For patients who need vision correction, the question of whether to wear glasses or contacts is important. So which one is best for you? There are a lot of different options available so let’s explore the differences.
With the expanding options for contact lenses, it is easier than ever for patients who exclusively wear glasses to consider switching to contact lenses. Contact lenses exist that can help correct myopia, astigmatism, presbyopia, and many different vision-related impairments.
While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, there are some factors that can make glasses or contacts a better choice for you and your lifestyle.
This article discusses the most prominent differences between glasses and contact lenses. We will also discuss the pros and cons of each— unlocking insight on which option would be better for you!
Let’s start with the basics. Glasses have been around forever (at least since the 13th century!) and are lenses made of plastic, glass, or a specialty hybrid material that sit in frames about 12 mm from the face. Glasses are the most custom type of vision correction— as they are the most cost-effective and easy to distribute to all corners of the world.
Patients needing multifocal correction for clear vision at distance and near can utilize progressives, bifocals, or trifocals. The sky is the limit when it comes to options for glasses.
Your exact prescription obtained in the office during your eye exam is ground into the lenses to make sure you can see well. Eyeglasses are also highly customizable. Glasses can be tinted and manually adjusted, making them unique to the patient who is wearing them. Many patients also use different types of glasses to express their personality or to match an outfit. Today glasses are as much a fashion statement as they are a helpful tool.
Even if you don’t need glasses to see clearly, blue glasses, or glasses that filter blue light, are becoming very popular to help protect the eyes from digital eye strain and help regulate sleep patterns.
Again, glasses have been in development since the 13th century, and improvements in materials and understanding of optics have only enhanced their clarity and usefulness. To say they are tried and tested is an understatement.
See the best place to buy glasses without insurance.
Contact lenses are a relatively new invention compared to glasses. But they have skyrocketed in popularity for many reasons.
Contact lenses are small flexible lenses usually made of plastic or other synthetic materials placed directly on the eye to correct vision. Soft contact lenses have been growing in popularity for the past 50 years since their release to the public and provide a lightweight and discrete option for patients who require vision correction.
Every year, new developments in soft lens options have hit the markets. Patients with complex visual needs can now utilize contact lens correction. In fact, there are contact lenses designed to correct astigmatism and presbyopia. There are also contact lenses that have transitions technology to get darker when you are outside in the bright sun. These contacts also provide blue light filtering, which is a new advancement.
The major contact lens manufacturers (Johnson and Johnson, Bausch and Lomb, Cooper, Alcon, etc.) are working around the clock to develop the most breathable and comfortable contact lens materials, and it’s an exciting time to be a contact lens wearer.
So what are the pros and cons of glasses vs. contacts?
The ADVANTAGES of glasses over contacts
- Since glasses sit on the face (rather than directly on the eye), they do not carry the risk of eye infection like contact lenses do.
- Glasses are arguably easier to care for than contact lenses— as they only require cleaning as needed and can be easily stored when not in use.
- While glasses may be more expensive up-front, they are more cost-effective than contact lenses the vast majority of the time.
- Eyeglasses are much easier to put on and take off.
- Glasses are easier to find with prisms prescribed in them. This is used for patients with binocular vision issues who have trouble making objects single and clear.
- Glasses also have a protective quality and can be utilized for patients working with hazardous materials or patients who are monocular (have only one good-seeing or usable eye).
- Glasses also provide more impactful blue-light filtering for computer use.
The DISADVANTAGES of glasses over contacts?
- One of the most common disadvantages of glasses is that patients with large prescriptions will have thick glasses.
- Thick lenses can distort your appearance. Some patients don’t care at all, while it’s a non-starter for others.
- Patients who participate in lots of physical activities such as sports or biking may not be able to use glasses because of them sliding off their faces or risking breaking their lenses.
- High-quality glasses can be expensive–especially if you don’t have vision insurance! Some patients with low prescriptions who don’t need many modifications may find prices reasonable, however.
- Patients who wear multifocal correction for presbyopia (a natural loss of near focusing power with age) may have difficulty adjusting to progressive lenses (a bifocal lens without the visible line demarcating the near and distance portion).
- Some patients may also not like the appearance of lined bifocals (where the demarcation line is visible).
The ADVANTAGES of contacts over glasses?
- Contact lens manufacturers can give out rebates if you buy an annual supply!
- For patients with larger prescriptions, contact lenses provide a way to avoid the aesthetics of thick glasses.
- Very active patients prefer contact lenses because they sit directly on the eye, meaning there is no worry about glasses sliding off the face when they get sweaty.
- Because contact lenses sit directly on the eye, the vision provided can more closely resemble natural vision. This is especially important in patients needing multifocal contact lenses. Though your vision may not be 20/20 100% of the time, it attempts to mirror how we use our vision naturally.
- Contact lenses can easily be paired with sunglasses to give you protection from the sun without needing to carry two pairs of glasses.
- Most contact lenses are disposable, so losing a pair isn’t a big deal. In comparison, losing your only pair of glasses can be a nightmare.
The DISADVANTAGES of contacts over glasses?
- Because contact lenses sit on the eye’s surface, contact lens patients are at higher risk of developing eye infections.
- Improper storage techniques, overwear of lenses, and sleeping in lenses are among the most common reasons patients who wear contact lenses may develop an eye infection. To reduce the chances of eye infection, make sure to handle contact lenses with clean hands, replace your lenses on time, and do not re-use contact lens solutions. If your eyes become red and painful or your vision changes, make sure to contact your eye care provider.
- Daily contacts don’t require any cleaning at all, but they do create additional waste.
- Some customization options needed (like prism for patients with binocular vision problems) are not available in contact lens prescriptions.
- Contact lenses provide no eye protection for patients who are monocular or work with hazardous materials. In those cases, glasses would have to be worn.
- Patients needing specialty lenses or dailies will find themselves paying steep prices for their yearly lens supply. Compare prices of your contact lenses here.
Are glasses or contacts more expensive?
In general, glasses are less costly over more extended periods, but this is a tricky question to answer. Because glasses costs can vary greatly depending on your prescription, the quality of frames and lenses you use (and if you have vision insurance or not), you can expect to pay anywhere from $200-$1,000 for a quality pair of glasses at a traditional optical shop.
The prices of glasses go up if you opt for any coatings, tints, or blue-blockers as well. If you decide to purchase eyeglasses from an online retailer, your costs may be closer to $50-$100. However, glasses made online can have poor quality control. Some online retailers sell lenses often made of cheap material, and the coatings are flaky and unreliable. For patients with high prescriptions (> +/- 4.00 D), measurements for pupillary distance and lens material become incredibly important. If you incorrectly measure your PD, it can cause double vision and headaches.
Contact lens prices are a bit more predictable, as patients are prescribed a specific brand, and a years’ supply of lenses can run from $150-$900 depending on what kind of contacts you wear. Monthly lenses like Biofinity and B&L Ultra tend to be cheaper. Daily disposable lenses (especially high-quality ones like Dailies Total 1 or Acuvue Oasys 1-Day) run higher. Buying a year’s supply at once (though seemingly daunting) can qualify you for manufacturers’ rebates that cut down costs significantly. You can view the rebate programs for Acuvue and Alcon to see potential savings.
Contact lenses tend to cost less over multiple years
Over a single year, patients with high or unusual prescriptions may find that contact lenses are a cheaper option, whereas patients with mid-range prescriptions may find that the two are comparable in price. However, it’s possible to keep the same pair of glasses for years, while contact lenses need constant replenishment.
Keep in mind that it is always good to have a backup pair of glasses in case you find yourself out of contact lenses or with an eye infection.
Is there any difference between the eye exam for glasses or contacts?
Overall, an excellent comprehensive eye exam will be the same for all patients. However, there are some things your eye care provider will do differently if you are coming in for contact lenses or glasses.
For example, your doctor will usually place a pair of diagnostic contact lenses on to assess how well they fit on the eye’s surface. It is essential that the lenses aren’t too tight and cover enough of the eye. This is vital because improper contact lens fittings can lead to ocular surface damage. They will examine this using a specialized microscope. The doctor will also ensure that the lenses give functional vision, as you might have a different prescription for glasses and contact lenses.
If you wear multifocal contact lenses, it may take a few visits to ensure the fit is proper and your vision is acceptable. Regardless of your type of contact lenses, you can see if your eye care provider has trial lenses so that you can try different brands and find the right brand and fit.
In conclusion, several factors should be taken into consideration when deciding whether to choose glasses or contacts. Contact lenses might be for you if you have an active lifestyle, like to play sports, or don’t have binocular vision problems. Glasses might be for you if you like wearing different frames or need more specialization in your prescription. Either way, you can discuss this with your eye care provider to see their recommendation for your situation. It never hurts to have options! Most people who wear contacts also have a pair of backup glasses, so you can always mix and match depending on your day’s activities!
Remember to use our price comparison engine when shopping for your contact lenses or glasses!
Dr. Morgan Jones is a Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) completing a residency in ocular disease. She has experience in diabetic research, along with several years of clinical research. Along with being a community outreach leader and an avid mentor and tutor, she enjoys educating outside of clinic. Dr. Jones has a B.A. in Biology from Texas A&M University.