPTION?
Both glasses and contact lenses correct vision, but with some vision problems one would be more effective than the other. Contact lenses can’t replace glasses entirely and a back-up pair of glasses will still be needed even if contact lenses are the first choice. At times, one may be unable to wear contact lenses for whatever reason and from time to time it is advisable to allow the cornea a break from contact lenses.
When deciding which to choose, certain factors should be considered with the final decision being made in consultation with your optometrist after a comprehensive eye examination. The optometrist will take into account your age, lifestyle, career and work environment, hobbies, sporting or recreation activities, budget and personal preferences in terms of comfort and appearance. Equally important is your general health and particularly your eye health. The crucial factor on which the decision is based is your prescription and specific vision needs.
This newsletter article is authored by EyeMark.
The views and opinions expressed herein are not necessarily those of the optometrist.