Specs v. Contacts

It’s an age old question (well, not literally) – which are better – glasses or contact lenses?  And how do I know which option is right for me?
First things first, it’s important to know that there are many factors that go into determining whether glasses or contacts may suit you better.  I probably won’t be able to cover every specific example in this post, so if you have further questions, please contact me – I’d love to hear from you!  From there though, I’ll try to cover the pros and cons of both options and give a few final thoughts.
Ready?  Let’s go!

Specs/Glasses

Pros

  • Fashion: A cute pair of specs can add a lot to your look, bringing out the color of your eyes, highlighting your skin tones, or accentuating your outfit!
  • Protection: This is one of optometrists top reasons for encouraging glasses wear.  If you’re functionally monocular, or have reduced vision in one eye, it’s vital to wear glasses to protect your good eye!  Even if you’re fully sighted, glasses provide physical protection that contacts will never be able to provide.
  • Filters:  For people with light sensitivity and other conditions that necessitate the use of filters, it’s often easiest to wear glasses, as the filter can be included in the lens much easier than it can in contacts. Plus, if you need different filters for different environments, it’s a lot easier to have multiple pairs of glasses that you use throughout the day than to have multiple pairs of contacts that you’re taking out/putting in.
  • Clear Vision: This isn’t always true, but in some cases, glasses may provide clearer vision than contacts – just because the specs don’t move every time you move your eyes!  This is generally especially true in people who need reading glasses, as it can be hard to find a contact lens that provides perfect clarity for all distances.
  • Prism: For people needing prism in their lenses, this is once again only really able to be accomplished through glasses.

Cons

  • Limited Viewing Area: For people who are used to moving their eyes, rather than their head, to see objects, this is a very frustrating aspect of glasses. While contacts move with the eyes, spectacle lenses are obviously stationary, limiting vision to the size of the lens itself.
  • Frame Interference: Similar to the previous point, the frame of glasses may interfere with vision – providing a physical blind spot in the location of the frame edge.  As an active far-sighted individual who went most of his life without glasses, this is one of my dad’s biggest complaints with wearing specs.
  • Visual distortions: While my dad may be acutely aware of frame interference secondary to his prescription, my relatively high near-sighted prescription predisposes me to significant visual distortions when looking through the outer portion of my glasses – to the extent that I can’t stand to wear my glasses while driving.  It’s too disorienting!
  • Sports: This is often a huge factor in someone making the trade from glasses to contacts.  While specs offer protection during sports, without them being rec specs (aka frames with a strap), it can be very difficult to be active and wear glasses.  For me, this realization came in middle school when my glasses went flying across the floor during more than one basketball game.  Rather than constantly having to straighten out and fix my specs, I quickly switched over to contacts – and haven’t gone back since!
  • Changes in Eye Size: Spectacle lenses, for better or worse, also make images (including your eyes) bigger or smaller, depending on the prescription.  For this reason, people who are near-sighted often complain of things looking small when wearing their glasses, while people who are far-sighted complain of how big their eyes when wearing their glasses.

Contact Lenses

Pros

  • All the cons of spectacles: Kidding!  Well, sort of.
  • Full Field of Vision: This is probably my favorite part of contact lens wear.  I can see everything, all the time – no interference, no distortion. All I do is move my eyes to the target, and I can see!
  • Aesthetics: While some people love the glasses look, others are much greater fans of the “natural” no-specs look available with contact lenses.  Plus, there are colored contact lenses to change the appearance of your eyes if you’re not a fan of your natural eye color.
  • No Glare: Tired of always having to monitor pictures for the glare off of your glasses?  It’s never a problem with contacts!
  • Unequal Prescriptions: Some people have a large difference between the prescription in one eye and the prescription in the other.  Contacts allow both eyes to be fully corrected without different size lenses, or different image sizes falling on the retina, therein providing better vision.
  • Activities/Sports: My second favorite feature of contact lenses is probably their improved functionality for all things active.  Anyone who knows me, or at least knows me well, knows that I rarely sit still by choice (as demonstrated by the fact that I am literally bouncing back and forth from one foot to the other while writing this).  For me anyway, this lifestyle is wayyy more compatible with contact wear than glasses wear.
  • Comfort: Once you find the right brand of contacts for your eyes, they should be comfortable almost all, if not all, of the time, without the annoying pressure points (on the nose and behind the ears) of glasses.

Cons

  • Price: This is one of people’s biggest concerns with contacts – how much they cost.  I admittedly haven’t done a point by point price comparison between glasses and contacts yet to be able to provide specific figures.  However, my general thought is this: high-end contacts probably won’t be super cheap, but neither will high-end specs.  Stay tuned for another post where I specifically dive into the price point comparisons of specs and contacts for those of you who like numbers!
  • Ocular Health: In addition to price, a major concern with contacts is their impact on ocular health. As an optometrist, I would be negligent if I did not tell you that there is potential for severe ocular complications with improper contact lens wear. Contact lenses are considered medical devices.  As such, they are ONLY to be worn as directed by your ocular physician. However, proper contact lens hygiene and use mitigates much of the risk of wearing contact lenses.
  • All of the pros of specs 🙂
  • Comfort: Some people, especially those suffering from dry eye, may have harder time achieving a comfortable contact lens fit that allows long-term contact lens use.  However, this doesn’t mean that contacts aren’t an option – it may just take longer to find the best brand for your eyes.
  • Touching Your Eye: Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of teaching quite a few people how to wear contacts for the first time.  The biggest hurdle?  Getting them comfortable with touching their eye.  Obviously, this isn’t an issue for everyone, but for some people, this poses a huge obstacle.
  • Lens Parameters: Not all soft contact lenses are available for every corresponding glasses power.  For this reason, if you have a very high prescription, you may have fewer lens options than someone with a low-moderate prescription.
  • You Still Need Glasses: From an ocular health standpoint, it is vital for every contact lens wearer to have a back-up pair of glasses to provide functional vision in case of eye infection or inflammation.

Takeaways

I, personally, am a huge proponent of contact lens wear, as was probably obvious in this post, simply because it’s worked the best for me.  However, I understand that my experience may not be everyone’s – and that’s okay!  What’s most important is finding the option that works best for you and your style of life!
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