Contacts vs. Glasses

If you don't have 20/20 vision but your eyes are otherwise healthy, you can choose between glasses and contacts to help you see. There are positives and negatives to both. Your choice really depends on your lifestyle and personal preference.

Glasses

There are two types of eyeglasses. Single vision glasses correct distance issues, and multifocal ones help with distance and with near-vision issues, like reading.

Multifocal lenses come in various forms:

  • Bifocals have correction on the upper half of the lenses for distance and the lower half of the lenses for reading.
  • Trifocals have three areas. There's the top half for distance, the bottom for reading, and a third area in between for middle vision.
  • Progressive lenses are bifocals and trifocals without a dividing line. They have a smooth transition between the vision areas.

Glasses used to be made of glass. Now, most are made of plastic. Plastic lenses are lighter and can be treated with coatings to protect your eyes. But plastic is more likely to scratch than glass.

Other glasses can meet specific needs:

Polycarbonate or Trivex lenses are great if you, or a kid, plays sports. These safety lenses are less likely to shatter on impact.

High index lenses offer extra visual correction. These plastic lenses are thinner and lighter than typical standard lenses.

Glasses: Pros

Eyeglasses are easy. You put them on and go. You don't need special cleaning solutions, and they don't need much care.

You can choose from a variety of frames to fit your style. If your vision stays the same, you don't have to change your glasses often. That means they’re usually cheaper than contacts.

Also, you don't have to touch your eyes. You can easily take your glasses off and put them on any time you want.

Glasses: Cons

They can distort vision, especially at the edge of the lens if you have a strong prescription or astigmatism. You may not like the weight of the glasses on your nose or the pressure on your ears. Some people don't like the way they look in glasses.

The lenses can fog up and get splattered in the rain. They may not be the best choice for sports or other activities.

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Contacts

Contact lenses are thin discs of plastic or glass that sit directly on your eye to correct vision. There are two types -- soft and hard, also called rigid glass permeable.

Soft contacts, made of soft plastic, are the most popular type. They're more comfortable than hard contacts because they hold more water.

There are several types of soft contacts:

Daily wear lenses: You wear these during the day and clean them at night. You’ll replace them on a schedule your eye doctor suggests.

Daily disposables: You wear them just once and throw them away.

Extended-wear lenses: You can wear them overnight. Take them out at least once a week for cleaning.

Hard contacts are more durable than soft ones. They’re easier to take care of but can be less comfortable. They often give better vision for conditions like astigmatism (when your eye is more oval than round) and can be a good choice if you have allergies.

There are also bifocal and multifocal contacts in both soft and hard lenses. They correct up-close and faraway vision at the same time.

Contacts: Pros

They give you more natural vision than glasses. They move with your eye, and nothing blocks what you see. They don't fog up or get wet when it's cold or rainy.

Contacts don't get in the way when you play sports. Many people feel they look better in contacts.

Contacts: Cons

They need a lot more care than glasses. You have to clean and store them the right way. You can get serious eye infections if you don't clean your contacts well or don't wash your hands before handling them. If you have high astigmatism, your vision might get blurry when the lenses rotate. Toric contacts, a type just for astigmatism, are less likely to move around, but they’re more expensive.

It can take more time to get used to wearing contacts. They're more expensive than glasses and usually require more follow-up care with your eye doctor.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Brian S. Boxer Wachler, MD on April 05, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Ophthalmology: "Eyeglasses for Vision Correction," "Contact Lens Types."

Cleveland Clinic: "Eyeglasses," "Contact Lenses."

Palo Alto Medical Foundation: "Contacts, Glasses, or Laser Surgery?"

OpticianEdu: "Contact Lenses vs. Glasses."

American Optometric Association: "Advantages and Disadvantages of Various Types of Contact Lenses."

CDC: "Contact Lenses," "Contact Lenses: Germs & Infections."

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