Years ago, people with bad eyesight had one option: eyeglasses. Then contact lenses came along, expanding corrective eyewear choices. Yet deciding between glasses and contact lenses depends on a lot more than preference. Each type of vision correction has its pros and cons.
“Since contacts are worn on the cornea, rather than in front of the eye like glasses, there is less peripheral distortion, blocked side vision due to frames, unwanted reflections and minimization of the image in highly nearsighted patients, and fewer problems with glasses fogging or beading up in the rain, cold weather or during sports,” explains Dr. Jay Pepose, medical director of Pepose Vision Institute.
Athletes who find glasses annoying while playing sports or people who are interested in colored contact lenses that tint the iris to a different or more vibrant shade are among those who prefer contacts, he says. “However, patients who smoke or wear contact lenses overnight are more susceptible to developing corneal ulcers related to contacts,” Pepose notes.
“Contact lenses are medical devices that require cleaning, replacement and monitoring by an eye care professional,” he adds. Individuals should not swim, shower or go into hot tubs wearing contact lenses because these environments can increase infection risk. “Some patients 40 or older may feel that their near vision is more compromised in contacts than glasses, and may consider trying monovision contact lenses or multifocal contact lenses, as an alternative to bifocal glasses,” Pepose offers.
People who have allergies or dry eyes may find contact lenses uncomfortable, and others are squeamish about the process of inserting and removing contact lenses. And with the wide array of fashionable frames available today, many people enjoy accessorizing their look with glasses that express their personality and enhance their appearance.
In most cases, neither glasses nor contact lenses have an inherent effect on long-term eye health or vision, as long as they are cared for and used properly, says Dr. Sidney Hanish, an ophthalmologist with the Hanish Eye Institute in Hazelwood. In unusual cases, improper care can result in contact lens complications.
“Contact lenses must be cared for properly. This means good hygiene and discarding the lens at the proper time,” Hanish says. “And it’s very important that anytime a contact lens wearer has a red, watery eye, the contact needs to be removed, and the patient needs to see their eye care specialist.”
Surgical options for eliminating reading glasses include monovision LASIK, where one eye is corrected for distance clarity and the other for reading, and using premium lens implants, commonly the Crystalens or ReStor lens implants, at the time of cataract surgery. These implants correct both the distance and reading vision, in most cases, Hanish says.
In fact, surgical options continue to evolve. The Pepose Vision Institute is participating in the third phase of clinical trials for an ultra-thin corneal inlay called Acufocus, which is placed in a pocket made in the cornea with the same laser used for LASIK. The inlay creates a small aperture, which blocks unfocused light and increases depth of field. Subjects will be followed for several years, after which data will be submitted to the Food and Drug Administration.