Comparison of the week: Glasses vs contacts

Posted: 3 June 2019 1:37 pm News

Reading glasses on a table. We'll help you see the whole picture when it comes to choosing between glasses or contact lenses.

We compare virtually everything at Finder and our Comparison of the Week isn't afraid to tackle the big questions. This week we put glasses and contact lenses to the test.

Statistics suggest that at least half – and maybe more – of Australians should be wearing some kind of corrective wearable to assist in their vision. The choice there comes down to the choice between glasses that you drop on your face, or contact lenses that you drop into each eye.

The essentials

Contact lens wearers will gush over the fact that there's nothing obvious "worn" when you have contacts in, as well as the expanded field of vision. Glasses wearers will retort with the increased durability of glasses, the choice of fashion frames and the potential lower ongoing costs of spectacles.

Depending on your vision specifics, you could always opt for laser corrective surgery although the costs upfront there can be considerably higher than either glasses or contacts.

The comparison

Let's dive in and compare glasses and contact lenses side by side, so you can see which one might be right for you.

Glasses Contacts
Costs There's a wide variance in costs of glasses, dependent on two factors. Certain visual conditions may require specific lens types and thicknesses that can add to the cost of any pair of glasses. Then it's a question of the cost of your frames. A super-cheap frame could cost you under $100, but it's equally feasible to spend many hundreds of dollars on a brand-name set of frames. Pricing can vary depending on your choice (and availability, depending on your eye condition) of monthly, fortnightly or daily disposable lenses. You've also got to factor in cleaning supplies. Expect to spend somewhere between $200-$1,500 annually for contact lenses.
Styles The sky is the limit when it comes to glasses styles, with many choosing to opt for them purely for the fashion statements they can make. Do you opt for a set of classic Lennon-style circular frames or a pair that would look more at home on Dame Edna Everage's face? The choice is yours. If budget permits you could always opt for multiple pairs to suit different daily needs. Contacts are by definition designed to be effectively invisible to onlookers. If you don't like the way glasses look on your face – or you simply want to show off your big, beautiful eyes to the world and nothing else – they're the option to pick. The one style choice you could make is for lenses that change your iris colour, although that's typically a choice made for the fun shock effect rather than your daily driver pair of contact lenses.
Comfort Glasses never touch your eyes by definition, so there's no touching eyeballs for insertion or any risk of eye infection if something goes wrong.

The core comfort issue here is making sure your frames fit comfortably over a day's usage. A poor pair that pinches the bridge of your nose or sits badly on your ears can get annoying fast.

Comfort in contacts is a highly debatable issue. Once they're properly inserted, and as long as they're clean, you shouldn't even feel them at all. The tricky part can be getting them into your eye in the first place, especially if you're squeamish or if you've had a big night out and your eyes are, shall we say, "tired".

Some folks find the process a matter of a simple second's tap and go, while others never get comfortable with it. It's also vital to keep contact lenses absolutely clean, because any matter on the lenses can quickly lead to an eye infection. Because of the proximity to your eyes, contact lenses can reduce the amount of oxygen that gets to your eyes, leading to possible irritation for some wearers.

Falling asleep (we'll all do it at least once!) Fall asleep with your glasses on, and there is the risk that they'll fall off your face and get damaged, or even bent simply under your sleeping body. You may also push them further into the bridge of your nose, leaving telltale red marks. In most cases, those will fade over time. Falling asleep with contacts on can lead to very sore eyes when you wake up, depending on your lens type. Long wearing lenses are designed to work around this, but for lenses that are designed to be taken out overnight, it can be very painful to wake up and realise you've still got your lenses in. That's presuming you haven't blinked one of them out overnight and lost it entirely. Yes, I've done this. I'm not proud.
Field of vision Glasses can cover much of your visual needs, but they're never going to cover it all. Most glasses wearers quickly get used to the blur of their lenses in front of their field of vision, but there's always the issue of peripheral vision that glasses do not cover.

However, it also depends on your precise visual needs. For certain eye conditions, contacts are not a suitable replacement option.

Contacts offer a superior vision experience as long as your eye condition permits them to be worn in the first place. That's a pure function of how close they sit to your eye, because there's no "frame" to get in the way, and you get the benefits of enhanced peripheral vision to boot.
Sports use You can get prescription sports goggles, typically worn tight around the face, but that's an extra cost to bear if you're the active type. You can always wear your regular specs out on the pitch, but that's a risky play for both your glasses and your face, and not recommended. Contact lenses are an excellent choice for active sports fans, because as long as they're properly sitting on your eyes in the first place, there's nothing extra to buy. That additional peripheral vision can come in handy too.
Durability Glasses can get scratched or broken, it's true. If you're careful, a pair can last you a very long time indeed. For many glasses wearers, the only time you have to change frames is when your underlying prescription changes. Most contact lenses are designed to only last for a short period of time, in the case of disposable lenses literally 24 hours. That can make it less of a stress if you do drop or lose one, but it also means you're going to be constantly replacing them at cost. It's feasible (if a little awkward looking) to peer out through a set of broken glasses frames, but a torn contact lens is no good to anyone.
Insurance cover Most insurance policies that cover any kind of optical services treat them as an extra that you'll have to pay for.

If you're already paying that extra on your existing policy, it's well worth seeing if you can score replacement spectacles on a regular basis. You're already paying for it anyway.

It's much the same story for contact lenses if that's your choice. Check that your policy covers contact lens costs (and where feasible, any consumables such as cleaning fluids) and that the merchant you're buying from will be covered by your policy.
For children Without a doubt, glasses are the more popular choice for children. There's no tricky insertion of something in their eye to worry about, making glasses a lot easier and more convenient for young kids. Because children's eyes change so quickly, you might find they need to get their prescription changed several times a year. While there's no set age requirement to start wearing contacts, they're not generally recommended for young children because their eyes are still developing and changing. Plus, a lot of children will struggle to correctly insert contacts themselves (and may not be trusted to keep them clean!). An optician will let you know what's best for your child's eyes.

The lowdown

Outside of folks who don't have the choice because their optical needs preclude one or the other, there's a lot of personal choice in play here. Contact lenses are a great choice for more active wearers or those who need full peripheral vision, but the costs can outweigh glasses by quite a significant factor.

On comfort grounds, glasses are generally going to be easier to put on and wear, with some folks simply unable to bear even the thought of touching their own eyeballs in order to insert contact lenses.

The style argument mostly comes down to whether you like the effect that having frames on your face creates. If you hate the spectacled look, contacts are a good choice, but if you're a fan of the bookish look, glasses should be your first option.

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