By Aimee Rodrigues; reviewed by Gary Heiting, OD
Whether you choose to wear eyeglasses or contact lenses for vision correction mostly depends on personal preferences. Lifestyle, comfort, convenience, budget and aesthetics should all factor into your decision-making process.
Before deciding between contacts and glasses, keep in mind that one is not necessarily better than the other; each has its pros and cons in terms of vision, ease of use and eye health.
Eyeglasses offer many benefits over contact lenses. They require very little cleaning and maintenance, you don’t need to touch your eyes to wear them (decreasing your risk for eye infections), and glasses are cheaper than contact lenses in the long run since they don’t need to be replaced as often.
Also, eyeglasses can do something contact lenses cannot — they can adjust the amount of light entering your eye for optimum comfort and vision. Specifically, photochromic lenses are clear indoors and at night, and darken automatically in sunlight for clear, comfortable vision in any light. Although some contact lenses can block some UV light from entering the eye, photochromic eyeglass lenses block 100 percent UV and protect not only the inside of the eye from UV, but the exterior of the eye and eyelids as well.
Glasses also can act as an extension of your personality and make a great fashion statement!
That being said, contact lenses have many advantages over glasses. Contacts sit directly on your eye, so vision, particularly peripheral vision, is unobstructed. You can participate in sports and outdoor activities without fear of eyeglasses getting in the way, falling off or breaking. You can even change the color of your eyes with color contact lenses.
So which are better for your particular needs and lifestyle — glasses or contacts? Here’s a breakdown of the advantages and disadvantages of each type of eyewear to help you choose.
Infographic: Glasses vs. contactsCONTACT LENSES PROS AND CONSAdvantages
- Contacts conform to the curvature of your eye, providing a wider field of view and causing less vision distortions and obstructions than eyeglasses.
- Contact lenses don’t get in the way when playing sports and exercising.
- Contact lenses won’t clash with what you’re wearing.
- Contacts typically aren’t affected by weather conditions and won’t fog up in cold weather like glasses.
- If you want to see how you would look with a different eye color, you can experiment with color contact lenses. You can even purchase special-effect contacts to match your Halloween or fancy dress costume!
- Some contact lenses can reshape your cornea while you sleep. Overnight orthokeratology (Ortho-k) temporarily corrects myopia, so you can see clearly the next day without the need for glasses or contacts.
- Some people have trouble applying a contact lens to their eye (but proper technique and practice should rectify this in most cases).
- Contacts reduce the amount of oxygen reaching your eye and can cause or increase the severity of dry eye syndrome.
- If you work at a computer often, wearing contact lenses will likely contribute to symptoms of computer vision syndrome.
- Contacts require proper lens care and lens case cleaning each day, to avoid potentially serious eye infections. If you can’t commit to the care and recommended replacement cycle of your contacts, consider daily disposables.
- If you accidentally fall asleep while wearing daily wear contacts, your eyes typically will be dry, gritty, red and irritatedwhen you wake. If you find yourself frequently falling asleep with your contacts in, consider extended wear contact lenses— some extended wear contacts are approved for up to 30 days of continuous wear.
EYEGLASSES PROS AND CONSAdvantages
- Wearing glasses reduces the need to touch your eyes, which in turn reduces the likelihood of irritating your eyes or developing an eye infection.
- If you have dry or sensitive eyes, glasses won’t exacerbate the problem like contact lenses can.
- Eyeglasses generally are cheaper than contact lenses over the long term. You don’t need to replace glasses as often (unless you break them!) and if your prescription changes over time, you may be able to keep your current frames and just replace the lenses.
- Frames are fashionable and can speak volumes about your personality and style — the look of your glasses can make a bold statement.
- Glasses offer some protection from environmental factors such as wind, dust and debris.
- Eyeglasses sit about 12mm (about a half inch) from your eyes, so peripheral vision can be distorted. Many people also report difficulty focusing on objects and blurry vision when they first start wearing glasses or change prescriptions.
- Some people don’t like how they look in glasses and feel it detracts from their facial aesthetics or hides their features.
- If you have a strong prescription, the edges of your lenses may be thick and unappealing or your glasses might make your eyes appear unnaturally minified or magnified.
- Eyeglasses can be affected by the elements — your vision can be obstructed or blurred by precipitation collecting on your lenses or when they fog up in cold weather.
- Some frames can exert constant pressure on your nose and behind your ears, leading to headaches and general discomfort.
Contact Lenses, Eyeglasses… Or Both?
Thanks to advances in contact lens technology, most people these days can wear contacts successfully, even if they prefer to wear glasses as their primary form of vision correction.
So the decision to wear either contacts or glasses — and when to wear them — usually is a matter of personal preference.
Keep in mind, though, that if you wear contact lenses full-time, you also should have an up-to-date pair of glasses — in case you need to stop wearing contacts due to an eye infection or irritation, or you simply want to give your eyes a break.